It's one of the sleazier sides of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, but it's also one of the biggest draws: "booth babes." Booth babes are the beautiful and leggy models and actresses hired to wear not much at all to attract drooling gamers to a company's booth.
But after a year that saw the video-game industry under fire from a number of directions, the Entertainment Software Association -- the group that holds E3 -- has announced that it will be more strictly enforcing the rules on what spokeswomen can wear to the trade show.
"I wouldn't say it's totally unique to this industry, I think a lot of conferences employ attractive women to hock wares," Greg Kasavin said. "I guess where the ESA is drawing a line is that they're trying to put a definition to what constitutes scantily clad and what's borderline offensive." Kasavin is the editor in chief of the popular video-game Web site, Gamespot.com.
As attendees head to this year's show, many are asking whether they'll be walking into the same loud, brash and provocative environment they're used to or into a more puritanical expo with a kinder, gentler disposition?
Walking into the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo is like leaving Earth and landing on a planet where geeks rule. Video games are played by beautiful girls who want to hang out with a gamer who really knows how to handle a joystick.
The expo is the largest video- and computer-trade show in the country. Every spring, tens of thousands of industry professionals, buyers and journalists descend on the Los Angeles Convention Center to get a glimpse of the latest and greatest games and gear.
"It's sensory overload," Kasavin said. "E3's noisy and crowded, and it's got huge signs blasting messages and lots of loud music playing, all competing for attention."
And one of the most popular ways to draw a crowd at E3 is through the use of scantily clad and often head-turning spokeswomen, commonly called "booth babes."
Booth babes have become such a part of E3 that many Web sites that report on the event also feature photo galleries of the spokeswomen. They're often among the most popular features -- especially for those who can't get in.
Dyanamaria Leifsson has strapped on rocket packs and wielded oversized futuristic guns as a spokeswoman at E3 for the last two years, and she says it's a proven way to generate some buzz.
"We are a means to draw in the attention of trade-show goers," the Los Angeles-based model said in an e-mail interview. "There's a human interface that is harder to ignore than a blinking marquee."
Leifsson sees her role as being just another flashing billboard -- one that specifically caters to the industry's top demographic.
"It happens that the vast majority of E3 attendees are males," she wrote. "Of course you're going to want to turn the targeted heads in the direction of your product."
Most people acknowledge that Leifsson and her colleagues are effective. Booth babes have become one of the event's more popular attractions. They're often stopped for autographs and asked to pose for photos with fans. Diehard gamers can come up with even more creative ways to show their appreciation of the spokeswomen.
Once when she was dressed up as a game character for an event, Leifsson said: "One of the guests asked if I would step on his head and point my gun at him for a picture."
"I'd say that was out of the ordinary."