While the console war battled on between Sony and Microsoft at last week’s E3, some of the aftershock is about a different war, the one sounding off about women and sexism in the games industry. Yes, still. Recently Kotaku writer Tina Amini revealed five women’s unfortunate encounters with harassment at the expo. These women were not booth babes, nor were they decked out in cosplay. And no, they were not part of the “Just Dance” battle on stage — they were journalists, PR professionals and developers attempting to do their job for the love of video games.
“After speaking to a few female journalists and PR reps who attended E3 this year, I learned that, in the midst of all the excitement, they were unhappy to admit a more offensive common theme of this year’s show: They called it the —creepy-rapey-E3′,” writes Amini.
Amini outlines encounters from her female colleagues in the industry, “You might not have heard about the security guard that groped a journalist at this year’s E3. Or the writer who gave a PR woman his business card by slipping it in her dress. Or the women presumed to be booth babes simply because of the way they looked.”
The first uncomfortable anecdote comes from a female games reporter who asked to go unnamed. She recounted her encounter with one of the security guards at the expo.
Amini paints the scenario, “She waved to a friend. A security guard who was covering the back rooms where these interviews took place mistakenly thought that wave was meant for him. He approached her. She responded to his small talk casually — in a friendly manner, she said,” her eyes darting to the flashy big screen that showcased new trailers for upcoming games. She wasn’t invested in the conversation, she told me. It showed. Suddenly, he was standing over her. Looming, she told me. He wrapped his hands around her shoulders in such a way that ‘he could have easily moved’ her.”
“I was physically compromised,” she told Amini. “I wasn’t in a position I could’ve slipped out of. I had to shake him off.”
As if his touching and aggressive behavior wasn’t enough to shake up the young reporter, he proceeded to tell her, “It’s just that it’s funny, because I’m here and there are all these hot girls here and then you find out they’re gamers. I didn’t know girls like this existed, and I’m basically getting paid to stand here all day and look at them.”
The journalist’s account gives a picture of what it can be like for women at game conferences. For anyone needing a visual reference, it’s captured by this GIF making the rounds that caught an expo staffer’s creepy behavior.
Amini talked to other women professionals who experienced moments at E3 bordering on harassment. Booth babes have become an area of controversy for the industry. Whether you agree with the marketing ploy or not, this next woman’s story shows the issue with scantily clad women at industry events and the assumptions it can provoke.
In one instance, two female PR reps were mistaken for booth babes and approached by an onlooker. When they refused to take a picture with him, he blurted out, “If you’re a booth babe, isn’t it your job to take pictures with me?”
In another, a female journalist said she was exploited in a photo when she is taking a break at the Donkey Kong display at the Nintendo booth and noticed attendees were taking photos of her.
“A male onlooker snapped a photo at the same time. Nothing too strange about that — I’ve taken photos of displays with people in them before, just to get a snapshot of the moment.”
But soon afterwards, she told Amini, someone came up and told her something chilling: the onlooker had zoomed in and taken a photo of her breasts. The man was confronted by PR representatives and forced to delete the photo.
The E3 show floor wasn’t the only place with displays of sexism gone wild. The same PR representative who mistaken for a booth babe earlier had another situation at an industry party, where a visibly drunk man pulled out his business card and slowly moved it into her cleavage. She was left frozen and recalled to Amini that she was left feeling “completely helpless.”
Another account comes from Amini’s writing colleague Jenn Frank, who has written for Kotaku. Frank tells the story of two employees at a noted AAA studios who thought they would charm her by calling her unattractive and joking about her glasses. Their intentions?
“If you can make a woman feel bad about herself you can sleep with her, but it just isn’t working tonight,” the developer was overheard saying afterwards.
Amini writes, “I’ve never written a story like this before. I’ve admittedly been afraid to in the past. These confessions are always met with skepticism and hatred and accusations. The bravery to step up is rarely celebrated. It’s seen as whiny and entitled. That reaction is baffling. And I’m glad that the women who spoke with me for this story shared their experiences. They’re why I know I can’t be afraid anymore. I don’t have that choice.”