As I prepare my thoughts here (which I'm sure will be considered bias at the onset due to my following preface), it should be known that:
1) I am a friend of the US 'Dolls (to be fair I've not spend any amount of relevant time in contact with the UK team) and not some drooling fanboy. I have spent time with all the ladies at conventions and outside of industry events as well.
2) I have been an active member of their community since January of 2005.
That being said, I will continue with my thoughts. First off, this article is nothing new and presents no new information that has already not been written by someone else. So, suffice to say, I was not shocked by anything I read here. Nor did I believe a word of it. To criticize these girls for doing their jobs seems to me to be quite an unsound arguement. One of the arguements presented here was that the girls were instructed to focus, though not entirely, on Ubisoft products and to steer away from games that could be considered direct competition to the interests of Ubi.
"And when she says they're playing "certain games," Eaglemeare means Ubisoft games - at least publicly."
"We were told not to talk about EA's Battlefield II, as it was a direct competitor to Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter," she said."
I have YET to understand why this is an issue. The girls work for Ubisoft, they are Ubisoft spokeswomen, so OF COURSE they would discuss their wares and avoid outrightly praising the competition. Did you ever see Michael Jordon wearing Reebok or Adidas shoes? In the time I have known the girls they have NEVER presented themselves in a manner to hide their affiliation with or responsibilites to Ubi.
"The U.S. branch operates in a similar manner. Go to a convention where the Frag Dolls are in attendance and you'll find beautiful, painted faces throwing T-shirts to crowds of young men; few women flock to them as gaming idols."
I have been to two industry events (MLG Chicago and E3 2006) with the 'Dolls and the above statement is simply NOT true. When the girls are at events they act with the same nonchalant moxy that is often attributed to gamers. To infer that they are there to wave themselves in front of men much like a booth babe (which they are often called unjustly) should be considered an insult to their character in that it questions their intelligence and personal knowledge of the industry. For example, read the blog "Birth of a Gaming Toaster" by member Jinx and you'll see quickly that some girl "with a painted face throwing t-shirts to crowds of young men" is an unfair moniker to be sure.
In response to Siren's comment:
"We're not here to endorse any product or sell you anything. If we say it, it's because we mean it, not because it pays our wage."
This strikes me as a comment that is more a reflection of her lack of understanding as to what she was applying for at the onset with the UK 'Dolls. Let us be clear on one thing, the 'Dolls are most certainly a marketing arm for Ubi. No one, not even the girls, would deny that. So for her to use the fact that the 'Dolls are there to sell a product as a negative issue is like telling a football player not to endorse Nike or the like. People of a particular industry, who also on a personal level enjoy said industry, are the best suited to promote it.
In reference to Siren's website, "To their credit, they don't play up to their femininity," this couldn't be more false. On their site you will pictures not AT ALL unlike those found on the 'Dolls site. And to say (quoting their site)...
"In a pre-emptive strike against the endlessly cynical we want to make it perfectly clear that we have a gallery because we are proud of ourselves, what we do, and what we stand for (and obviously to record our exploits.)"...
...strikes as nothing more than pre-justification for getting people's attention at the onset of their visit in order to get them to remain a little bit longer. And what is more, why is it such a talking point that the girls are..."attractive women who look more at home on the cover of Vogue than PC Gamer." I find an issue here in that this statement IMMEDIATELY plays into the old stereotype of what a gamer 'should' look like. Why can't attractive women be gamers, work for a company to promote their games, and enjoy it? Does their physical attractiveness discount or diminish their actual ability to play games? Are only, as it seems the above quote would infer, fat-pale faced-cheeto stained-social pariahs gamers? This is an issue that is best left for another time.
And finally, should anyone find it suprising that Ubisoft was 'unavailable for comment'? Personally, I would disregard attempts at communication from those who only wish to argue against me after a while. What is more is that the 'Dolls are nothing but accessible. A few moments on their forums will find many responses from the girls themselves defending themselves from the endless cynics in the gaming world. Going further, the VAST majority of topics on their forums have NOTHING to do with Ubi related games or topics. They most certainly talk about other companies. They are NOT there just to use their feminine charms to get you to play Far Cry. And you can find them quite often playing any number of games over Xbox LIVE, and never once will you hear them shamelessly 'selling' the game to those who they are playing with (though they are most certainly within their rights to do so if they so choose).
For once, I would like to ask the gaming cynics (read elitists) to put aside their antiquated notions of what the gaming industry should look like. The gaming industry is not the little brother of the CES anymore. It is a multi-billion dollar industry whose primary concern is to sell their product and to make money. As it stands, the 'Dolls are in said business.
I hope that someday people will learn to leave these gamers alone and go play a game.
...or are the politics more fun to you?