Notes From E3

A day with the booth babes at the Electronic Entertainment Expo

Illustration by Bob AulLA Convention Center

Thursday, May 11

9:30 a.m. Waiting patiently with a herd to get onto the expo floor. Rumor has it 50,000 journalists and computer pros are expected at the expo this year, to gaze in awe and occasional contempt at video games, websites, joysticks and so forth. Gazing at the crowd around me, it's clear that, except for the booth babes, there are perhaps two other women here. It's very easy to distinguish us from the booth babes (BBs): we're the ones in jeans and sneakers, and they're the ones in miniskirts and spike heels. booth babes (booth babz) Attractive young women hired by sexist computer companies to entice pale, lonely men into their booths. Estimated average age: 22. Estimated average weight: 95 pounds.

10 a.m. We rush en masse into the West Hall. I am hit by vertigo. Girders, flashing lights, swirling logos are projected onto walls, floors, ceiling. Electronic music, gunfire and simulated screams blare from speakers. It occurs to me that an epileptic would be in real trouble here.

10:30 a.m. Walking past the Prima Games booth, I notice a poster advertising an upcoming autograph signing by Stevie Case. A woman walking past me in the opposite direction glances at the same poster and begins to laugh hysterically. This is a not-uncommon reaction in the industry when it comes to Stevie Case.

Stevie Case: A Short Biography

Stevie "Killcreek" Case made a name for herself when she beat John Romero, the superstar designer ofQuake, in a one-on-oneQuake deathmatch. Romero promptly hired her as a designer on his new star title,Daikatana, at his shiny new company, Ion Storm. Since then, Ion Storn has blown every deadline it set forDaikatana and, after a scathing article in theDallas Observer, become the laughingstock of the industry. Perhaps realizing that marketingDaikatana on its merits would be a big fat waste of time, Ion Storm hit upon the novel idea of marketing it on the strength of Stevie Case's breasts after Case announced her upcoming pictorial inPlayboy. This instantly endeared her to every woman gamer who would like to be judged on her skills and not on the size of her tits.

11 a.m. The Sony booth. The sheer quantity of money laid out by the bigger exhibitors is staggering: two-story plexiglass tubes with silver-foil discs blowing around inside them; 4-foot-tall dinosaur eggs with lights shining through the cracks in their shells; 10-foot-by-20-foot video screens guarded by surly Secret Service types. And dozens —possibly hundreds—of monitors showing game demos. I ask a Sony staffer how many games they have on display. "Oh, I couldn't even begin to tell you," he says lamely.

Conversation Overheard Between Two Young Men Playing One of the Demos

First Young Man (FYM): You suck. Second Young Man (SYM): Shut up. FYM: You suck. SYM:Shut up!

[pause]

FYM: You suck. SYM:SHUT UP!

1 p.m. South Hall. Eidos Interactive Booth. I narrowly escape being crushed to death in a huge, pulsating crowd of young men, so I retreat to the safety of a model NASCAR racing car and strain to see what the attraction is. Turns out it's a model posing as Lara Croft, the disturbingly busty heroine of the Tomb Raider games. She poses a lot with a toy gun. The crowd stares, their eyes glazed and shiny.

An Explication of the Ick Factor in the Above Vignette

Lara Croft is probably the first virtual sex goddess: theTomb Raider games basically consist of the player staring at her ass while she runs around a lot. The intrinsic yuckiness of this was enhanced inTomb Raider IV: The Last Revelation, when Eidos announced that in this game, Lara was a mere lass of 16—in other words, virtual jailbait. For E3, Eidos raised the ickiness bar another notch by hiring an actual 16-year-old girl to stand around pretending to be Lara while thousands of guys in their 20s mentally undressed her.

2 p.m. I pause at the South Peak Interactive Dukes of Hazzard racing game display to watch a man get a temporary tattoo from a BB in Daisy Duke hot pants. I am told that I just missed a personal appearance by Daisy herself, Miss Catherine Bach.

Other Celebrities Appearing at E3

Bruce Campbell, Mia St. John, George Foreman, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Nana Visitor, Kate Mulgrew, Mario Andretti, Antonio "Huggy Bear" Fargas, Mia Hamm, and Brett Favre.

3 p.m. On my way back to the West Hall, I pass three BBs in bikinis, each weighing approximately 8 pounds, handing out leis and having their pictures taken by furtive, overweight men. I especially like the one with the crossed silver laces going all the way from her stacked heels to her bikini area (waxed, of course). "Wanna get lei'd?" they coo at passersby and then shriek with laughter. They cannot possibly be paying these women enough.

8 p.m. A friend weasels me an invitation to the E3 party at the Playboy Mansion, sponsored by Playboy.com, Gamers. com and a few other companies. I chat with several Playmates, who are quite nice and amazingly tolerant about having their pictures taken with strange men's arms around their waists. Hef does not put in an appearance (I imagine he's in an upstairs bedroom with cotton stuffed in his ears), so we content ourselves with inspecting his menagerie: ducks, bunnies, monkeys, something another guest identifies as a kinkajou, and flamingos. We then spend the rest of the evening in the Grotto, which is really a very pleasant and mellow place. No one gets naked, although we do daringly remove our shoes to soak our feet in the hot tub.

Two Disturbing Stories

My friend tells me about a previous party she attended at the Mansion at which she witnessed a celeb midget get extremely naked and jump in the stone-lined pool. Before I have sufficiently recovered from this image, a friend of hers tops that story by talking about the time he walked into the Grotto and caught a certain tall, skinny TV star on top of a woman and very busy. Neither of these anecdotes contains information I really wanted to know.

Midnight. We return home from the party and reluctantly realize that in six hours, we have to get up, string our badges around our necks and go through the whole thing again. It's probably a good thing E3 only comes once a year.

Send your comments to Wyn at machineage@mediaone.net. She promises to read them when she's conscious again.
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