May 11, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Despite controversy, 'booth babes' still prowl E3

LOS ANGELES--If you came to E3 this year worried that the so-called "booth babes" wouldn't be here strutting their stuff, you already know you had nothing to fear.

That's because, while the scantily clad women may be a tad less scantily clad at E3 2006 than in years past, they're still very much in evidence, and they're still showing a lot of skin. (Photos: 'Booth babes' then and now.)

In January, the Entertainment Software Association, which runs E3, caused a stir in the video game world by announcing that it would no longer tolerate the barely covered women--hired by game publishers to attract men to their E3 booths--unless they put on more clothes.

Booth babes

The booth babes had prowled the halls at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where E3 is held each year, in costumes meant to invoke various video game characters--costumes that in many cases were little more than bikinis.

Booth babes have been such an attraction for many E3 attendees that there's even a fan site, E3 Girls, which sports the tagline "it's not about the games."

The ESA's announcement followed increased criticism that the video game industry was marketing sexual content to kids. The complaints were largely a response to the so-called "Hot Coffee" scandal, in which it was discovered that the popular game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" included sexual content, despite its being rated for under-18 audiences. The game was originally rated "M," meaning it was intended for consumers ages 17 and up. After "Hot Coffee," its rating was changed to "AO," or adults-only.

And now, with E3 in full swing, it's clear that the game publishers are working hard to ensure that booth babes are still on the show floor, are still posing for sexy pictures with adoring show attendees and are trying to get away with as much visible skin as possible.

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Reuters reported in January that E3 rules state that "material, including live models, conduct that is sexually explicit and/or sexually provocative, including but not limited to nudity, partial nudity and bathing suit bottoms, are prohibited on the show floor."

From its perspective, the ESA said nothing has changed from past years except that it now plans to ensure that its rules are followed. That means, presumably, that in previous years it was letting game companies slide when it came to the dress code.

"The E3Expo dress code rules remain identical to what they have been for the past several years and are similar to dress code policies of the vast majority of other major trade shows," Doug Lowenstein, ESA president, said in an e-mail statement to CNET News.com. "What's new in 2006 is an update and strengthening of the show's enforcement policies for these rules, which was communicated to exhibitors as a routine update."

But to some, that's nothing more than talk.

"I think the definition of 'booth babes' is really vague," said Susan Corben, vice president of marketing at Nyko Technologies, whose booth babe program at E3 is now in its third year. "They're trying to address blatant sexuality being marketed to minors. It's making a political statement regarding their position on sexuality in games."

Corben said that for E3 2006, Nyko had to have its booth babes' outfits approved by show organizers. And indeed, the Nyko outfits are clearly toned down from a year earlier.  

Clarification: An original version of this story misrepresented the original rating of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas." The game was originally rated "M," meaning it was intended for consumers ages 17 and up.

See more CNET content tagged:
booth, game company, Los Angeles, trade show, Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.

6 comments

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AAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!
SAN ANDRES WAS NEVER RATED FOR CHILDREN!!! IT WAS ALWAYS RATED M!!! GET IT RIGHT!!!
Posted by NickSentowski (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Sex makes 17-year olds go blind
Come now, the GTA series is indeed rated 'M' for Mature Audience, meaning only those 17 or older can buy it. BUT, with the "Hot Coffee" hack the game would have to be rated Adults Only, meaning only those 18 or older could buy it.

So really the big worry here is for all those 17-year olds, and as I'm sure we all know, 17 year olds will go blind if they see some poorly pixelated, obviously faked, humorous representation of sex. I mean, those 12 months between turning 17 and turning 18 are going to make some huge world of difference when it comes to a persons ability to handle cartoon sex!

Ohh, if anyone's worried though, the original M 17+ rating did state "Strong Sexual Content" (along with "Blood and Gore, Intense Violence and Drug Use") even without that "Hot Coffee" mod.
Posted by Hoser McMoose (182 comments )
Link Flag
If It Wasn't...
If it wasn't San Andres, it was going to be some other game that would have started it all.
*sigh*
Posted by troppp (58 comments )
Link Flag
Much ado over nothing
Since when does a cheesy sex scene buried in a game (that has to be unlocked with a hack) have anything to do with the attire of booth babes? "Cover the kid's eyes - there's a naked navel on parade!" What a load of crap....
Posted by Get_Bent (534 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Whats this world coming to?
"...She said another of the models received a warning from show organizers for showing too much skin. "Apparently her cleavage was a little too distracting," she said...."

Isnt that the POINT of a booth babe?

And this is happening in LA. Thats the last place you'd expect.
Posted by (402 comments )
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Liberals Everywhere
The Liberals are trying to ruin the show. Next the perverts will be using 14 year olds to promote their stuff.
Posted by GrandpaN1947 (187 comments )
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