The Opposite of Hoverhand: How I Posed with “Booth Babes” at E3 2005
Yesterday was the last day of E3 2015. I got a chance to attend and check out some of the really cool upcoming games — Street Fighter V! Disney Infinity 3.0! Mario Maker! — and even got to take selfies with some of my favorite industry personalities. But 10 years ago, I was taking a whole different kind of photo.
2005: E3 has been bubbling up in the early 2000’s and at the show, it’s getting harder and harder to find the games as you drown in a sea of promotional toys and “booth babes.” I’m slowly shuffling forward in a neverending line of nerds, but instead of inching toward a playable demo, I’m — oh, wait, it’s my turn.
I walk up a couple of faux stone steps, and there are three “booth babes” standing at the top. All day, they’ve been posing with men up there. I say “hey, so I’m doing something a little different,” and the second one of them starts to nod, I drop to the ground and slump down the steps. My friend says “it’s okay, this is his thing,” and snaps the picture. The women laugh as we walk away. The next 400 men squeeze between the women and wrap their arms around them, proudly posing for their photo as if they’ve done something other than stand in line for it.
In 2006, E3 — the Electronic Entertainment Expo — had become so overblown and unfocused that the Entertainment Software Association, the group that runs the show, obliterated it completely, sending the show to a Santa Monica Airport hangar. Booths weren’t designed by the publishers, but by the ESA’s proletariat guidelines to ensure that the games would be the main draw of the crowds and not inflatable swords and partially-dressed models. The show spent one Earth year in this format before returning to the Los Angeles Convention Center, but with some guidelines; booth babes were banned for awhile, for one. They never really left, they just wore baggier clothes. The “ban” was lifted in 2009. Complaints continue to this day.
So in 2005, as things were hitting critical mass, my colleague and I went to E3 with one goal. “Let’s see how many pics we can get with you passed out in front of the models,” my friend said on the drive into town. We agreed that the models probably wouldn’t know what to do, but would enjoy spending 30 seconds not being groped. At the show, we were surprised at the response: aside from the occasional scare that something actually happened to me, speckled with a little confusion, most of the models laughed and some even played along. It became a game to my friend and I: what twisted-up positions could I get into in front of these women? And would men react the same way?
Here are the pics we took. We’d taken pics over the three days of the show, so that’s why I’m in three different outfits (and I shaved my head somewhere in there?). Also, you remember some of these games?!
Sorry the quality of some of these pics is heinous. It was 2005. I’m pretty sure that was before digital cameras.