#EAFail Link Roundup

#EAFail is a total clusterfuck of misogyny and pandering to the lowest common denominator. Here are a bunch of resources on it. (Last updated August 3 at 10:00 PM EST.)

IRIS Forums Thread

This post on Digg

GayGamer’s PixelPoet entered the contest with a photo of himself and a “booth bear” in order to make a point. He ended up being selected as a runner-up winner and sending an amazing letter explaining exactly why he was declining the prize, pointing out the heteronormativity and sexism of the contest and giving suggestions for what to do with the prize instead. Read it, seriously!

Acid for Blood: Convention Sexual Harassment and #EAFail — in-depth analysis by Brinstar

General Posts

Ars Technica post explaining the situation.

The Escapist also reports on the situation.

AdFreak’s post against the contest. (H/T Brinstar in comments.)

GamingAngels points out that the hub-bub over the “male only” IGN contest should have tipped them off (H/T Brinstar):

Alright, I get it. The game is about the 7 Deadly Sins, one of them being Lust. And sure, this is one of the easiest (aside from Sloth) sins to use to promote the game. But really? After the debacle with the IGN contest recently wouldn’t at least do a little thinking about the audience – not to mention the ‘booth babes’? The contest is specific in stating “any booth babe” so, this isn’t even about the girls that might be at the Dante’s Inferno area – which means every girl working a booth at the Con is fair game in their eyes.

Negative Gamer tears the contest apart (H/T Brinstar!):

In their continuingly desperate plea for people to care about their game, EA have taken to just being bigots. In a competition being held at Comic-Con you have to “commit an act of lust” with one of their booth babes, then post the picture on twitter.The winner gets a “sinfull night with two hot girls” (the quote should technically be in all caps, but I thought you may not be able to handle it).

Even Destructoid thinks the contest is sleazy (H/T @sephiros):

On the other hand, there’s something repulsive about offering people up as prizes in your PR stunt, especially given game culture’s bad habit of over-sexualizing its female characters anyway. And while our beautiful free market ideally allows booth babes to opt out of stunts like this at their discretion, let’s be realistic: living in California ain’t cheap and the rent still has to get paid. Even if there’s nothing technically wrong going on here, it’s still sleazy and, at the very least, alienating.

MetaFilter post (H/T Pearl in the comments.)

Technology News: “EA’s Big Success at Comic-Con This Year? Alienating Women Gamers” (Same article at Wired’s GeekDad.) (Same article at Coolbeans.)

More links care of Brinstar:
Post on LJ comm sf_drama.
Post by LJ user yendi
JournalFen community unfunnybusiness
Post on FF site Limit Break
Jezebel: “Not only is this promotion gross and a bit sad, it also reinforces the notion that everyone at Comic Con is a horny douchebag loser who just wants to rub up against a Booth Babe for a cheap thrill.”
Kotaku: “The contest details, emblazoned on the chest of a woman in faux tattoo, also offers five runner-up prizes which includes a copy of the game, a $240 EA gift card, a limited edition shirt and ‘tons more swag.’ No word if that swag includes brass knuckles.”
LJ comm girl_gamers: “EA must not think highly of male gamers… and they don’t seem to think anything at all of female gamers.”
Technologizer: “If only the gaming blogs covering the story could see the forest from the trees. Destructoid, for example, cries foul despite having no problem celebrating booth babes during E3.”
Newsarama: “What NOT to do at SDCC”
Kotaku post about @danteteam’s failpology.
Broken Toys. And here’s a follow up:

And I apologize for any confusion in how I worded my belief that your marketing team was devoid of common sense, views its female employees as sexual objects, and reflects poorly on our entire industry in its juvenile pursuit of attention.

Kill Ten Rats: “EA, when I talked about game developers and porn stars, I was not implying that you should treat your employees like underpaid prostitutes.” Here is the follow up.
Jeremy Preacher:

I’ve worked Comic-Con. and while there are lots of perfectly normal, well-adjusted people there, there are also a LOT of people with boundary issues, an imperfect understanding of social norms, and/or a really fucking twisted view of women. It’s hard enough to maintain one’s personal space – having fucking Marketing supporting the random gropage as a CONTEST does NOT HELP.

Edmonton Journal‘s Button Mash: ”
EA Games pimp out booth babes at Comic-Con, the Internet explodes”
Geeks Are Sexy
Social Media Today post describing what went wrong WRT using Twitter as a contest platform. (Same post on Social Media Guidelines.)
Pope Hat post on the legal issues involved: “‘Acts of Lust’ At Comic Con: Electronic Arts Wants To Make Some Lawyers Very Happy”:

Employers have an obligation to take reasonable steps to protect employees from sexual harassment by customers and other third parties. They also have an obligation to refrain from encouraging and ratifying such harassment. This is a briskly developing area of law. And while EA might plausibly argue (as have employers like Hooters, for instance) that being ogled is part and parcel of the Booth Babe job, they’re going to have a tough time explaining how Booth Babes signed up to be exposed to ill-defined “acts of lust.”

Tradeskill Perspective talks about organizations such as Women in Games and Gamers in Real Life (GIRL) that try to raise awareness about issues relating to women in games and the industry.
Set on Stun: “Misogyny Marketing: EA Pimps Booth Babes for Dante’s Inferno Game”
Get Your Blogs Out
DigitalFemme: “The next person to tell me that the only thing a company is looking for in a consumer’s pants is a wallet or that the only color a company sees is green is going to get told off. For days. Because time and time again this has been proven to be untrue.”
dwell on it: “Booth-babes though, as a marketing gimmick, are just insulting. I’ve got nothing at all against the women who do the work. It’s a job like any other – and not an easy job by any means – and people are paying for it. But really, the whole notion that they have to be there is an insult to gamers, and to game journos – whether or not that insult is actually warranted.”
Kellie Parker succinctly explains the sexism and heteronormativity of the contest.
Blippitt: “#EAFail: Video Game Marketing Gone Bad”
Shack News

Carnal Nation: “#EAFail – Is EA Games Deliberately Being Crass For The Publicity?”

At Mother Jones, Stephanie Volkoff Green investigates which other circles of hell EA manages to fall into with this contest.

Geek Syndicate‘s post. (H/T jeffy in comments.)

Yahoo! Games’s PluggedIn: “EA blasted over questionable marketing stunt”; this post made Yahoo’s top 4 news articles. (H/T @BigDumbHippy)

Joystiq: “Photos of the booth girls and their potential “dates” can be found on the Dante’s Inferno Facebook page. Our faith in humanity can be found in the corner, curled up and mumbling something to itself.” And the follow up: “We can’t imagine Beelzebub begs pardon from those he makes swim through a sea of fire and brimstone for all eternity. ‘Oh, man. That looks like it hurts. I’m like, really sorry about this, guys. Do you want some aloe?'”

Penny Arcade weighs in:

Now, Electronic Arts seems determined to wrest the title of “most egregious promotional bullshit” from the Acclaim of old, with some crazy Comic Con antics that involve committing “acts of lust” on “booth babes.” They apologized, ostensibly, but it’s a mealymouthed, worthless thing – a recitation of what they’ve done, capped with the assertion that they’re sorry you’re offended, but not sorry for offending you, as though your reaction were some bizarre, extra-dimensional phenomenon independent of their own actions.

Kieron Gillen at Rock, Paper, Shotgun decries the contest, describing a couple stories of con-goers harassing his friends at SDCC:

On the first day, a Photographer friend of ours wandered over, sighing that she’d already had her arse pinched four times.

This is what comicon is like without a multinational corporation deciding to turn it into a sport.

Feminist Responses

A comment on Ars Technica by an actual “booth babe” with firsthand experience of con harassment (H/T Brinstar). Here is an excerpt, but be sure to read the whole thing:

Lastly, you guys think that people offended by this are over-reacting because SANE people at a con would never do something criminal? Spoken like someone who’s not female and dressed up at a con. Last week I had some moron ACTUALLY STALK one of my new girls. Kept coming back to the booth even after she told him she wouldn’t hang out. He kept getting more insistent that she hang out with him and give him her phone number. Kept telling her he’d come back when she asked him not to. Tried to FOLLOW HER. Yah, that’s obviously not dangerous AT ALL. I’ve had my own issues over the years, including stalkers, men trying to take invasive photos, or grabbing things they shouldn’t. I have at least a couple of guys a con who cross the line. Please don’t downplay the seriousness of a situation that you know NOTHING ABOUT.

Here is the Kotaku post about iola’s comment. It’s good that it’s getting so much attention.

Shakesville post about it. From a comment by trifling:

One particular horror of this is that entrants to the competition are encouraged to “(take) photos with the models working the Dante’s Inferno booth or any other booth babes at the show.” Forgive my potential lack of understanding of the operation of the event, but I am pretty sure that the tone of this competition is encouraging more than the average “stand next to her and smile” photo, and they are encouraging this interaction with people who do not work for them or have any association at all with this competition.

A Midwife in Training post about how she mostly buys EA games but will now be boycotting them:

I’m loving the fact that EA seems to think that my gender isn’t interested in their video games or winning contests for free swag. Or that I wouldn’t be offended that they’ve declared open season on the “booth babes”, essentially reinforcing the misguided idea that harassing or “lusting” after a woman, and then snapping a picture of it for proof, is a great way to get her to spend some time with you.

Response from PixiePalace:

EA is not only condoning behavior that dehumanizes women, but they are encouraging and rewarding it. This is socially irresponsible and morally repugnant. I don’t bring up morals a whole lot because I think it’s kind of a dicey subject, but this one kind of pushes me over the edge. We live in a rape culture and this kind of a contest reinforces that. I know that these models likely went into this job knowing about this contest, but I also know that some of the women to take booth babe jobs really need the jobs, regardless of how degrading they are (it’s better than stripping or worse, right?) and that women are told that being objectified is good for them (when we know, scientifically, that it’s not). Saying that it’s ok because they went into it with their eyes open doesn’t make it better.

The F-Word: “EA games invites convention attendees to sexually harass ‘booth babes'”

Feminist Law Professors: “EA has a new way to annoy its own models: give out prizes for Comic Con attendees who commit acts of lust with their booth babes. Also, if you win, you get to take the lady out to dinner! This is going to end well for everyone involved.”

Girl vs. Robot: (H/T Kat in the comments.) This is a great post that outlines the sexism faced by girls and women in nerd-dom:

The problem is that gamer girls are nerds too. They feel the same pressure to conform to mainstream society that male nerds do. However, when they reject it and flee to the communities of nerds online, they often are faced with a second pressure to behave in a certain way, whether that be the hyper anime girl ideal or the “one of the guys” anti-girl. Girl gamers are just looking for a place to be themselves.

YES, YES, YES. That is it exactly. (Also the third paragraph is an excellent example of satirizing sexism. The sarcasm is quite clear and the statement truly ridiculous.)

Feministing Community: “EA Fail: How to Alienate Female Gamers”

Geek Girls Rule!:

As I’ve said many, many times before… I am not against being pretty or sexy, or whatever. I am not against finding people hot. I AM against setting up your employees for sexual harassment, and probably some sexual assault as well. People, male or female, have a tendency to behave badly when feeling anonymous in a crowd. Add that to this society’s view of women’s bodies as objects and public property, then give them permission to engage in one level of bad behavior… The stupid starts to stack up pretty quickly.

Other Resources

Brinstar’s screencap of @danteteam’s now-removed response (now re-posted?) to the Twitter outrage.

TweetGrid search for #EAFail, this can be used to keep up with the latest developments on Twitter. Responses should also be under the hashtag #lust and as replies to @danteteam.

Via Brinstar, two posts on harassment, containing specific stories of incidents of harassment. This stuff HAPPENS, and it happens A LOT:
Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun!
Cerise article on con harassment and Girl-Wonder’s Con Anti-Harassment Project.
More on harassment at last year’s SDCC

In addition, this stunt has serious shades of the “Open Source Boob Project” debacle from last year. More analysis here.

If you have any more posts or resources, drop them in the comments.

A summarized list of the grievances against this “contest”, in no particular order:
— Assumes women and gay men aren’t interested in the game/don’t play games at all.
— Caters to the lowest common denominator of male game/comic fan: the drooling fanboy who can only get a date with a woman if he wins a fucking contest.
— Disembodied female chest and other sexist imagery used in the ad.
— Language that encourages sexual harassment of not only EA’s “booth babes” but every model at Comic-Con. (“commit an act of lust”)
— Women being offered as prizes.
— Prize worded in a way to imply the winner will get to have sex with the models; there is a word for this, and it’s prostitution.
— Women referred to as “girls”.
— All-around sleaziness and grossness, and an attitude that completely ignores and erases the RAMPANT harassment women, especially booth babes, have to put up with at gaming/comic/etc. conventions.

This contest ENCOURAGES the behavior that makes cons UNSAFE FOR WOMEN. PERIOD.


A Brief Summary of Sexism in GTA IV

(… with informative links! Last updated: 6/1)

[Edit 16 Oct 2009: It has come to my attention that this post contains a factual error, which has now been corrected, and more content has been added. All changes are in italics, with the date.]

As someone who is completely in favor of games as a recognized art form, and who will be attempting to critique games with that mindset in the near future (I swear), I feel compelled to call out sexism in video games when I see it. And nowhere in video games is it more blatant than in GTA IV.

First, some facts:
— I am not in favor of having the game banned or otherwise censored. Free speech and all that.
— No, I haven’t played the game. But the things I bring up here have been confirmed by people who have played the game, or by gameplay footage. Along with that, I can only actually point out things that I HAVE confirmed happening, so there very well may be more.
— I am well aware of the style and history of the GTA series.
— I do not think GTA IV will cause healthy, balanced adults or teens to go out and rape women/shoot cops/whatever.
— I do not think the game is completely void of redeeming qualities. For example, the graphics are very nice.

The game world of Grand Theft Auto IV is an environment of misogyny. The most grievous evidence of this is the sexualized violence against women, though other details contribute. Together, the evidence suggests a deliberate attempt to create a world that devalues women and reinforces misogynistic attitudes.

Sexualized Violence Against Women
In GTA IV, the player character can pick up prostitutes, have sex with them, and then kill them. Even if the sex isn’t rape, which hasn’t yet been confirmed as something that can occur in the game, murder just after sex is still sexualized violence. In GTA IV, the player can only do this to women. There are no male prostitutes and the player cannot have a boyfriend. The only characters the player can commit sexualized violence against are female ones [Edit: This is incorrect, though the point stands: there is one exception. See below.]. That is a misogynistic environment.

(Added 10/16/09:) One oversight from when I originally wrote this post was leaving out the case of one mission where you take a gay man out on a date in order to assassinate him, which is the one exception to my previous statement that only women are victims of sexualized violence in the game. (Chalk it up to straight privilege.) Since homophobia and misogyny are so deeply connected, it’s not surprising that the one man the player can commit sexualized violence against is gay. Source. Thanks to Kateri for pointing this out to me, and for the link.

Further, the game presents the mature subject matter in a very immature way. Suggested further reading on this point: “Mature vs Mature” — Man Bytes Blog.

Lack of Female Characters with Depth
The only major characters in GTA IV are male. The only female characters in the game are nameless Liberty City inhabitants, prostitutes, and random enemies [Edit 10/16/09: This is incorrect, though there still aren’t any female characters of importance and/or depth. See below for more thoughts on the female characters in GTA IV.]. This is a serious flaw in a work of fiction. There is no reason to have no major female characters with as much depth as many of the male characters apparently have.

Edit 10/16/09: Two people who have played GTA IV had this to say on Twitter about the female characters in the game. I am quoting them and linking to their tweets with permission.
From @fyreball13:

The statement that women are faceless and nameless is a gray area. There are two women you interact with often, one being Roman’s cousin* [see correction below], another being a girl that is working for the police and the third being a woman who deals drugs.
*One is Niko’s cousin Roman’s girlfriend/wife. She does help a fair bit, but neither are MAJOR players.
However, the MAIN characters that Niko hangs out with etc. are all male and the female charcters seemingly disappear after they have moved the story along, usually introducing you to a man who can give you newer missions.

From @stillgray:

Most, if not all of the male characters (even the “likable” ones) are misogynists in GTA IV.
The moment you step off the boat in GTA IV, your cousin Roman goes on about easy American women and denigrates those from home.
The whole intro sets the tone for the rest of the game. We know where the developers stand on views of gender.

Other Details
There exists an internet cafe called Tw@, pronounced “twat.” Twat is “vulgar synonym for the human vulva, vagina, or clitoris, and is used as a derogatory epithet” (Wikipedia). It’s not clever or satirical to name a place after a derogatory term for female genitalia. It’s immature and contributes to the atmosphere of misogyny.

Also, a female fast food worker asks the player character if he wants a handjob with his burger. Because clearly a female character cannot exist unless there is the possibility of some sexual interaction. The immaturity paints games as something for young teens.

Update: Via Feminist Gamers, an interesting comment by Cola on Feministing about a certain mission in GTA IV, quoted in part (full comment here):

“Just as I was starting to think Niko was really great, I realised he was a moralising hypocrite. Oh, and then he hit a woman he was kidnapping for trying to get away and referred to her as ‘the bitch.’ Then he hit her again to get her to look at him so he could take a picture of her gagged face to send to her father.

It was really hard to keep playing after that. This woman was portrayed, in contrast to the protagonist, as selfish, shallow, and bitchy. I had nothing but sympathy for her, because she was justifiably scared and angry, but she was being cast as this shrieking whore (she hit on Niko before he kidnapped her).”

Clearly the portrayal and treatment of women in this game leaves a lot to be desired.

The fact that this game is receiving nothing but the highest marks from game reviewers and is being hailed as the greatest game ever made upsets me. Is this really something we want to hold up as gaming’s finest? (I can’t help thinking back to the analysis of No More Heroes I linked to last post, and how NMH is a direct satire of Western GTA fans.) I realize the game does technically impressive things, but what is it saying with that technology? Isn’t that just as important?

General Reading, or People Who Put it Better Than I Do
“GTA discussion… over there” — Feminist Gamers (with a link to Feministing)
“Some GTA IV Questions” — Man Bytes Blog
“I’ve Decided That It’s Simple After All” — The True Confessions of an Hourly Bookseller
“How Can Grand Theft Auto Transition from Base Entertainment to Art?” — Latoya Peterson, Cerise Magazine (May 2008). Fantastic article, highly recommended.
“Grand Theft Auto IV” — Scholarly Gamer. A general (but interesting and thorough) critique of the game, but contains some concise examinations of the misogyny and homophobia in the game.
“Oh, right… Grand Theft Auto is coming out…” — No Cookies for Me. (How did I miss this the first time around?)
Edit 10/16/09: Added this post by Thomas Cross:
Blog Banter: Quitter! — Shouldn’t Be Gaming (Tom describes why he stopped playing the game.)

Common Defenses
It’s just a game!”
No. Games are creative expressions just like books, movies, and television, and are thus open to critique.
Suggested reading:
“The Problem with That Line ‘It’s Just a Game’ — Are Our Games Our Fantasies?” — MTV Multiplayer
“It’s Just a Game” — Feminist Gamers

But you kill men, too.” Or, “Why is killing a prostitute worse than killing a pedestrian?
The problem is not just the killing. I do not think you shouldn’t be able to kill female characters in a video game. The problem is the sexualized violence that is directed only at women, as well as the greater misogynistic atmosphere the game reinforces through other details and the lack of any female characters with depth. The rampant violence is NOT equal-opportunity.

But sexism is a problem in this game/movie/any and all other media.”
Yeah, it is. But right now I’m talking about GTA IV.

There are no incentives to killing prostitutes.
Yes, there are. You gain health back by hiring them and you get back the money you spent after killing them. That’s more incentive than mowing down pedestrians.

It’s not part of the story. Rockstar isn’t promoting doing this sort of thing.
Except that they are promoting it by allowing it to happen. Liberty City is not a real world, it is a deliberately crafted piece of fiction; things just don’t happen. Everything in the world and everything that happens has to be deliberately allowed by the creators. Isn’t it unrealistic how there are no children at all in Liberty City? That’s because the game would definitely get an AO rating if the player were allowed to kill children. Developer choice.

On this point, see also: “On IGN’s Grand Theft Auto IV Video” — Cruise Elroy