Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Of sin, retibution and excessive bashing


Dante's Inferno contest
Inserito originariamente da Abriael
I think everyone, by now, knows about the ComicCon contest issued by Electronic Arts and temed after their upcoming Dante's Inferno game. It invited the contestants to portray themselves while doing "acts of lust" with a "booth babe".
Of course this caused an enormous outrage that triggered a whole truckton of criticism more or less from everywhere and EA's apologies. Of course such apologies weren't really accepted or even listened by anyone and the bashing went on, and is still going on now.

This post of mine will probably stir some nice, warm hatings aimed in my own direction, but the ones that have read this blog for a long time probably know well that I can't care the less.

Here's, my personal opinion on the whole controversy. EA did a PR blunder, no question about it. It's not the first nor the last we'll see from them or other game developers/publishers. Marketing isn't an exact science, and it happens more often that people think, that an inexperienced and overzelous PR will create an event with the potential to offend some, or many, without even noticing. I did as well, long ago (luckily with much less disastrous and widespread consequences). It's a lesson I learned the hard way.

That said, it's been blown WAY out of proportion.
Why? because for the average bored blogger or twitter looking for attention Electronic Arts is an easy target. What better way to raise the masses than to issue a crusade against the evil giant of the videogaming market? The nemesis of every small and honest developing studio? The cruel mistress that rules them all with her salt-coated whip?
You can be 100% sure that, if the same blunder was made by a small development studio or by one that happens to have the favor of the masses (say Bethesda for instance) the problem would have had less impact than a soap bubble.
But it's EA, so people immediately looked for their handy torch and pitchfork.

What really debaffles me is the lack of coherence in this whole matter.
The contest seemed to be made to appeal to that stereothypical leecherous basement-dwelling otaku/nerd hybrid that can't wait for a better chance to lay his sticky fingers on the luscious body of a booth babe.
It seems to me that the subsequent crusade called on the same specimen of gamer that waits for no better chance than one to look like a little brave Zelda ready to raise his Master Sword of armchair forum bashing and show off while defending the poor vulnerable and fragile booth babe princesses from the evil EA dragon.

Personally, I know quite a few ladies that work at gaming/anime/electronics/car conventions as booth babes, and none of them are fragile or need armchair defenders in any figure or scale. They're quite strong individuals, well aware of their own appeal on the male audience, and well able to hold their own against the occasional idiot that dares to extend his hands inside their personal space.
Sorry if this bursts some bubbles, but a booth babe that lacks this kind of abilities doesn't really last long in that kind of business.
They're no princesses in peril, and if you misbehave around them, you're probably the one that's gonna find himself in trouble.
And that's (besides the patience they have to put up with what is often an unpleasant crowd) exactly the reason why i have the utmost respect for them.

EA has been accused of sexism, commercial exploitation of the female body, up to extremes like "promotion of rape culture", and so forth.
This is kind of funny. The whole concept of "booth babe" (and similar concepts like Race Queens, Hooters girls and so forth), is sexist and an exploitation of the female body. And EA hasn't been the first, nor the last, in this and in other markets, to use the appeal of beautiful ladies to gather attention, in so many ways that one could fill a quite sizeable marketing manual about it (and I don't exclude that one or more already exist). How many "booth dudes" do you see at conventions dedicated to products generally vieved as aimed to a majority of males? Not many, isn't it?

The funny thing is that I'm ready to bet that a very sizeable percentage of the ones that consumed their fingertips while bashing EA over this, did in their mind, exactly the same "acts of lusts" (or much worse) "encouraged" by the contest on an innumerable amount of unknowing booth babes during their years of convention going.
How many of the blogs that raised the torches and the pitchforks against EA, rack up readers during each and every convention by posting whole slews of pictures of seductive booth babes and cosplayers in skimpy clothing?

Even the definition of "booth babe" itself is sexist, as it uses the term "babe", that isn't normally used to refer to ladies whose main point of attraction is above their eyebrows. I found it funny that many bloggers suddenly discovered the funny sounding definition "costumed representatives", to cover their own confortably seated rears with a nice shiny coat of political correctness.

I wonder why, instead of wasting all their energies at bashing EA on what is just a result of sexism in gaming (and not only gaming) conventions, people don't show a little of coherence and start protesting against the real core of the problem, which is the widespread use of booth babes itself.
I'd dare guess that the many males that committed their "acts of bashing" aren't doing that because they definitely enjoy the commercial exploitation of the lovely bodies of the ladies in question, and if such a practice was to be eliminated, they would be deprieved of a moment of delight for their eyes. On the other hand the ladies that are in such business and that protested would lose a job.
Protesting is nice, as long as it's convenient, I guess.

Let's not even start about the hundreds over hundreds of videogames that exploited, since the start of the electronics era, the image of the scantly clad female body in order to sell more copies.
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't even dream to protest against that (given that I personally don't have any problems at admitting that I enjoy it myself), but I didn't blow the Dante's Inferno matter out of proportion as well.

Unfortunately coherence is a rare merchandise nowadays.

As a final note, I found extremely funny that PixelPoet of Gaygamer.net sent in a commendable entry of himself with one of the amazingly few "booth dudes", but when he got chosen as runner up for the contest, he decided to turn it into his own PR stunt, refusing EA usage of the picture and publicly posting a sermon in which he basically explains us how much EA sucks and how much he thinks that he's better than them (basically lowering himself to the level he's criticizing, if not worse).
He seems to like to be "cheeky". Then I'll allow myself to be cheeky as well. I may be wrong but the the booth guy in the picture doesn't exactly seem overjoyed about the attentions and physical contact he's receiving. He looks, indeed, quite embarassed (I'd be embarassed too if I was suddenly approached by someone with that kind of fashion sense...). Is PixelPoet going to protest against himself for bothering the poor man?

Too bad, because he started nicely with that picture but the final stretch was run quite poorly.
Because, of course, bashing on the evil giant is easy. It's a big target, after all.

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