Journalism standards in decline – the fault of journalists or the audience?

The Sunday Sport ‘journalism’ at its best…

Today, CVG has caused a hell of a hullabaloo with their article about the E3 booth babes of 2012 just after a week ago, Sarah Ditum wrote an article about how sexist the new Hitman trailer was (which I wrote about here). What adds insult to injury is the words that accompanied the booth babe pictures: “We here on CVG like to use a 10-point review system, but if you’re more simple-minded you could just settle with ‘would’ or ‘not with yours, mate'” The staff at CVG are starting to sound less like journalists and more like sexist pigs.

But whose fault is it? Just a quick scan of the comments will tell you most CVG readers seem to like these sorts of ‘articles’, so is the audience to blame? Perhaps the average teenage boy, young man, old geezer on the street wants to look at sexy ladies, giving the site hits and adding sales figures to the delightful Sunday Sport. However, lads mags are meant to be in decline so is this really want readers want? After all, CVG is a video games website, surely readers go there to read about video games, not the women who dress up to endorse them. If they want to look at sexy ladies, that’s what the copious amount of porn sites are for.

Why do they still have booth babes at these events anyway? It could be argued that most journalists are male, as are most video games developers so someone, somewhere in the PR department thought they could persuade journalists to talk positively about their game by pushing a cheerleader with a push-up bra in front of them. “Sex sells” people say but does it? It’s an old fashion view, that tactic might have worked in the past but now more and more men are thinking, hang on, this is getting a bit ridiculous.

You could say the same about all the celebrity news and nonsense that is constantly written about in cheap magazines – many complain about this type of journalism but these magazines sell, a reflection of the kind of society we’re currently living in. Perhaps we’re no longer bothered about ‘hard news’, we’re more interested in who Katie Price is now sleeping with…

I hope to be a games journalist someday and I would love to go to events like E3 but I would hope the booth babes saga was starting to fade out by then. This video by the BBC showed how uncomfortable women in technology felt at the CES convention because of all the booth babes. I would feel the same. It was bad enough during Eurogamer last year, some stalls did indeed have booth babes and as I was out with a group of mostly male friends, I felt uncomfortable. Some made jokes, some stared and I just wanted to play video games. It’s actually rather upsetting to be a woman and to be put in that situation. You might laugh at me and tell me I’m stupid but that is how some women feel and if you want more women in our industry like so many articles are going on about at the moment, companies and journalists need to change their attitudes.

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8 thoughts on “Journalism standards in decline – the fault of journalists or the audience?

  1. Sorry Laura, but this absolutely reeks of hypocrisy. I’m genuinely surprised that you’re complaining about the CVG article, given that you yourself are someone who frequently posts cosplay images on her Tumblr site and comments on how much she likes them – and even dresses up herself from time to time.

    That’s all these ‘booth babes’ are doing, except rather than doing it for fun, they’re getting paid for it. They wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t want to.

    I’ve looked through the CVG images, and there’s nothing particularly revealing or distasteful. I’ve actually seen “worse” posted on your Tumblr site, with happy comments from you about how beautiful/sexy they look. Why do they suddenly make you uncomfortable when they’re at E3 or other shows?

    Is it “sexist”? I don’t think so. As a straight male, I will never apologise for enjoying looking at attractive women. It’s not pervy or “sexist” – it’s a natural instinct. It doesn’t mean I see women as objects rather than people.

    I don’t see why or how a scantily-clad woman goes from being acceptable in one circumstance, to being unacceptable in another. If some of the videogame cosplayers you’ve happily posted on your Tumblr were suddenly hired for E3, would they suddenly become unacceptable? Where is the line?

    • I agree, but I think there’s a difference here.
      What I am saying is there is a time and a place for this sort of behaviour. Yes I do post cosplay pictures on my Tumblr and some of them are a bit more risque because they’re of video game characters usually, and you know how female video games characters dress. Most of the time, those cosplayers are doing it for fun (like I do, and I wouldn’t say dressing up as Chell from Portal 2 is anywhere near the level of booth babe standards).

      The ONLY problem I actually have with booth babes is why they’re there. They’re a marketing tool, purely used to attract customers and as I said, to persuade journalists to say something positive about the game. At Eurogamer there were plenty of cosplayers who were dressing up for fun, not to pose or look sexy, just to have fun and chat to other games fans, which is what dressing up should be about.

      I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with dressing up sexily, there isn’t! But when “journalists” think that there’s a news article out of rating women on a “would or wouldn’t” scale – that’s sexist. You can’t argue it isn’t.

      • Is it sexist, or is it just a bit of fun being taken way too seriously?

        The “offence” of rating members of the opposite sex is by no means a male thing. I’ve been at nightclubs, or even just walking through town during summer holidays, and heard groups of girls/women doing exactly the same thing as guys walk past. No-one bats an eyelid at that.

        If you’re told you can’t have a job as a journalist at The Guardian because you’re a woman, and women can’t do the job as well as men, that’s sexism. This? A bit of a cheeky laugh, nothing more.

  2. It’s something I’ve always found interesting, especially on the internet.

    I’ve worked with hordes of young teenagers and the boys know far more about sex than I did at their age (or at least they think they do) thanks for the bountiful selection of free pornography available to them at the click of a button.

    So, why bother printing scantily clad women on an internet magazine? Much more titilation awaits on other sites, so I would argue that people reading CVG are going there for the game journalism rather than the booth babes.
    I would speculate that a lot fewer people read that article than their other ones, simply because smart internet users are going to know where to go to get their sexual kicks.

    In PRINT – like that Sunday Sport you pictured – they sell flesh over journalism. It will die out soon, don’t worry. Thank the internet.

    Meanwhile, the games industry itself seems to think that only heterosexual males between 13-25 play video games. Did you think that Hitman trailer was particularly sexist, because I didn’t.

    Tell you what I did find offensive though…

    I’m a heterosexual male in my mid-20s. I like playing games. I like having sex. I DON’T LIKE THE TWO TO MIX. PLEASE STOP TRYING TO MIX THEM GAMES INDUSTRY.

    For Adam Wright above, the booth-babes are their to sell something to you and they are selling the product using your natural attraction to them. Plenty of girls play games and grew up with them – my ex was a fucking master at Sonic 2 – where are the “booth-hunks”? It works both ways sir.
    Also, much like the Sunday Sport, they are resorting to using sex to sell the games because the standards in mainstream gaming are not very high anymore.
    Also, a cosplayer isn’t always working to sell you a product. Most days they’re dressing up because they find it fun to dress up.
    It’s a hobby.

    Game of the year so far for me is Analogue: A Hate Story by Christine Love.
    It’s about sexual politics and also features cosplaying!
    It manages to be both sexually liberating and inoffensive at the same time.
    Well done Christine.

    http://ahatestory.com/

    Sorry for the epic comment, I’m just getting pretty fed up with people trying to sell things to my dick. I’m more than just an erection you know?

    • Thank you for you comment and yes, God that Ghost Recon promotion is a joke, which is a shame because the game is fantastic. Exactly there are many men like yourself who are as frustrated as me and other women by booth babes and such, the comments on Twitter r.e CVG proved that! Yet I’m sure they all like looking at naked/semi-naked women in their spare time. Just because I’m against booth babes and the horrible report to go with it, doesn’t mean I’m against sexy ladies. Gosh.

    • I don’t think they’re there to sell you anything, since the games at E3 aren’t for sale yet. In fact, I’d be surprised if anyone in the history of gaming has bought a game because “the girl at the show looked nice.”

      But I’m still not seeing any real difference between those who are hired for E3, and the fans who dress up ‘for fun’. They’re both promoting the game, but one gets paid for it while the other does it for free. Male or female, I know which I’d rather be!

      Okay, sex sells. but if you look at the photos, a lot of the ladies in the CVG images are not even remotely scantily-clad – most of them are dressed as game characters, others in shorts and T-shirts. Most of them are probably wearing more than the average LA resident.

      Let’s take Lollipop Chainsaw as an example. Realistically, what difference does it make if the person dressed as the girl from Lollipop Chainsaw is a fan or a hired hand? You can’t ‘love the sexy costume’ when it’s in the game or on a fan, then rage against it as “sexist” because one woman happens to have been dressed as the character to promote the game at a game show. That’s utterly nonsensical, and hypocritical beyond belief.

      If there is actually any sexism, it’s surely in the creation of that character in that costume. Any anger should surely be directed at the creators of the game. And if someone is honestly that bothered by this kind of thing, male or female, they should be complaining to those game companies, boycotting any such products, and asking cosplayers not to promote sexist imagery.

      If it’s sexist, it’s sexist no matter what; it doesn’t suddenly become sexist only when the company which created the character and image dress someone up and pay them to promote that creation.

      Incidentally, I think Lollipop Chainsaw girl is the best of the lot, but I had no interest in the game before, and still don’t. So I’d rate her a 10, but she hasn’t sold me the game.

      I also agree with you – there should be “booth hunks”. I’m sure the girl gamers would love some sexy guys dressed as Kratos, Agent 47, Cole McGrath, and many others.

      But let me ask you this: If they did so at next year’s E3 (instead of the babes, not as well as), and CVG posted pictures and asked girl gamers to rate them, would *anyone* be shouting “sexist”, or would it be considered “just a bit of fun”?

      • Yes it would still be sexist. I don’t rate men out of ten. I don’t leave nasty comments about a man I’ve never met on a website which is what CVG was encouraging its readers to do. I’ve had a picture of me used on a website before and some of the comments were truly horrible, no one wants to be written about like that whether you’re a booth babe or just an average girl. The main point of this article was to talk about the medias newsworthy standards. We’re just going to have to disagree on the booth babe side and no, I don’t want booth men thanks because I don’t give a shit about men with their shirts off, I just want to play games.

  3. @Adam, yes, booth babes are there to grab your attention to try to sell you something. E3 is one big advert. And yes, it would be just as lame if CVG asked girl gamers (what, no gay gamers?) to rate hot booth blokes, but seeing as that never happens, because games media never brings up a man’s looks when judging him, nor will it ever happen.
    When I see a E3 report, I want to see just that: information the actual event and games previewed. Not the internet equivelant of looking in the lengerie section of the littlewoods catalogue

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