First Person

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

Dennis C. Scimeca | 12 Jun 2012 11:00
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A great many game journalists were dissatisfied with E3 this year. I enjoyed the Expo because I've only been to three of them and so burnout hasn't had a chance to set in. I am also an unrepentant shooter fan, so three days of guns and explosions and neck-stabbings give me plenty of things to look at , yet I think I understand the dissatisfaction. We attend E3 to cover the news and get hands-on previews of upcoming games and very often get neither. Instead we get announcements that already leaked prior to the show and a smorgasbord of trailers and hands-off game footage we could view from our homes. The problem with E3 is that it purports to be an industry event but it really isn't, and there's no finer symbol of that than the booth babe.

The only way I know how to handle booth babes is to pretend they don't exist. I find their presence embarrassing, but not in a prudish way. I'm embarrassed because I know booth babes are explicitly meant for me to stare at, because I'm a man. They're meant to get me to hang around the booth they're working, or to accept the noxious energy drink they're handing out, or to take the marketing materials they offer me with a smile and a sly look. The people who hire them think a pretty face, long legs in short shorts and breasts almost popping out of a top are enough to get men to stop and gawk, and the people who are hire them are right. That's the embarrassing part. It feels demeaning.

The most offensive thing I saw from E3 2012 was this tweet and the image it linked to. If you're a male gamer, that's how you are perceived as long as photographs like that can hold us all up for trial. Slovenly, mouth agape in mid-gawk as he lines up the photo, perpetuating the stereotype that male gamers are awkward, dare I say sexually-inadequate social recluses who get to look at the pretty girls but never touch them, and hence have to be satisfied with a photograph and a fantasy.

I'm so glad someone took that picture. It's like the photograph of the woman and the sailor kissing in Times Square on V-J Day at the end of World War II. It's iconic. I want it to go viral. Please, make a meme. Pen up a de-motivational poster. Get that image spread around far and wide so that male gamers can look upon it and I can ask them one question: Would you want to be that guy in the picture, caught on camera drooling over those two girls?

If the answer is "No," you understand precisely where I'm coming from here. That is the image that likely leaps to mind when someone who is not into videogames thinks about the men who are. Perpetuating that stereotype diminishes all of us. And it also diminishes the videogame industry as a whole by perpetuating the idea that the audience for videogames is primarily composed of kids like the one in that picture. That's a factually incorrect statement.

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