May 11, 2006 4:00 AM PDT
Despite controversy, 'booth babes' still prowl E3
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In 2005, the Nyko models were on the floor in very short wraparound skirts and form-fitting tops that ended just below their breasts. This year, the Nyko models are showing just as much leg, but they're wearing regular white shorts, and T-shirts that entirely cover their midsections.
Corben said Nyko and other game companies were told that violations of the dress code would subject offending publishers to $5,000 fines. But she scoffed at the notion that such penalties would be a problem for those receiving them, especially because some companies spent six figures on their booths and as much as $50,000 on the signs for those booths alone.
Booth babe programs are "a lot more cost-effective, and I think publishers recognize that," said Corben. "Your (return on investment) is infinitely greater...I think a lot of people think the whole (policy) stunt was a joke."
Indeed, on the show floor, men were still lining up to take pictures of booth babes, just as in years past. And while the women's outfits may be showing a little bit less skin, there doesn't seem to be any sense that the women are selling sex any less.
"Honestly, this is exactly what I'm here for," Channa DeSilva, a Los Angeles game tester, said of the booth babes. "I would not be able to do this conference without pretty females to talk to."
DeSilva, who stood in line for about 10 minutes to have his picture taken with four women posing at publisher Tecmo's booth, laughed at the idea that booth babes were any less in evidence this year. And without prompting, he quickly pulled out his digital camera to show off a series of pictures of nothing but the dressed-down young women.
'People wear less at the beach'
To some of the women at the center of the controversy, the ESA's policy may well be much ado about nothing.
"I just think it's silly," said Lana Kinnear, a fourth-year E3 model working this time around for Sapphire Technology. "All the body parts were covered. People wear less at the beach."
Further, said Kinnear, who was wearing a skintight full-body suit, the booth babes are only real-life representations of the game characters they're supposed to be invoking.
"The video games (all) have half-naked people in them," she said.
Stephanie Arellano, a second-year model working for Vivendi Games and promoting its "Free Style" street basketball game, agreed.
"What we're wearing is reflective of the games," said Arellano. "Last year, I was dressed as (Lara Croft from "Tomb Raider"), with the boobs and everything."
But Arellano said she was happy that E3 is trying to crack down on the more extreme side of the booth babe spectrum.
"I think it's great that they're cutting down on the nudity part of it," she said. "Last year a lot of the women were practically nude. This year, it's being a (character from) the game, so you don't have to be nude. It's more clothing. It's more classy."
That said, Arellano doesn't think the ESA's enforcement policy has changed things all that dramatically. And she explained the publishers have an incentive to keep on bringing the underdressed women to E3.
"I don't think it's changed to the other end of the spectrum," Arellano said. "It's just calmed down. Like anything, sex sells. It's kind of like, we're never going to be covered up like a nun. They want sexy, (just) not raunchy."
CNET News.com's Ina Fried contributed to this report.
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