At E3, sexism still an issue

A zombie 'booth babe' at the Konami exhibit for the game Dead Rising 3 at E3.
A zombie 'booth babe' at the Konami exhibit for the game Dead Rising 3 at E3.
Gamers play Pac Man on an Atari game console.
Gamers play Pac Man on an Atari game console.
People walk under an advertisement sign for the game "Batman: Arkham Origins".
People walk under an advertisement sign for the game "Batman: Arkham Origins".
An overview of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).
An overview of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).
An overview of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).
An overview of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).
A full size robot depicted from the new game Titanfall.
A full size robot depicted from the new game Titanfall.
Conventioneers wear superhero capes given out by a vendor.
Conventioneers wear superhero capes given out by a vendor.
A man plays the role of the character Kratos of the Sony game, God of War.
A man plays the role of the character Kratos of the Sony game, God of War.
Rectal software designer Julian Kantor (L) takes a picture of Jonathan Feng (R) as he uses the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to experience his program.
Rectal software designer Julian Kantor (L) takes a picture of Jonathan Feng (R) as he uses the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to experience his program.
An actor role-playing a zombie at the Deadrising 3 game booth.
An actor role-playing a zombie at the Deadrising 3 game booth.
A man talks on a phone near an ad for the game Ryse: Son of Rome.
A man talks on a phone near an ad for the game Ryse: Son of Rome.
An attendee photographs a Helghast sniper character from the PS4 game Killzone: Shadow Fall.
An attendee photographs a Helghast sniper character from the PS4 game Killzone: Shadow Fall.
A character from Killzone: Shadow Fall walks through an exhibit hall.
A character from Killzone: Shadow Fall walks through an exhibit hall.
Gamers play Battlefield 4 during E3.
Gamers play Battlefield 4 during E3.
Dancers perform at the "Just Dance 2014" booth.
Dancers perform at the "Just Dance 2014" booth.
Visitors to the Turtle Beach booth are treated to music from a large version of their headsets.
Visitors to the Turtle Beach booth are treated to music from a large version of their headsets.
The new Electronic Arts game Titanfall's logo ion the mohawk of a man at E3.
The new Electronic Arts game Titanfall's logo ion the mohawk of a man at E3.
A visitor poses with actor reprised as a game character during E3 in Los Angeles.
A visitor poses with actor reprised as a game character during E3 in Los Angeles.
A person dressed as a zombie in the Zombies vs Plants 2 game walks down the street to E3.
A person dressed as a zombie in the Zombies vs Plants 2 game walks down the street to E3.
Attendees try out LEGO'S Marvel SuperHeroes game at the Lego exhibit during E3.
Attendees try out LEGO'S Marvel SuperHeroes game at the Lego exhibit during E3.
Gamers play Sonic Lost World at the Sega exhibit at E3.
Gamers play Sonic Lost World at the Sega exhibit at E3.
Attendees check out the games on offer  at the Square ENIX exhibit at E3.
Attendees check out the games on offer at the Square ENIX exhibit at E3.
Yun Dai  tries out the updated full size of Cinderella's carriage at the Disney Booth at E3.
Yun Dai tries out the updated full size of Cinderella's carriage at the Disney Booth at E3.
Gamers try out the new Sony PlayStation 4 during E3 in Los Angeles, California.
Gamers try out the new Sony PlayStation 4 during E3 in Los Angeles, California.
Gamers try out the new Xbox One with a third party controller during E3.
Gamers try out the new Xbox One with a third party controller during E3.
Game developers demonstrate Destiny at the Sony news conference show on the eve of the opening of E3.
Game developers demonstrate Destiny at the Sony news conference show on the eve of the opening of E3.
Adam Boyes, Sony Computer Entertainment Vice President of Third Party Relations, addresses the Sony news conference.
Adam Boyes, Sony Computer Entertainment Vice President of Third Party Relations, addresses the Sony news conference.
Sony Computer Entertainment President and Group CEO Andrew House presents the Sony Playstation 4.
Sony Computer Entertainment President and Group CEO Andrew House presents the Sony Playstation 4.
Sony Computer Entertainment America President and CEO Jack Tretton addresses the PlayStation news conference show.
Sony Computer Entertainment America President and CEO Jack Tretton addresses the PlayStation news conference show.
Sony Computer Entertainment America President and CEO Jack Tretton addresses the PlayStation news conference at E3 2013.
Sony Computer Entertainment America President and CEO Jack Tretton addresses the PlayStation news conference at E3 2013.
Game designer and producer Hideki Konno talks about Mario Kart 8 during the Wii U Software Showcase at E3.
Game designer and producer Hideki Konno talks about Mario Kart 8 during the Wii U Software Showcase at E3.
Game producer Atsushi Inaba talks about his latest collaboration Bayonetta 2 during the Wii U Software Showcase at E3.
Game producer Atsushi Inaba talks about his latest collaboration Bayonetta 2 during the Wii U Software Showcase at E3.
In-game footage from the newly unveiled Battlefield 4.
In-game footage from the newly unveiled Battlefield 4.
Attendees watch scenes from the game Ryse: Son of Rome during the Xbox E3 Media Briefing.
Attendees watch scenes from the game Ryse: Son of Rome during the Xbox E3 Media Briefing.
In-game footage from the newly unveiled Battlefield 4.
In-game footage from the newly unveiled Battlefield 4.
Outside E3 2013.
Outside E3 2013.
Phil Spencer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Studios, shows off the Xbox One controller.
Phil Spencer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Studios, shows off the Xbox One controller.
Attendees watch scenes from the game Forza Motorsport 5 during the Xbox E3 Media Briefing.
Attendees watch scenes from the game Forza Motorsport 5 during the Xbox E3 Media Briefing.

When it comes to video games, it still felt like a man's world at E3.

One look at the crowded halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center this past week, and it was easy to see that most attendees of the Electronic Entertainment Expo were men. Yes, plenty of women were at E3, which wrapped up on Thursday. But some were there as so-called "booth babes" - female models hired to hype products and attract attendees to exhibitors' displays on the show floor.

The presence of scantily clad women hawking games and gizmos seemed in particular contrast to a report released this week by the Entertainment Software Association, which organises the gaming industry's annual trade show. It found that 45 per cent of the entire gaming population is now women, and women make up 46 per cent of the most frequent game buyers.

"The line to the bathroom is pretty short compared to the men's bathroom, which is great for us as product demonstrators here," said Jess Sylvia of Nyko. "However, I think the thing is E3 is not a consumer event. It's a trade event, and as much as women love to game and are buying 45 per cent of the market, the industry is still men, primarily."

There were noticeably fewer "booth babes" roaming E3 this week than in previous years, though exhibitors such as Snail Games, Hyperkin and Atlus still featured women with plunging necklines or body-hugging clothes at their booths.

Yet Michael Gallagher, president of the ESA, believes E3 does respect and embrace women, noting there's even a dress code forbidding too much skin.

"Each exhibitor makes a decision whether they choose to use models or not," he said. "The choice to do that is then regulated by standards that we use, much like trade shows do around the country and around the calendar. Those standards have not interfered with the enjoyment of E3 by men and women alike during the time that I've been here."

While the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas similarly features provocative models, the gamer-centric Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle and Boston has outlawed "booth babes". Meanwhile, some of this year's E3 exhibitors, such as SemiFormal Studios and 100% Indie, bucked conventions with "booth bros" - male models in shirtless ensembles or skintight superhero garb.

The disconnect between the gaming audience and their portrayal seemingly extended to the virtual world, too. For every female protagonist like Bayonetta on display at E3, there were dozens of Mario Brothers. But that could be changing, even in genres like the first-person shooter, a realm once considered to only be populated by adrenaline-fuelled dudes.

Battlefield 4, the latest instalment in Electronic Arts' military shooter franchise, won't allow gamers to play as women in the game's multiplayer mode when it's released later this year. Yet Peter Moore, chief operating officer of EA, suggested the single-player campaign of Battlefield 4 would feature a female protagonist on the front lines.

"It ties into the real world," said Moore. "If you follow real-world politics, the attitude has changed, certainly in the United States, over the last 12 months. Women being allowed to get on the front lines is something they wanted as active servicepersons, and us showing a strong female character in the 'Battlefield 4' narrative is a part of that."

There were a few other examples of female power at E3, too. Princess Peach, once merely the most kidnapped woman in the Mushroom Kingdom, served as a playable character in Nintendo's Super Mario 3D World. And EA announced it was working on a sequel to Mirror's Edge, which focuses on a free-running female lead character named Faith.

"I really enjoy writing for women," said David Cage, creator of the PlayStation 3 game Beyond: Two Souls, which features actress Ellen Page as the heroine. "I like female characters because they can be very strong and very tough, but they can cry and be very sensitive. They have a palette of emotions that's much wider than with male characters."

Yet the issue remains a sensitive one, as evidenced by reaction to some trash-talking between two male and female Microsoft employees duking it out in the fighting game Killer Instinct on stage during the company's E3 presentation on Monday.

Many interpreted a comment made by the male producer as a joke about rape. Microsoft later apologised and called it offensive.

AP