Parties aren’t just a fun way to unwind after a long day on the showroom floor. Because of the networking opportunities they afford, the after-hours parties have become almost as important as the convention itself. Several parties at the recent Games Developer Conference, hosted by companies and individuals who attended, were thrown in nightclubs, where semi-clad women (and infrequently, men) are not out of place but expected.

IGDA, a professional organization, co-hosted one of these parties. Although it seems to have been inadvertent on IGDA’s part to have female dancers at an event that is supposed to cater to all members, it was still unfortunate and left several feeling excluded—the  opposite of any party’s intent and purpose.

So how to make a party fit for a convention? What makes a good party, anyway? I casually polled almost a dozen attendees at GDC and interviewed five of them. I asked them what they would like to see in a convention-related party.

Alcohol. Most of my interviewees said that alcohol was a great ice-breaker and social lubricant. In fact, all but one considered alcohol the essential ingredient for any party.

Food. Natascha Roosli, business development, PR, and marketing, at Rock Pocket Games, said that she enjoyed the Nordic party at GDC because “they had snacks and food. They made hamburgers and barbecue.”

The ability to converse. Most of my interviewees complained about the noise level at parties held in nightclubs. Gamer Daniel Beardsworth said, “I prefer when the music’s not that loud because it’s a chance to network. You have to be able to talk.” He suggests that parties should have “quiet areas.”

Sam Barberie, business development manager at Superdata, left the Wargaming party early because “it had a deleterious effect on my eardrums.”

Roosli’s said that one party she enjoyed had both an indoor and outdoor area. “You can stay inside and listen to the band or you could go outside and talk to people. There needs to be a mix. I make the best contacts at parties, which is why I would like to be able to talk to people.”

Not too crowded. Beardsworth said he disliked fighting crowds to get to the bar. “I like it when it’s easy to get a drink.”

Good music. Beardsworth said he likes the parties at E3 that Activision throws. “It wasn’t a good networking opportunity, but it was great to be at a show where Eminem and Jay-Z perform.”

A mix of people. Josh Bays, the director of product marketing, Sixense Studios, said, “I went to the party for Oculus Rift and thought it was one of the coolest parties I’ve ever been to. They put out an invite to everybody who contributed to Kickstarter who wanted to go to the show, so the party was two thirds Kickstarter supporters. and people you don’t meet ordinarily.”

Games. Alisa Faber, senior PR specialist at Sony, said that a good party at a games convention is “really about the games and getting a social atmosphere around them.” The party that her team threw at the convention had an array of games that “people just have fun playing. It’s what people want to see.”

Most importantly

None of my interviewees said that semi-clad dancers were an important aspect of any party.

Bays said, “I’m not offended by scantily clad women dancing around at the events. But it’s not as if it wasn’t there, I’d be like, ‘Where are the dancing girls?’ I’m not super comfortable with it, I guess.”

While three of the people I casually polled (all women) were outright uncomfortable with dancers, several others (all men) said they never paid attention to them.

So why are they there in the first place? How did hiring women to dance at nightclub parties for a videogame company become “a thing?”

Bays suggested that the reason that some party organizers hire dancers because of “an arms race” to have the most memorable, talk-about party at the convention. “Different parties have dancers, so [another party organizer] might feel pressured to have them, too.”

My thoughts

I think these parties would be at their best if they included games, which is the reason we attend these conventions. Not just videogames—because some people can really suffer video overload after a long day at the game booth—but casual favorites like darts and pool or even games invented just for the occasion.

I also think they would be at their best if they excluded female dancers. As Faber said about parties, “You always look for something more creative than women in booty shorts and tube tops.”

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