Tuesday, July 28, 2009

#EAfail at Comic-Con makes one lust for common sense

I guess I'm what the gaming industry would call a "casual" video gamer; I play games like Mario (any and all), Civilization, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, etc. I've dabbled in more involved games but haven't really found any that stick with me yet. (Though I really should give Left 4 Dead another try.) So I know right off the bat that I'm not the target audience for EA's Dante's Inferno, which comes out next year. But I can't let this story pass by without commenting on it, because it would seem they don't really care if any women play this game.

To promote the game, EA held a contest at Comic-Con this year. I'll let you take a look at part of the promo; you can see the full image here.

Yes, that is a "tattoo" above a girl's chest. The contest is called Sin to Win, and look! You can win "a night with the hottest girl at Comic-Con!" (The full poster actually says you can win a "SINful night with TWO hot girls.") And there's "booty!" Oh boy! But it gets better, believe it or not ... here's the instructions on how to enter the contest:

1. Commit acts of lust. Take photos with us or any booth babe.*
2. Prove it. Send photos to (variety of places) to enter.
3. Repeat. Find more babes for more chances to win.

Basically, go grope a "booth babe" -- any, not just EA's -- and get it on film, then you might win two hookers.**

There's rightfully been a big backlash against this promo. EA did issue a statement about it, but to call it an apology would be wrong:
We understand there's a lot of debate right now around our "Sin to Win" promotion at Comic-Con and wanted to clarify a few things. We created this promotion as part of our marketing efforts around the circle of Lust (one of the nine sins/circles of Hell). Each month we will be focusing on a new Circle of Hell. This month is Lust. Costumed reps are a tradition at Comic-Con. In the spirit of both the Circle of Lust and Comic-Con, we are encouraging attendees to Tweet photos of themselves with any of the costumed reps at Comic-Con here, find us on Facebook or via e-mail. "Commit acts of lust" is simply a tongue-in-cheek way to say take pictures with costumed reps. Also, a "Night of Lust" means only that the winner will receive a chaperoned VIP night on the town with the Dante's Inferno reps, all expenses paid, as well as other prizes.

We apologize for any confusion and offense that resulted from our choice of wording, and want to assure you that we take your concerns and sentiments seriously. We'll continue to follow your comments and please let us know if you have any other thoughts or concerns. Keep watching as the event unfolds and we hope you'll agree that it was all done in the spirit of the good natured fun of Comic-Con.
Oh, I see, groping booth babes is all just part of the fun of Comic-Con! And here I've not been going all these years. I'm totally missing out.


As you may see from the title of this post, the Twitter hashtag for this story is #EAfail. Here's a good list of places to read more about it:
  • Kotaku.com has posts about the general contest, about a booth babe's reaction to EA's contest including ALL booth babes (and what she deals with in said job), and about EA's apology.
  • Adfreak has a post about it.
  • GeekDad at wired.com writes about it.
  • And this site has a great list of additional links, as well as a good roundup of comments about the contest.
Unclear to me at this point: could girls enter this contest?

Much has been written about how the gaming industry and women, whether it's how women are portrayed in video games, or how games are marketed, or how many girls actually play games and how the industry is overlooking or under-serving a huge segment of its audience. (To sum up: women are portrayed like their bodies consist of boobs and legs only, games are marketed to the lowest-common denominator, and about 40 percent of girls play games.)

With this promotion, EA may have gotten a lot of people to realize that this game is going to be released (is any publicity really good publicity, like they say?), but they've also stirred up all the above issues, for the umpteenth time.
You know, it's really not that hard to NOT be a complete ass, even of the corporate variety. This contest makes me think a group of asses were sitting around going "how wrong can we make this be?" If you have to stoop to this level to get attention for your game, I'm going to assume your game completely sucks.

The sad thing is, at the end of the day it isn't even going to matter if one million people get outraged at this contest or at EA. They're too big of a company. Even if half the people who wanted to get this game decided against buying it now, all that means is this particular game could be a flop. That would be great, don't get me wrong. But EA publishes too many games for one game to make a difference.

That said, it wouldn't hurt to give them feedback about how crass and disappointing this contest is -- except I can't even find a generic e-mail address for the company that doesn't involve tech/support. Hmm.

*What the hell, "booth babe"? I assume this is standard lingo at conventions like Comic-Con? Just goes to show how backwards thinking people can be.

**No, they aren't actually hookers, but the contest sure makes it sound that way!

Two side notes: Anyone have any examples of "real" games that don't portray women as just T&A? Also, check out this story on "Ridiculous Life Lessons from New Girl Games." It's bad. (The "lessons," not the story.) You know how some people think video games are too violent? This is nearly the opposite of that. One of the games is called "My Boyfriend," for fuck's sake.


Razor said...

Ugh... see this is the kind of thing that just reinforces the stereotype that video game players are a bunch of sweaty, mouth-breathing, socially awkward dipshits who apparently need to win contests to get women to talk to them. That certainly is a good portion of the demographic (just check any video game message board for evidence), but some of us are capable of looking at women as something more than the big guns/bigger boobs stereotype that's been fed to us by games (and comic books).

As for games that don't portray women as just T&A, I think the first two Resident Evil games did a really good job with that. In RE1, the two main female characters are part of an elite police squad and they manage to make it through the entire game without wearing a bikini or a metal corset! In RE2, same general idea, female protagonist isn't wearing anything ridiculous, just jeans and a jacket and is looking for her brother.

Beyond Good & Evil may fall into that category as well, though I've never played it (but have been meaning to). According to Wiki, the main character in that game, Jade, is an investigate reporter/martial artist (ha!) investigating an alien conspiracy. It all seems like a pretty normal game, just with a female in the lead role. Although it should be noted that the game was a total flop commercially, but has gone on to become a bit of a cult classic.

The only other one I can really think of off the top of my head is Parasite Eve, an old game for the original Playstation. Very weird plot and it's been a long time since I've played it, but I don't remember the main character being presented in a ridiculous manner like Lara Croft. But to be fair, they definitely upped the polygonal sex appeal for the sequel.

Matt Osborne said...

CIV is a superior game. I think Tom Friedman plays it while dropping LSD...

But seriously: seriously??! I just want to see one horny geek get slapped and sue EA. Please.

Rosie said...

Razor, I hope I didn't imply that all men who play video games are socially awkward dipshits. I know that isn't true. :)

Matt, that certainly would be nice!

Razor said...

Oh no, you didn't imply it at all... I did :-P

Unknown said...

Ugh, the Kotaku comments.

"Booth babes are literal whores because they sell their bodies as sexual objects. Therefore, while they don't exactly DESERVE to be harassed, they should have known better than to walk around all having breasts and stuff."

"Um, did it ever occur to the booth babes that their presence is distracting from the con experience? Why are they randomly showing up at cons and pushing their sexuality on us?"

(These are paraphrases.)

OK, on to happier subjects:

- I've played Beyond Good & Evil about halfway through (still trying to collect enough pearls for a necessary hovercraft upgrade), and Jade is definitely a protagonist to be admired. She's brave, strong, smart, and resourceful, and so far there's been no sexualization of her character. She's just a cool protagonist who happens to be female.

- The main character in the recent release Mirror's Edge is female, although I hear that game isn't very good. Too bad - it was a neat idea.

- You don't see much about it because it's a first-person game with little opportunity for mirror-gazing, but the main character in Portal is a woman.

- Don't forget Samus Aran!


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