October 28th, 2005

We interrupt this regulary scheduled “A Little Girl and Some Big Ideas” post to share with you the absolute excellence of a recent booth babe revelation.

Among the many things that drive me up a wall about booth babes is the way that men defend them (and their own drooling) by claiming that these women like games, or, if not, that they’re self-respecting models who enjoy being seen with video gamers. Plus, it’s always struck me as a little weird that actual, working “models” would come out in droves to strap on ass-tight, game-related clothing and strut around an expo center.

Until yesterday, when it all suddenly made sense.

So my fiance was talking to a friend, who mentioned he had gone to E3 last spring along with an L.A.-based film company. And this friend, in the process of relaying his E3 exploits mentioned off-hand how i’ts common knowledge: you just can’t go to a strip club during E3.

Why? Because there’s no one there. And we’re not talking about the customers. That’s right, all the girls are away, working the floor – the E3 floor.

Because booth babes are not models, or fangirls, or your sexy next doors neighbors. They’re strippers. Plain and simple. Sure, they might call themselves “models”, but in L.A. that’s like calling yourself an “actress” and waiting tables, or, more pertinently, joining an escort service and calling yourself a “female companion”.

This is why they don’t flinch when lines of guys pinch their asses for photos, or when someone else’s nervous, girl-contact sweat drips onto their RPG heroine costume. Their used to, how shall we say, getting uncomfortably close.

Not to say that strippers aren’t people too. In fact, I’m all of the opinion that sex workers in general need a lot more respect and recognition. But let’s call a thing what it really is. Gamers are obsessing over strippers – and there are plenty of places to do that without flying all the way to L.A. The only difference is you probably wouldn’t show those photos to your buds back home. Then again, even in theory, booth babes are little more than hired flesh – no matter how much we want to trump them up to make ourselves feel less guilty.

Anyways, that little window of insight certainly made me look at booth babes in a whole new light (and, you know, laugh my head off in a moment of glorious understanding), and I would hope it does the same for a handful of the remaining drooling population.

Tags: Blog

16 Responses to “The Wonderful Truth about E3 Booth Babes”

  1. FerrousBuller Says:

    Y’know, I always wondered what those gals did as their day job the other 51 weeks of the year. Of course, here’s an interesting question: which is a bigger turn-on for videogame nerds – topless dancing women or women who dress up as sexy videogame babes? Hmmm… ;-)

    I’ve never felt the need to either defend or attack booth babes. Yeah, it’s like a puerile, crass burlesque in the service of shameless marketing spectacle – but so what? Oooh, sexy women in skimpy outfits garner attention from men – how novel! Look, guys, it’s just business: the girls are there to do their job, the PR reps are there to do theirs, and the media do theirs (such as it is). It’s all part of the three-ring circus act that is E3. Love it or hate it, it is what it is – you might as well complain about not seeing Swan Lake at the Moulin Rouge. If you like the act, cool – but don’t pretend like it aims any higher than it does.

    Which is not to say I don’t wish the industry would raise the bar for itself – I do. I just feel like I have more important windmills to tilt at…

  2. Illidan Says:

    These things are things PC-gamers at least have known for a long, long time :D

    That’s why they are called “booth-babes” in the first place. Their purpose in the con is to be a babe and stand by the booth thereby attracting attention to it. Kinda like free pens. Everyone who’s talked to them has reported a mind blank with any sort of knowledge, intelligence, or understanding. In fact, some have proposed them to be prototypes of a new sort of robot. I would not dismiss this possibility out of hand :p

  3. Bonnie Says:

    PC-gamers have had this stripper info, and no one’s shared? Damn you…

    As for not talking about booth babes because they’re puerile, I’d like to agree with you Ferrous, but for a lot of male gamers they’re just about the only real women in the gaming world. Which is to say, even if they aren’t meant to be complicated, they give off very complicated messages -which may seem silly and simple to those who can see through them, but still need to be explored. Also, as a female gamer, it’s never going to be easy to sit back and not speak up against sexist representation (and, obviously, marketing) in the industry. However, if you’re still interested in having a good booth babe fight, you might check out my article from last spring, “Hotties for Rent”, listed in the My Articles section. Then it’d be happy to duke it out :-).

  4. Patrick Dugan Says:

    I think the industry will really have matured when a hip designer can pick up three booth babes and take them to a Hollywood party in a limo while doing blow and chugging Tangueray. Is that the wrong attitude?

  5. Bonnie Says:


  6. Patrick Dugan Says:

    A bit, but maybe theres some virtue in the vice. The thing about men is that we often objectify and alienate simultaneously, when the stripper dressed in the Yuna outfit is a prop on the other side of the room its easy to gawk and jeer and hoot and holler. When shes an actual woman talking to you in the present its a different story, especially for your typical geek. I think we should cultivate a generation of game designers who “get” the culture and live to the max. See Max Steele’s latest Escapist article in the “Gamers get Game” issue.

  7. matt Says:

    In 2003 I had livejournal and posted a long exortation on booth babes and E3. It’s not all that well written and I’m not too sure I agree with all that I wrote, but most of it still holds true, I think. I apologize for the super-long comment, but back in those days I used to have the time every day after work to take hours composing long blog posts . . . ah, simpler times. I cut out several paragraphs of the beginning as I was just explaining to people who didn’t know what E3 was

    E3 is a world apart. Every game that will come out within the next five years is on display – and you get a chance to play them first. It’s a fantasy brought live and is every video-game aficionado’s wet dream. But not just in a figurative sense, it’s also one of the most blatantly sexist displays of that particularly male-oriented past-time to be seen anywhere.

    Many of these booths competing for the attention of the overwhelmingly male attendees have resorted to literally finding the most “attractive” women they can (read: boobs) and placing them in as scanty a costume (usually as one of the characters in a game or relating to a game) as they can legally get away with, ostensibly in the hope of attracting the show’s media (men), average attendee (men) and other exhibitors (mostly men) to their game(s) and creating a buzz which will, hopefully once the game comes out, sell more boxes. It’s as age-old as the concept of advertising: sex sells. And in an industry dominated by men, it sells better than free booze, drugs and food combined. Throngs of sweaty gamers literally line up for hours to get their picture taken with any number of fabulous “booth babes” – as they are called – which they can then post in online galleries and guffaw with their friends over “how hot the Tecmo girls were this year,” or that “last year’s Lara Croft model had bigger tits.” Need proof? All the gaming mags, online or print, have their “booth babe” round-ups with other such high commentary.

    To be fair, the ladies have a bit of eye candy, too. After all, not every game features a grotesquely out-of-proportion female prancing daintily around a sci-fi or fantasy landscape in her underwear. Thus, some booths do employ well-cut, shirtless specimens of the male variety. Equal opportunity objectification is still objectification. However, at E3, it’s hardly equal. Video games are still not considered a legitimate form of art (even though they can be and some absolutely are) as they are still primarily about boys playing with toys… and that includes women. These booth babes are meant to be as much toys as the games themselves are. As a show attendee, you come in and are presented with some eye candy that you can interact with on a superficial level (and maybe even touch!) and then you go home and chalk it up to some kind of social experience. Much the same effect a video game can have on the player or TV can have as the replacement of the nuclear family. And, for all the industry’s talk about bringing women into the gaming market (after all, more than 50% of the populace is women and that means a lot of untapped, potential sources of revenue) no one seems prepared to take the first step: to grow up. Instead of being a slate for mid-lifers who want to be fourteen again, E3 should be about creating works of art. But perhaps that’s more than should ever be asked out of an industry that has more in common with movies than it does with museums. Like it’s Hollywood counterpart, the men dominate the scene and the women are left with one, simple objective: stand there and look pretty.

    Of course there are exceptions to all of this. You will find developers who are genuinely interested in creating compelling female leads in an attempt to captivate and entertain a female audience, and you will find many women at E3 that have nothing to do with the boob – sorry, booth babes save that they have to share the walkways with them. But, for the most part, as in Hollywood, the video games industry is designed by men, for the amusement of men. Much like everything else that’s fed to audiences through a screen (whether you paid 10.50 for the evening privilege or have a $75/month cable bill), there are many people out there trying to genuinely create art, but when the industry fills itself to overflowing with sexist pandering, there’s no room left for the intelligent or the creative.

    This is not to say that open sexuality or women in revealing clothing are “wrong.” E3 doesn’t pretend to mask it in political correctness (which may be the one, admirable thing about the show). It’s raw, blatant sexual objectification as entertainment which corners women as objects of sexual fantasies, robbing them of thought and spirit, and corners men into a class of mindless lustmongers, robbing them of thought and spirit. What’s “wrong” is that there’s no room for anything else. No industry for or by women, and no active participants in the industry attempting to address the issue. It’s subconciously exclusitory and pretending otherwise simply ignores the larger problem at work. To the male attendees, it’s perhaps their one chance in a lifetime to touch (or at least be close to) a beautiful girl; to the women it seems unlikely that such a display would encourage them to actively get involved in the development side of the industry – and until they do, video-games will remain a past-time for boys.

    Finally, it bears mentioning that most developers and industry people are at the show for one reason: business. The noisy, sexist display is a side-show for the fanboy and the media – both of which eat it up hook, line and sinker. It makes E3 look like a living, breathing beer-commercial-gone-tech which in turn pulls in more adolescent boys (or adolescent-minded men) as potential consumers willing to fork over $50 for the latest game. All the better if the game has actual “mammary physics.” No, I did not make that up. Yes, during some movements breasts will bounce, it’s a fact of life. Truly accurate, 3D game models should reflect this. But can an industry which seems so thoroughly absorbed with the idea that it actually uses bouncing breasts as a promotional item in its marketing materials ever expect to be taken seriously?

    At best, E3 is a fantasy world that should be taken tongue-in-cheek and suitably ignored by the outside world. At worst, it’s another glaring manifestation of the male-dominated entertainment industry and its heady obsession for all things hard-on related (this includes gratuitous violence); and in which the true artists and the true creators are forced to languish in obscurity in favor of the tits-ass-and-guns juggernaut which is the mainstay of the entertainment industry at large.

  8. Bonnie Says:

    Whether or not I agree with you point for point (and I don’t think that you are agree with you point for point anymore), it is quite refreshing (literally, it makes me go “Ah”) to hear someone intelligent rant on the subject. In the overall, obviously, we’re in the same boat.

    Question: when you wrote this, had you been to E3?

  9. matt Says:

    oh yeah, been to E3 several times by then. each time as GameSpy’s “photographer” … why they always feel that someone who knows photoshop automagically is a good photographer is beyond me :p

    So, consequently, I was responsible for helping to build up our annual Booth Babe galleries. It wasn’t fun.

  10. Bonnie Says:

    Actually, that’s more of less hilarious. You could have done a great expo piece on the secret lives of booth babes – moments when they’re looking ugle or disgusted. An anti-booth babe photo essay…

  11. matt Says:

    hahaha! I can’t believe you brought that up! :) — only because the 2k2 or 2k3 E3 (I can’t remember, they all blend together in a sort of memory-melange of flashy thingies) the video editor at the time and myself were intent on doing interviews attempting to capture that very aspect. Of course, it got trumped by “more important” concerns.

  12. hikaru Says:

    i really need to read here more often…

    growing up in L.A., having worked in the film biz, having attended E3 since the first, having managed one of the largest strip clubs in the U.S., and being a current E3 exhibitor among other things, i’d like to say that this “common knowledge” is utter bunk.

    “booth babes” fall into many categories. most work day jobs for the exhibitor, in PR or Sales or Marketing or what not. this varies from company to company, e.g. Sony doesn’t really hire models, Nintendo only has models. see a hot JP booth babe at E3? $100 says she works for the company and is Not a stripper — and most strippers in Japan are not even Asian/Japanese…

    high end models, like the ones at the Tecmo and Gizmondo booths this year, are top dollar. and that means they make better money than the average stripper. pole swinging as a day job looks bad on the resume. sure, some do, but most don’t. of the girls that worked my club, at most 1 in 100 was a professional model. strip clubs keep the lights low for a reason.

    most of the true models at E3 do have day jobs. in LA, it’s probably actor/waitress. most true strippers have better things to do than work the game booths, like sleep, wake up at 5pm, have dinner, and go to work and make bank off the producers doing the rounds at the Spearmint Rhino and Body Shop. second tier girls, not the top stars in their clubs, can easily take home $500 a night during conventions. booth models make $1-300. they may not be rocket scientists, but they do know which one’s easier and makes more money…

  13. Bonnie Says:

    Hey Hikaru,

    I’m not in on the proper lingo here, so let me make sure I have the facts straight this time. You’re saying that most of the booth babes have “real” jobs (ie, they’re not strippers), since it would look bad, but you’re also saying that strippers wouldn’t model since they can make more stripping?

  14. hikaru Says:

    hiyo, sorry. missed an important part in the middle i guess.

    most booth babes are not strippers, because for whatever reason, they’re not willing to “show the goods,” even though it may pay better. if they model/act, stripping may be detrimental to their career.

    most strippers do not model, because they generally make more money stripping, and actually do not have the right looks to be professional models. 36D’s don’t match with size 4 dresses, and most strippers, like most girls, are closer to 5’4″ than the model 5’10”.

  15. Bonnie Says:

    Okie-doke, that makes sense. Thanks for clearing that up for us!

  16. Hi there Says:

    Are you there?

    I would love to hear more about this …

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