So things have been swimming along fairly nicely in the gaming community these last couple of weeks, and then Games Radar decides to make a post about Booth Babes. And my reaction is not blind rage, but, rather, the desire to drop my head onto my desk with a very loud thud.
(Booth babes, for those of you unfamiliar with the genre, are women hired by companies to dress in scantily clad outfits from their games or comics or what have you in order to attract the drooling masses to their tables. They are virtual staples of the gaming and nerd community conventions, according to some, and have been the subject of enraged feminist lambasting and stereotypical straight male geek fantasies pretty much since they were invented.)
One would think that at this juncture, with PAX and PAXEast having banned booth babes, with GDC and E3 taking fire for allowing them, and recent flame wars concerning online misogyny in the gaming community, that Games Radar would have more tact, taste, and maturity than to post an article with 106 words saying “Here are our favorite babes” and several cleavage-heavy photographs.
Perhaps worse is the fact that no one has told them that they’re being adolescent and crude. There are admittedly only three comments so far (and no, I didn’t comment as I have no desire to have my Facebook inundated with trollish comments, no matter how constructive trolls might be on their good days), so the trend might break, but the attraction to posting pictures of scantily clad breasts on gaming sites that purport to be serious about games is disappointing.
It’s also shown me just how inured we’ve become to this sort of thing. Now booth babes are not women who have chosen to cosplay (fans who dress up in the costumes of their favorite characters, who are also often scantily clad because that’s how women’s costumes are designed, which is a whole different kettle of fish), they’re paid to fulfill a fantasy image. I don’t really have a problem with character-models being paid to emulate a videogame character (one of the coolest parts of PAXEast 2010 were the Gears of War 3 guys roaming about and taking pictures with Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite), whether scantily clad or no. What I have issue with is that articles like Games Radar’s are acceptable and expected, and that half the point of having people dressed like a character are so that they can be scantily clad. No one hires a model to dress up as Samus Aran.
What I’d like to see happen is that game companies hire all sorts of models – male, female, scantily clad, fully armored – and see game journalism sites post pictures of all of them. I’d like to see sites like Games Radar behave a bit more maturely than to cater to juvenile impulses like 106-word articles that say, in effect, “we took pictures of boobs.” If the gaming industry wants to be taken seriously, then it needs to stop acting like it just graduated from junior high.