Wednesday, October 15, 2008

News for 10/15/08: Marching Booth Babes and the Oddities of Conventions

There were quite a few interesting things to see at the recent Tokyo Game Show. Instead of rehash all the announcements, we'd like to point out a little bit of the show's absurdity. To be fair, no game show is without its weirdness, but this video served as a good starting point for a discussion about the culture of trade shows as well as gamer culture in general.

Scott: Here we go. Time for the News: The WTF edition

Scott: I kind of feel like this video is like one of those de-motivational posters: "Sense: This video makes none."

Jorge: I like the cowboy boots. Is that to emphasize the fact Microsoft is a Western franchise? But Japanese women are wearing them. Maybe this is some metaphor for Microsoft's burgeoning role in the Japanese market.

Scott: Or maybe ladies in boots are hawwwwt.

Jorge: Hey, I just came from Blizzcon. Why make them wear boots when you can make them wear skimpy leather clothing and night-elf ears?

Scott: I mean, we talk a lot about video games in fairly serious way: culture, economics, artistic interpretation. But this is a good reminder of the commercial nature of the industry. Not to mention the downright weirdness.

Jorge: It is the overt commercial aspects that are so weird.

Jorge: Costumes and themed apparel are not new (eg: for convention goers. But most of these are just game enthusiasts, not paid models who don't know the difference between a thumbstick and a drumstick.

Scott: Are these ladies really helping Microsoft sell things?
I mean, I don't watch this and then think to myself: Snap, I have to buy a 360!

Jorge: It's strange because when I think of gamer communities getting together, and TGS definitely included this considering how many civilians showed up, I think of an organic experience. There is an interesting dichotomy at events like these between the organic and inorganic aspects of gamer culture.

Scott: What do you mean by "organic?"

Jorge: When I think of gamers getting together I think of myself getting together with friends back in high school. If you think of these events as venues where people gather to share a common interest you are dreadfully misinformed. Unless your common interest is an army of booth babes.

Scott: Which it most certainly is.
But seriously, that's a good point: these events are by their nature marketing events. They're trying to sell their stuff, so why not use sex appeal?

Jorge: Part of the uncomfortable feeling, and maybe its just me, is the sense that I am being targeted. All these women are just scantily clad door-to-door salesmen as I see it.

Jorge: It's not just the night-elf models either. There were two announcers at Blizzcon during the Starcraft Tournament that were clearly had no idea what they were talking about. They called themselves "E-sports" announcers. The pay-per-view announcers at the event had the same pre-packaged feel about them.

Scott: They literally called it e-sports?

Jorge: Yeah. Their heads were swollen with excitement.

Scott: Or faux-excitement?
Because I think that's what you're getting at with the whole "organic" thing. These are people who are being paid to look excited about the games, rather than being genuinely enthusiastic.

Jorge: When I think of videogames as related to books, the booth babe marching band seems incredibly alien. I've never seen something like that at a book signing.

Scott: Or at a movie premier, or even something like Sundance.

Jorge: Do you find this degrading to the medium?

Scott: It's somewhat degrading, although probably more so to the women...
But it's the idea that gamers can be fooled by a tight body and pumping techno music.

Jorge: I don't think its just targeting gamers though. They do it for themselves too, and for journalists. It's just become so ingrained in the theatrical nature of it all. Car shows do the same thing.

Scott: So they're branding, or trying to create a culture for a company?

Jorge: You'd think you'd be able to show off your goods without showing off someone else's goods. Brand your company with sex appeal and show off frivoulous spending, that will bolster your street cred.

Scott: A corporate pissing contest?

Jorge: Yea, its just what you get with this type of marketing. It's easy to forget how silly the videogame industry is when you're busy enjoying their actual product.

Scott: True. Maybe it's best just to laugh at it and try not to get too involved in the marketing quagmire.

Jorge: I'm glad that game journalists and convention goers know this is just silly.

Scott: Yeah. It makes me less worried that all the big deal folks like Brian Crecente realize how ridiculous it is. But you have to admit, techno "Auld Lang Syne" is damn catchy.


  1. I worry whenever I hear techno music that should have been banned a decade ago.

    Other than that, I am at a loss for words. This is a good thing, perhaps; I doubt any of them would be nice or pleasant. Maybe I've stayed away from these conventions for a reason.

  2. I have always been confused about my thoughts on these conventions, actually.

    On the one simple hand, I can appreciate the addition of Booth Babes, big screens with massive trailers running on them and everything else as well, as it's all eye candy isn't it? A treat for the eyes and besides, these ladies in cowboy boots or night-elf costumes are hot.

    But on the more in-depth side of things, the inclusion of the Booth Babes and etc. just takes away from what should be the convention's main purpose in the first place, showing off the games. As was mentioned in your post, it's all about marketing a company's product while perhaps pissing on another's, but that is where I get confused. If it is all about marketing than surely having the focus on the actual product is more successful for the company in the long run than it is to have the event be one massive spectacle of shit that honestly doesn't need to be there.

    E3 was always complained about for being too big, loud and so on and I can totally understand those complaints. Sure changing the show saw it die down and perhaps lose importance and as a gamer, I don't find myself looking forward to it as much as I used to but it did put the focus back on the games and to me that's a good thing. I appreciate that TGS and similar shows (Leipzig) are big gaming conventions and I always look forward to them. I also appreciate that they are open to the public unlike E3, but even so I think I would much prefer to have the shows be less of a spectacle and more of a place to find out about new and upcoming games and how they play.

    I think that's also why I love shows like DICE, which are much more game focused rather than not. Speaking of that, when's the next one?

    Oh and sorry if I was a bit all over the place with this comment, kinda tired but I knew I meant so that's the main thing right? ;)

  3. It seems like the hot lady distractions are just an extension of what developers put into the games themselves. I can't count the number of times I've seen gratuitous cleavage (even in relatively artistic games like Okami, which Scott happens to be playing as I type - Rao has tig-ol-bitties.)

    Whether the developers merely think this helps sell the game, or it actually helps them do so, I don't see a huge difference between slapping some irrelevant sexuality onto a character and throwing some irrelevant sexuality into a booth.

  4. @denis
    I'm right there with you on the techno music. It always seems like those conventions are too loud to even get a feel for the games.

    It's a hard line to walk: conventions should be somewhat of a party, but still focus on games. It's fun to have lots of folks in one place, but while a few is company, 40k is a crowd. It would be nice to find some happy medium.

    I guess that irrelevant sexuality is only irrelevant if those who are targeted by it make it so. I guess we shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking that we can resist the temptation of sex appeal, eh?