Eurogamer Babes and Strong Female Leads: Are Women Considered People In This Industry Yet?

(Photo credit: © Richard Gwilliam [@kirth])

Eurogamer Expo, Thursday, 11am. The main entry queue begins to move in. I beat the rush to get in with the dregs of the press queue and sweep up the steps, ready to play some games.

“Hello there!” chirps someone from somewhere in England. Not somewhere in England as in, at some precise point in the country, more that the dialect is somewhere from below the border. I’m not great with accents.

Before me stand two svelte ladies in the tiniest Virgin Media vests and shorts. QR codes – which tend to work best on flat surfaces – are wrapped around curvaceous bottoms. Scanning them probably leads to a Virgin promotional website. I didn’t try to scan it. Nobody I spoke to had either.

They ask for a photo on their phone. I’m not entirely sure why. I gurn as the photo is taken, not entirely sure what’s going on. They ask for my Twitter name and I tap it into the phone. “If you retweet this,” they say, “you’ll be entered into a draw to win £500.”

How about that. Five hundred Great British Pounds, in exchange for shedding my self-respect to my 2,300 Twitter followers. Dignity has finally been valued.

The booth babes at Eurogamer were out in force this year, more prominent than in years gone by. We know why this is problematic, but a reminder for those out of the loop: it’s horrible, essentially, and sets a terrible precedent for the industry. What better way to encourage poor stereotypes of the average gamer than to fill an expo hall with scantily-clad ladies dipped in Dulux-color-chart bronze gloss paint?

On the show floor, Company of Heroes 2 dolls in tank tops and hotpant camo shorts wandered back and forth, wiggling hips and flashing smiles as they handed out leaflets. They too had useless QR codes on their posteriors. Were they even aware? Alexis Trust of the WGL didn’t think so; through Twitter, she has told of several girls’ surprised reactions at the news that their backsides had been barcoded.

Both Company of Heroes 2 and Virgin Media girls were swept aside into the over-18s area following day one of the Expo, and with great reason: the Expo has, this year more than any other, hosted entire families and children on the show floor. The last thing I’d want my kids to see is a lady in an NVIDIA catsuit – an eternal staple of Eurogamer, it seems – posing beside the stand of a game she may well know very little about.

Perhaps I am giving “booth babes” less credit than they deserve. Perhaps not.

My girlfriend and I had a heated discussion this afternoon, perhaps missing the point of why people are becoming agitated. She asked why it was an issue for booth babes to be there if games such as Dead or Alive 5 actively encourage, albeit subtly, ‘appreciation’ of the female form. Thus: Eurogamer’s worst offenders were the girls dolled up for products to which they had no relation. Company of Heroes 2 does not come with an Exhibitionist Infantry; your Virgin Media box does not arrive in a silken corset and stockings.

Yesterday morning, Eurogamer founder Rupert Loman made a public apology for the presence of “booth babes” at the Expo, promising that it wouldn’t happen again. “When we talk to publishers and exhibitors, we discourage them from bringing booth babes – and encourage them to bring developers.”

A developer session – we’ll keep it nameless, to keep this thing short – talked of Strong Female Leads, a concept I didn’t even recall still being a thing in 2012. Is that still a thing? Can’t every female lead be strong, anyway?

These words, and the expo girls, sit concurrently with one another because they smack of oddly backwards attitudes. Do we still need to talk about Strong Female Leads like they’re a big deal alongside Strong Male Leads? Do we need scantily clad models who can’t tell a Scribblenauts from a Psychonauts, desecrating stands of otherwise wholesome, excellent games at expos?

Answer that question yourself. I sincerely hope that you don’t need my assistance, or that of anybody else, in order to do so.

You know what? If you’re a booth babe, email me (jon [at] Explain why you do your job and if you detest everything that it entails.

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  1. Darth Nutclench

    It’s a tricky subject. I personally agree with the sentiment here, and always find it tawdry and uncomfortable when I see these girls on the stands at any event. At the back of my mind I always wonder what they are thinking as they reluctantly drape themselves over another sweaty gamer who wants a photograph to show off to his mates. I would much rather have a passionate person (male or female) who can tell me more about the game and give me an insight which I couldn’t normally get from a shop assistant. On the other hand, some people would say that these ladies are earning an honest living and we shouldn’t be scared of boobs. The gamer and ex-model, Alex Simwise, is a strong advocate of this and has been recently vocal on twitter about the Eurogamer booth babe quandary. Nevertheless I can’t help feeling that the booths are pandering to the lowest common denominator when they bring the babes. I found myself avoiding their stands, but I was in a minority. There were a lot of people flocking and so the stands have achieved their objective. I can’t help remembering gamedev story and remembering the option to pay for booth babes to improve the success of your game….

  2. Remember the tech company who tweeted a picture of a booth babe’s rear-end? Acer, Asus…one or the other, as I recall. At least we’re not seeing that on THQ’s Twitter feed (I hope).

    Tomb Raider and ACIII are great examples of ‘proper’ female leads – although I’m curious about Beyond’s characters since we haven’t actually seen much of them yet. I never want to hear the term ‘Strong Female Lead’ again – much in the same way I’d rather never see a booth babe straddling a show floor stand.

  3. I think it’s odd how the game industry gets focused on for this. I’ve been to a lot off different industry shows for a lot of different industries, and just about all of them have booth babes. Sex sells – shocker. Are we saying that we should push away all acceptance of this fact? Does finding yourself sexually attracted to someone make you an imbecile? I don’t have any desire to EVER demean a person, and I abhor any activity that does so, but I’ve known quite a few booth babes in my day, and I have yet to meet a SINGLE ONE that says they feel demeaned by what they’re doing. Every single one I’ve ever known has been happy to have the work, and found it far more demeaning to have snooty people casting wary glances at them because they think it’s lowbrow. Quite frankly, I am far more offended by people who think they’re better than the booth babes and go on to complain about how lowbrow they all are. To me, they’re the nasty ones. The way I see it, if the girls are happy, treated kindly, and paid well, then what is the big problem? If the girls start complaining about how accepting these jobs causes them emotional distress, then perhaps we need to stop the practice. Otherwise, we’re pandering to a group of complainers and then stealing jobs away from people. And you can put money on those complainers coming back next year with some new subject that they’re offended by.

  4. So, when discussing this trend, how do we not also discuss how disgusting cosplayers are? Should we institute a cosplaying code of conduct and restrict scantily clad ladies from entering a wholesome gaming event? And I’m not trying to be nasty here, I am honestly asking if that will be the complaint next year. Now that they’re banning booth babes, what do you think we should plan on getting offended by next year?

  5. Lynx_Lapdance

    I have to agree with you, Jon. This was an issue and there were still Company of Heroes 2 booth babes walking around on Sunday in what is essentially a second skin and Russian hat and when I asked one of them if they knew if there were any Relic game developers company of heroes, they replied “Who? I’m not sure who you are asking for but here’s a leaflet and Company of Heroes 2 is just along that way” So they were walking signpost who didn’t ever know who hired them… On another note, the Badass Alliens: Colonial , Marines and Alien were locked away in the over 18 section for no good reason and trust me this alien was awesome.

  6. I’d just like to point out that the overwhelming number of complaints I see about the booth babes seems to be about how stupid they are. So, who’s being condescending here? Sure, they weren’t hired to know anything about the games. Does that make them bad people? They were hired for their talents, and you can be as chagrinned as you want that their talents aren’t the same as yours, but it comes off as petty to be hateful to them because they’re pretty. Isn’t that the same thing as them discounting you because you’re smart instead of good looking? I’m just pointing out that it seems like the majority of distaste for the whole idea of booth babes doesn’t stem from a concern about the abatement of the female role in society, but rather from a petty, jealous, demeaning stature that people take towards them. Like it or not, the way that a lot of people approach this subject comes off as formerly taunted nerds coming to a place in their lives where they’re the ones in the driver’s seat, and they can’t wait to poke fun at the pretty people now that the tables are turned. All I’m saying is, take a look deep inside to see what your true reason is for being angry and intolerant of these people. Are they truly hurting the industry that you love? And how is it that they are? When we can identify that, then we can have a discussion about whether or not they should be banned. Until then, it just comes off as a catty, dismissive rant.

  7. frawlzfans

    I also would like to point out that the video of KSI who is now banned from Eurogamer which is doing the rounds on gaming websites he asked before hand the permission of the girls in the video. So lets all calm down.

  8. steamRobot

    In the UK there is a technology magazine called Stuff and there always seems to be a sexy woman on the cover holding some gadget. I always thought that was strange, and it actually puts me off picking up a copy.

  9. i haven’t raised anything to do with “dumb blondes” or half of the other things you address in this comment. Nor have I gone out on a limb and called any of them stupid. I have, in fact, merely addressed the fact that they appear on the show floor to pander sex and nothing to do with the product itself. If they could even tell me a handful of things about the game they’re promoting, then maybe they wouldn’t have such a bad rep.

    But as it is, they do.

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