First Person

First Person
Let's Stop Pretending E3 Is A Professional Event

Dennis C. Scimeca | 12 Jun 2012 15:00
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E3 is very much like Las Vegas in my mind, a dark, neon-lit playground standing testimony to the power of the almighty dollar and filled with scantily-clad women. When I first heard the round of booth babe complaints this year I mentally shrugged. I've come to understand the Electronic Entertainment Expo as a casino in which we see the consumer narrative sketched out for the rest of the year. E3 is about money, and sex sells, hence the booth babes and I thought I'd accepted that. But when I saw that picture I was not only offended as a man, but I also thought about the fact that E3 is supposed to be an industry event, so why was I having to look at that picture in the first place?

We have to ask ourselves who the booth babes are there for. They're not there for journalists. Journalists don't need booth babes to get us in the booths. Our schedules are set weeks before the Expo takes place. Businessmen don't need booth babes to get them in the booths. Any businessman worth his salt is going to be busy as hell during E3 taking meetings or viewing products and doesn't have time to gawk at the girls. Booth babes exist for the tourists. They exist for the fans who rush the booths looking for t-shirts and grab one of every piece of swag they can find and proudly compare their hauls on the shuttle buses back to the E3 hotels.

Booth babes are a walking, talking admission that the Electronic Software Association's crackdown on E3 badges last year, to keep fans or others with no business at the Expo out of the event was a joke. That kid in the photo is clearly not a journalist, as no journalist would be caught dead taking that picture. He does not look like a developer or any sort of suit. E3 begins to look less like Las Vegas and more like an out-and-out circus in light of that picture.

Encouraging this circus-like attitude only leads to more behavior which undercuts any legitimacy E3 holds as an industry event. Seeing people in costume if they're promoting a game makes sense. There were men wearing street signs with apocalyptic messages promoting Resident Evil 6, a game about zombies overrunning a city. There were people promoting Plants vs. Zombies wearing zombie costumes styled after the game at the EA press conference. But I also saw fans walking around in costume on the show floor, carrying their booth swag and hanging out with their friends. What part of the industry did they belong to?

The worst part of it is, when we wonder why more videogames don't explore mature material and give us stories that challenge us, when we ask why military shooters can't delve into real stories about war, when we ask why narratives are mostly hand-waves at the need for a story of some kind, we can look at booth babes and by extension the tenor of E3 as a whole as a representation of what the industry thinks we want ... or what the industry thinks we can handle, both of which are demeaning towards those of us who play videogames, and men especially.

I'm made to understand that skimpy outfits were banned from the Expo in 2009. It didn't seem to bring the show down. If that ban was lifted, one has to wonder whether the ESA wasn't afraid that toning down the event, i.e. making it less of a circus, didn't risk making the event less attractive for the press and whoever else's attention E3 is meant to attract. If the ESA is truly concerned that just the videogames themselves aren't enough to get everyone excited, then maybe the Expo's detractors are absolutely right and it's time to question E3's relevance and ask who it really exists for.

Dennis Scimeca is a freelance writer from Boston, MA. You can read some of his other musings on his blog punchingsnakes.com, or follow his random excitations on Twitter: @DennisScimeca.

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