Yet another missive from the “misogyny in IT” department

My feeds are buzzing this morning about Electronic Art’s (EA) marketing stunt at Comic-Con for their Dante’s Inferno game, and, given their promo is a Twitter competition, not in a good way. Unsurprisingly, because what EA and its Dante’s Inferno team, complete with Twitter account, have come up with is so mindbogglingly inane and disgraceful that you wonder how such a culture of puerile boorishness could  not only have managed to strive within a major gaming outfit’s corporate structure, but even receive approval for this project: To invite Comic-Con attendees to “commit acts of lust” with a “booth babe”, be photographed in the process, and post the result to Twitter.

Oh, and what does the winner get? “Dinner and a sinful night with two hot girls, limo service and a chestful of booty”. SRSLY.

Alex, a self-described game programmer and feminist, has a good round-up, and the EA invite is also preserved for posterity on Mashable.

From Ars Technica’s report:

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a booth babe, especially not at a show like Comic Con. You’re being pawed at by huge amounts of sweaty geeks, you have to smile and be pleasant to people who may or may not have showered… it always seems like a hellish existence. What doesn’t help? Having your employer offer a bounty if people sexually harass you.

At Comic Con, if you commit “an act of lust” with an EA booth babe and take a picture, you could win dinner with said babes, as well as a great big pile of prizes related to the upcoming Dante’s Inferno. That’s right, the babes won’t just get the standard behavior and awkward advances—if someone is really obnoxious, they get rewarded for it, and then you get to see them again socially!

Folks, I may occasionally lust after (some) women just as much as the next lesbian, but I very much doubt I’m in EA’s target demographic here, even if I were a gamer. Neither is any straight woman or gay man. Or for that matter the numerous straight male gamers whose wet dream is not to objectify members of the other sex, kept at their beck and call to slobber over. You know, even if you don’t buy into the entire lust-as-sin concept (I don’t), sexual objectification is still despicable and sexual harassment a crime. Most geeks I know — heck, nearly all geeks I’ve ever met — understand that just fine.

EA have issued an awkward non-apology (“We apologize for any confusion and offense that resulted from our choice of wording…”), which, tellingly, was posted as an image on Twitpic, then taken down, at least in some locations, but of course preserved by a friendly netizen on Flickr.

The one good thing about the entire debacle is that is has been an immediate and very public debacle. Still, this year has been remarkably rich in mysogynist incidents, in web application development, F/LOSS, and now gaming. I wonder what is going on here. As a woman working in IT who considers herself a geek, my experience with the 20-35 year old geek crowd has been mostly very positive, and I’ve more than once relished an atmosphere that outspokenly rejects sexism, homophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination as a matter of course. Still, comment threads on geek forums speak a different language too often, and my personal experience has not been without ambiguity. What else do we have to do to make this crap stop?

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