Last week I attended the Eurogamer Expo, for the third year running, and as always it was a blast between playing unreleased games on the show floor and the highly informative lectures by developers. Today a minor furore arose as some attacked Eurogamer’s decision to ban “booth babes” in future. The overreaction to this decision has prompted me to discuss a more unsettling experience I had this year.

The developer session for the forthcoming Far Cry 3, delivered by lead designer Jamie Kean, was an insightful exploration of the process behind creating the two island, jungle-covered world whilst providing visible landmarks to guide players and to make key locations seem like accidental discoveries. It was an intelligent look at the thought processes behind a game world that had clearly been crafted with considerable care.

It was a world away from the introduction Toby and I subsequently experienced at Far Cry 3’s booth on the show floor (which I should note was within the event’s “over 18” area). Approached by two reps while we looked at others playing, the conversation went something like this:

Rep 1: “So guys, this game is pretty dark.”
Rep 2: “Yeah, it’s dark. Have you heard about the rape?”
Rep 1: [enthusiastically] “Yes, have you been told about the rape?”
Toby: “Err… Jamie didn’t mention the rape.”
Rep 1: “Oh, that’s because Jamie’s a rapist.”
Me: “…right.”
Rep 2: [motioning towards our SLR cameras] “So are you guys press?”

Now, I have (sadly) come to expect a certain level of sexism as gaming conventions as the attendees are still predominantly male (even if the gaming audience is now almost half female). However I expected this largely to be confined to a few stands sporting the aforementioned scantily clad booth babes. The visibly uncomfortable girl draped over a poorly constructed Carmageddon car in front of the exhibition centre was hardly an attractive advertisement for the $74 billion industry. The girls with scannable QR codes printed on their hotpants certainly seemed a step too far (especially after a conversation with another developer who allegedly heard from one of the girls that the codes didn’t even scan properly).

What I certainly did not expect were uncomfortable rape jokes. There was nothing sinister about these guys: they were jovial and friendly. The “jokes” weren’t remotely funny but it is possible I am blowing this out of proportion. Yet Toby and I both felt very awkward and slightly bewildered as we left (without staying to try the game demo), moreso as this had all been delivered before they knew we were not members of the press. I want rape to be an issue the industry can tackle in a mature fashion, which it certainly cannot do whilst throwing around casual comments like this. I do recall the nudity in an early trailer for the game but I do not really know anything about the content to which they were referring. Perhaps the goal of these reps was merely shock value to make the game stand out from the dozens of others we had seen. Perhaps by me writing this piece at all they have succeeded. But frankly I feel that they seriously undermined the quality of the developer session which is otherwise how I would be discussing their game both here and in conversations with friends.

N.B. I had to run this post past Toby to ensure I was being fair. There were also plenty of great experiences at the Expo, of course, but I would rather not taint them by mentioning them in the same entry.