Sunday, March 31, 2013

Beyond The Mojang GDC Party Controversy. Meet My Sister, Trinity - A Model Who Gets "Paid To Party"

Last week at GDC, the epic-sounding “.party()” thrown by Mojang, the studio behind Minecraft, came under scrutiny for hiring girls - presumably models - to attend and mingle with guests. Kotaku’s account of the event cited a number of tweets from male developers who were uncomfortable or just plain disgusted to find models hanging out in the VIP room, as if Notch had hired them escorts without asking ahead of time if that would be cool. The introductory paragraph of the Kotaku report uses the phrase “paid companions”, which sounds 20 kinds of sketchy.

When I first stumbled upon the article, my outrage needle didn’t quiver, nevermind go spinning violently into the red zone. One of my younger sisters is a model based in New York City and I immediately recognised this type of gig as one that she’s occasionally been hired to do. I could remember her talking about various parties she’d been hired to attend, and I understood there was nothing shady about the practice. It's no more subversive than a film production hiring attractive men and women to be extras milling around in the background of a shot. None of these actors and models are expected to bed the key grip after shooting wraps.

I’m wary of sounding overly glib. It’s understandable why people are still on high alert about ways in which the game industry is creating an environment that’s hostile to current or potential female members. The discussions about sexism in our industry prompted by the #1ReasonWhy Twitter hashtag have been both pointed and productive. But is this Mojang party a justifiable cause for offense?

I thought it might be illuminating for people following the Mojang story to hear directly from my sister Trinity (@TrinityLaurel), who, in the loaded parlance whirling around this discussion, gets “paid to party”. The way I see it, a little demystification goes a long way. Also, selfishly, this is the first time I’ve ever had an excuse to formally interview a sibling of mine on a work-related matter. Trinity's professional world and mine rarely overlap. She’s an educated, beautiful, professional, self-assured woman and I’m really proud of the career she’s carved out for herself. If she lived and worked in San Francisco, some of my favourite indie developers might have even had the pleasure of getting to know her at last week's Mojang party.

After the jump, I speak to her in detail about what's involved in getting hired to attend parties such as Mojang's GDC shindig, why staffing models at events isn't like running an escort service, what kind of hourly rate such gigs pay (spoiler: it ain't $300/hour!), and whether or not she finds it plausible that Mojang could be ignorant of the fact that models had been hired to balance the gender ratio at their party.