No more "booth babes"?

Video-game conference threatens to enforce its no-nudity policy.

Published January 26, 2006 4:00PM (EST)

Gamer conference E3 Expo has decided to enforce its dress code this year in an attempt to put the brakes on the event's increasingly skanky "booth babe" action. The conference is known for its scantily clad women -- see the 4,000 photos on fan site, whose tag line is "it's not about the games" -- even though the event handbook specifies that live nude girls are not on the list of acceptable promotional materials:

"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, all common areas, and at any access points to the Show."

This year, event organizers are warning promoters that they may be hit with a $5,000 fine if they break the rules -- and they'll be required to pay up right there on the showroom floor.

It's not clear whether this means promoters can't hire models to hawk their wares, or whether those models just have to have to be wearing more than four square inches of cloth (though the latter seems more likely). Reuters and PC Magazine both ran stories this week announcing that "booth babes" had been banned, but gamer blogs like Kotaku predict the rules will be variously interpreted and selectively enforced. In fact, some suggest the smackdown is just a strategy for keeping adult-content games off the show floor, and thereby providing less incentive for controversial content in games.

My take is that as long as the women are working at the expo voluntarily and are decently compensated, the "booth babe" phenomenon is yucky but not worth freaking out about. But the shrieks of outrage from some E3 fans over the prospect of less cleavage at their conference are pretty hurl-worthy, especially when they include gripes about the fact that this year's show director is a woman. Mary Dolaher answered gamer concerns over the change in policy by pointing out that it's the fine, and not the dress code, that's new this year, and her explanation was posted on Gamecloud and quoted in the Reuters story. In response, a poster on Wired News had this to say: "Mary Dolaher is obviously fat, old, ugly, or a combination of all three, and probably single. How dare this old hag ruin our fun. Get a man in that position before next year."

Classy. Do you think there's a way I could somehow ruin just that guy's fun?

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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