E3 Makes Me Really Appreciate The PAX Ban On Booth Babes

The Penny Arcade gang aren't exactly known for their tactful and effective approach to gender relations. But PAX, on both coasts, does do one thing right: they forbid exhibitors from hiring scantily clad models who don't know anything about the products just to attract visitors. In other words: no booth babes.

Now, many of the PAX exhibitors do hire conventionally attractive young women to stand near the merch and hawk the product (I came upon a table of such studying their lines the night before PAX East opened, this year), but they're required to dress reasonably and blend in with the booth, as it were. And the difference isn't so much with the women or exhibitors themselves as it is this:

The policy against booth babes attempts to foster an environment where women are around to sell the products, not to be the products.

E3 has no such policy. And after three days wandering around the madness of an enormous convention centre, I desperately wish it did. And I wish that all of the marketing departments for all of the studios, large and small, did too.

I've been walking through the halls, observing the beckons of a legion of carefully coiffed young women wearing the same t-shirts or polo shirts as their male peers, but with booty shorts or miniskirts and six-inch heels. (Their male counterparts are generally in baggy jeans and ancient sneakers.) They're not beckoning to me, of course. I am not their target audience or demographic. And a booth that wants to attract my attention by waving the promise of women at me is, in fact, saying loud and clear that they don't want my attention at all.

At one demo, I had to fight my way through a mob to get to the booth's front desk, only to find that actually, there was no line at reception — the throng around me had assembled to snap photos of the two women in ill-fitting, barely-there elf costumes as they posed provocatively by the booth's entrance.

A studio for which I have previously always harbored a soft spot handed me a poster with a naked woman on it (she has strategically placed long blonde hair) after showing me their two demos in a room that had implausibly posed, borderline softcore-fantasy-porn female character models arrayed along the walls around us.

For every confident cosplayer who might do the job at a con, I am seeing dozens of companies trying to sell me hundreds of women. They are not drawing my attention to the content of their games, or to their tactics or techniques. They are drawing my attention to thigh-high boots, to low-cut shirts, and, frankly, to the hard work of a really expensive bra.

So much of what I see here at E3 is aimed directly at the lizard hindbrain of a 13-year-old boy. But you have to be 18 to get into the show, and it's nominally for industry professionals. Perhaps someday we — men and women alike — can all be treated like the grown-ups we theoretically are, and be trusted to judge a game by its content... not its double-D cover.


Comments

    Ur assuming its policy as to what the girls wear. I see eniugh girls in tiny skirts down town to know they choose to do to themselves as well.

      There is a difference between some women choosing to wear particular clothes in their spare time, and what is considered professional attire. Booth babes are specifically hired to be looked at; they're not relevant to the product and act to tell ALL women that all that matter is their looks.

      It's not about women looking attractive, it's about the fact that women are used as accessories; i.e. 'please buy our product because we're associating it with boobs'. It makes many women uncomfortable and that's not right.

        EIt's not like the girls are forced to do the work. They know what is involved in it and they are happy to do it because they get paid just like any other job

        "Booth babes are specifically hired to be looked at; they’re not relevant to the product and act to tell ALL women that all that matter is their looks."

        Pretty much.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW8j3x3GzxY

    It was like that at the EB Games Expo. They knew nothing about games lol. Although EA didn't have any, all the girls there actually knew about the game. Main offenders were the dance games and Square Enix.

    I dont understand male or female journalists having a cry at places using "booth babes" or "male models" for product sales... its a proven EFFECTIVE way to get a product noticed, Sex sells, its a fact of life get the hell over it.
    Yes fair enough your not the target audience, and they may lose the odd sale here and there, and yes its creepy when blokes leer or take photo's, but for the most part it will get the product noticed.
    There is nothing wrong with people enjoying the way another person looks.

      Because you know, everybody who takes a panty shot of a chick is totally going to buy the game they're standing in front of...

      It's not a question of effectiveness, it's a question of ethics.

      Advertising cigarettes/alcohol during kids shows might be a super effective way to ensure a future generation uses your product/brand, but that doesn't mean it should be done.

        This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

          "Would you buy a suite from a bloke dressed in rags? or a wedding dress from a woman dressed in a cardboard box?" Or games from someone who looks like they don't play ga... oh wait. Your rhetorical questions prove the point perfectly. You buy a product from someone because they appear as a reliable source for that product - not because they look sexy.

          Also, the reason people draw associations with racisim etc is NOT because 'liking women means you're also a racist'. It's because the thought patterns between the two are the same. When someone gives an excuse for a behaviour, if you apply that same reasoning to something like racism it can highlight the ways the arguement doesn't actually hold up.

          Example: We use booth babes because it's a part of gaming culture.
          Same type of arguement: We use slavery because it's a part of American culture.
          Looking at the arguement in a different context can help us look outside of what we're "used to".

          Of course guys can find women attractive, but as a professional industry the promotion of women solely as sex objects makes many people feel uncomfotable. Plus it's not really fair to say 'it doesn't affect me so you're concerns are stupid'. Which is basically the general response. :/

            You're a legend J.

              Cheers man, nice to hear a positive reply.
              I just wish people wouldn't completely disregard the concerns of others when it doesn't affect them directly. Will anything ever change? -_-;

            This, exactly.

            Legitimate representatives for a studio or franchise have a genuine enthusiasm and knowledge about the product. They can demonstrate it and explain it - being good-looking should be just a bonus that draws the eye.

            Having "TEKKEN" prominently displayed across a chest - no matter how generously proportioned - is not the same thing.

            now slavery? can you add in any more shit that has absolutley no bearing on the conversation? maybe something about Hitler? or koney?

            Booth babes dont have anything to do with gaming culture, the allure of attractive people is a base instinct from thousands of years of evolution based on the need to procreate, it doesnt hurt anyone, and in fact makes most peoples day better, i know i get a kick out of it when i catch someone looking me up and down, I dont feel objectified.

            Have the women that work at these places as booth babes come to you personally and said "hey i feel a bit creeped out by you looking at me"?, No? the type of woman that does this sort of work is usually the sort that enjoys the attention.
            Women and Men alike enjoy the attention from the opposite sex, or the same sex if they are inclined as such, if you dont enjoy it, then i feel sorry for you because your missing out on one of lifes beautiful little things.

              I think you missed the point, it's not about bringing racisim, slavery etc into the discussion. It's about representing how arguements against these concerns generally come across. The type of 'reasoning' is often the same as the 'reasoning' that was used to justify things in the past. And the example of the 'culture' excuse does actually come up often - it's already been mentioned in comments on this thread.

              And also it's not that the models themselves feel uncomfortable, I'm sure it's safe to say that people in that industry are generally outgoing and accepting of the attention the job entails. No, this is about female gamers and women working in the industry. It's not that they'll necessarily be leered at etc, but the industy tends to sends the message 'women are only here to be sexy for men' and also that 'these games aren't for you'. That makes women who play games, love games, work with games and want to work with games feel like they don't matter. Especially when concerns are raised on the issue, and people say "it doesn't matter!"

              tl;dr version
              It makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and it's not fair to dismiss their arguement by just saying their concerns are 'stupid'. It's not about finding women attractive, it's about when that goes too far and makes others feel uncomfortable. Also - we're not talking about the booth babes feeling uncomfortable.

                Thanks for this J - made turning my comment blocker off worthwhile.

            i was reading and agreeing with everything you were saying till you got to the bit about not watching porn.

            WEIRDO! ;P

            Well said. It's not about "oh no, boobs, cover them up lest you offend my gentle sensibilities!", it's about companies putting forward the message that "these games are for guys, not you".

          By your last paragraph surely what makes the most sense as a salesperson is someone dressed in professional attire. Men or women are being paid to sell someone a product, and the mature way of doing this is to have them dressed in a suit or at least with reasonably sized skirts or heels. You can have attractive people manning a booth without reducing them to objects to be looked at as opposed to having them as salespeople to engage with.

          Yeah mate, sexism is *nothing* like racism.

          "This is whats wrong with the world today"

          LOL

        Well, the difference here is that women don't contribute to the mortality rate (most of the time anyway ). They do the job because they chose to, not forced, nor obligated to. They know exactly what they sign up for.

      So is it okay for something to be racist, if the people being offended aren't the target audience? Or because it has sold things in the past?

      The reason people won't "get the hell over it" is because it really affects them. A lack of booth babes isn't going to affect the daily lives of the people that drool over them, but it will help the people who have been made to feel uncomfortable and undervalued by them.

      This isn't about whether it is wrong to 'enjoy the way another person looks', it's about the context, the appropriateness and the consequences of the way it occurs.

        It's going to affect the daily lives of the models that rely on such events to make their living.....

        What is annoying about this article is that EVERY BLOODY YEAR.. EVERY TIME.. EVERY SHOW.. we get some prudish, naive rant about booth babes.. and it just gets old.

        If you actually knew any of the booth babes personally your comment of "but it will help the people who have been made to feel uncomfortable and undervalued by them." would have not been uttered. It's a job.. most of the ones I know personally love it, have a lot of fun and actually get "seen" by more than just a thousand drooling clowns.. they get noticed by people who can land them gigs elsewhere and hence more money, more fame.. etc etc..

        Don't allow your prudish, "political correct" views get in the way of the reality that is the modelling industry.

          I'm not talking about modelling at all; I'm talking about how women working in the games industry feel. The constant association of games and tech with 'sexy women accessories' makes many female gamers and women working in the gaming industry feel uncomfortable and undervalued.

          Of course, not everyone minds it - but the fact of the matter is that many do. Many people are affected by this, and that is why it comes up EVERY YEAR. Just because it doesn't affect you, doesn't mean the concerns of others are invalid. People who take issue with booth babes etc are not attacking the games industry or the tech industry as a whole, they are providing criticism on an issue that affects them because that want to help improve the experience for everyone.

          And there is no point getting sidetracked about excuses of jobs in the modelling industry. That is not what this is about, nor should it be about that.

    "lizard hindbrain of a 13-year-old boy."

    I LOL'd.

    Uh huh.. get out of the industry now, it's only going to get worse from here on out. EVERY tech show, car show, or show that is "exclusive" (or is at least attempting to be exclusive) is going to have booth babes. It's part of the culture.. PAX is trying to be "nice and pure" but really, all the marketing people there wished they could have put the babes there. And I have to point out that a lot of amateur models missed out on a paycheck because of that puritarian, prudish decision.

    I've been to a few of these shows.. and those booth babes are just as valid as the flashing LCD screens and free pens..

    Again.. get over yourself or get out of the industry.

      So, your argument is that because i's been done historically, that it should continue to be done?
      Right, I disagree with that statement, so I challenge you to a duel to the death. That's how our forefathers did it, and that's how we'll do it, unless you're some kind of puritan who opposes my right to punch a man to death over a minor disagreement?

      Uh huh. Get out of kotaku now. People are only going to disagree with you more. EVERY tech show, car show, people are going to feel this way and disagree with you.

      Again.. get over yourself or get out of the comments.

      (see how ridiculous that is?)

      Err, dude. I do modelling. Some nude work, mostly glamour stuff for some quite high profile publications and websites. It has it's place, and that place is in men's magazines, porn websites, etc. Gaming conventions are NOT the place, it just perpetuates the idea that games are only to be directed at straight guys.
      Also it doesn't exactly do anything to dismiss the stereotype of the desperate horny basement-dwelling gamer, doesn't it...you know how you guys hate being stereotyped in that way? Yeah, booth babes? Not helping.

      And FYI you don't get paid that much for it, in fact a lot of girls are volunteering their time at no extra charge in the hope of getting contacts and further work from it, but that never really eventuates.

    Pics or it didn't happen...
    You can't complain without at least showing us what you're talking about. Now we're all gonna have to wait for Ashcraft to compile us a gallery.

    Saying attractive women in skimpy clothing shouldn't be there is discriminatory.
    I'm all about the equal opportunity.

    At one demo, I had to fight my way through a mob to get to the booth’s front desk, only to find that actually, there was no line at reception — the throng around me had assembled to snap photos of the two women in ill-fitting, barely-there elf costumes as they posed provocatively by the booth’s entrance.

    ...Well it did pull a crowd somehow, so the effectiveness can't be denied. Whether anyone played the demo or not, they'll remember the presence of the booth, if only from the babes. So they got their money's worth hiring the women. It might be a cheap trick, but it's only used as long as it works. Seems like it does. *shrug*

    My girlfriend and I earn a comfortable living modelling professionally. As for this article, sorry mate, it's falling on deaf albeit beautifully symmetrical, ears.. F*** I love my job.

    Hold up guys, someone's overly sensitive about something!

    Better ban it all for everyone!

      Its like getting cupcakes banned in a workplace because 1 person complains that they dont like the yellow frosting, its ridiculous.

        God damn it. It's not ridiculous you idiot. PAX bans them not because it's sexist but because it distorts the impression of the games on show and it's annoying for most industry professionals who have to spend more time being sold to by someone who knows nothing about the product, which is entirely contradictory to the philosophy of PAX. The writer HERE is saying he wishes they were banned because here because he finds them primarily annoying and condescending.

        To reitierate, it's NOT banned at PAX because people complain about equality, it's because PAX just doesn't want them there. If you held an expo for mowers and thought hey, I don't want all these people handing out flyers for their businesses to every single patron because it's annoying. BANNED. Because it's annoying.

          Just want to point out that I think the writer here, a person named Kate, is probably a woman.
          Not that knowing the writer's gender changes the intent of your comment, nor should it change the intent of the article (but it probably would).

        Man, yellow frosting is the worst.
        Whoever uses yellow frosting should be shouted at.

    Yikes... you people are worse than a Youtube comments section.

      Who are you calling "You People"? Did you want to take this outside?

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

      If that were the case then *she* would not be complaining.

    I agree that there's little need to have dressed up women in low cut 'company' tops, who don't know anything about the company that they're representing (they probably don't even get hired by the company, but through an agency or something who sends them out) and just stand there as a mirage to draw people in... But what about the people dressed as a character (cosplaying)?
    You can have a person dressed as Mario for advertising, and I'd like to think that you can have a person dressed as, say, Lara Croft.

      Yeah, I think it would be much better if they were dressed in cosplay relating to what they were selling. Even then most of the girls would be dressed in skimpy outfits but at least there'd be a reason for it.

    They're just eye candy.. I wouldn't even bother to ask them a question about the game.. seriously, anyone with half a brain would know they're just hired models to draw you in... I dunno what all the fuss is about... I don't think it's demeaning to women to have a few girls in tight shirts hanging about. They're models.. they signed up for this kind of work... surely if they didn't feel comfortable doing it, they would quit.. I dun really get all the fuss about them.

      I think the main problem is that it's not demeaning for the models, but (maybe not demeaning, but frustrating) for the women in the industry.
      The female gamers, programmers, producers, writers, illustrators, reporters...

        It's not demeaning to the women in the industry so much as demeaning for the industry as a whole. The games should be interesting enough for people's attention to be drawn to them without parading around enticing girls. Surely the games' graphics or something are sexy enough?

          But they're not good enough, or rather, Booth Babes get even more people to enjoy the sexy graphics.

      It's not about being demeaning to women, like you said they get paid and they're free to not take the job once they see the outfits.
      It's about growing up as an industry and moving beyond what the general public and people like the ACL see the games industry as: for kids and spotty teenage boys. This kind of thing is demeaning to the games they're promoting, not necessarily the girls hired to promote it.

      If you went to see about a game and there was a bunch of guys dressed in shorts so tight that nothing was left to the imagination and nothing else would that make you feel comfortable at that booth? Even as a woman it certainly wouldn't make me likely to take the game company seriously.

        Semantics. Marketing is all about how to win the audience over, full stop. What glamorous industry do you know of that does not use sexy women in their marketing? The Music industry? The Film industry? The automotive industry?

        Honestly, watch some Mad Men and learn something for god's sake.

    Hmmm.. I see the point you're making and in an ideal world all booth staff would be knowledgeable on the products behind them. I think the booth babes are more about trying to stand out from the other booths or at the very least getting some exposure in a "Babes of E3" type article.
    Personally, I am not against booth babes, I enjoy the eye candy but I get that some might be offended or annoyed by it.

    This, and I'd love to see an end to crap like wheeling out Usher and co. at press conferences, and pretty much everything Ubisoft did at their conference that wasn't related to the actual (really quite good) game content they showed.

    The event is supposed to be aimed at games journalists, who are there to see the games, and the wider gaming community on the internet, who are watching online to see the games. Now don't get me wrong, everybody likes a good light show, and it's nice to see a bit of effort put into a production, but that shouldn't be the focus. I really would like to see the PR departments of the publishers put a bit more thought into their presentations, focus on what their audience wants, and be a bit more professional.

    Also, nobody cares about dance games at E3. The casual crowd don't even know what an E3 is.

      Yeah, I don't see the point hiring big-name music stars that won't even be to everyone's taste. Surely the money could be put to better use like, oh I don't know...making their games better? :P

      I also would like to see the journalists act a bit more professional and stop whooping and cheering in press conferences like fanboys and girls. A bit of professionalism on both sides would be great.

    As a female gamer, I find the that use of booth babes makes me very very uncomfortable. Now for the sake of equality, it would be *awesome* it we had rippled shirtless guys (not my thing, but the equivalent of a slim sexy big breasted nearly-nude booth babe) there at E3 and other conventions marketing games.

    After all, if the gamer guys can get their eye candy, what about us girls hmm?

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

      I'm sensing an illiterate bogan in the mi(d)st.

      You mean the 'man card' she got when she was born a female? You're an idiot.

    Ah, the daily "white knight nectar" article on Kotaku.

    Anyway, in the real world...

      in the real world... this is still a big issue for a lot of people.
      So why don't we actually discuss it, instead of downplaying the concerns of others with name-calling?

        There are plenty of things I have an issue with. Would you like to discuss these with me, or do you think it limits the "hero" factor for you?

        E3 and the "journalism" attached to it is, in general, garbage. Why would you think the actual vendors would rise above the "whooping" and masturbatory ramblings of the people they're trying to sell to.

          Why? Self-respect, image, the fact that mature people generally have more disposable income to spend on their products than sweaty-palmed teens, not alienating half their potential audience, recognising it's an industry show and not a convention..

          Take your pick of those for 'why'.

    As a gay guy - I find the lack of booth bro's (?) very discriminatory.

      ^this. 'booth bros'. classic. (not gay, just comfortable with my sexuality and don't need to ogle semi-naked women to prove it)

      Oh god yes I agree! As a girl I demand my ManShep, Ezio and Dante in appropriately themed jocks!

      Also I find it funny that the guys who defend the use of booth babes are the first to go "OMG HOW DISGUSTING SO GAAAAAAAYYY!!11! MUST WATCH HETERO PORN TO REAFFIRM MY FRAGILE MASCULITNITY!!!1!!" when they encounter some yaoi fanart or even something really tame like a shirtless pic of Nathan Drake.

    Beautiful women... how can anyone complain.
    What has the world become.

    Ok so let me see if i can get this straight so far, and correct me if i am wrong here of course, i am just trying to make sense of both sides of the argument:

    THE SIDE THAT IS OK WITH THE BOOTH BABES

    1. It's not been done for years, and it's worked out fine i guess, so why stop now?
    2. Those girls are people too, and they need money to support themselves - where else are amateur models gonna get a yearly paycheck?
    3.Everyone who thinks booth babes are sexist just needs to chill out, they're just pretty girls, and sex sells
    4. A bunch of other industries do it, why can't we?
    5. I totally know a booth babe and she likes the attention anyway, so why should anyone else tell her she can't work at a games show?

    THE SIDE THAT IS NOT OK WITH THE BOOTH BABES

    1. It's sexists because it's only ever (or at least the vast majority of the time) scantily clad women - this assumes there should be scantily clad men as well, right?
    2. It's sexists because the women, while pretty, are dressed like prostitutes, and THAT is the offensive part, not that their just pretty.
    3. It's not that they are WOMAN or that they are PRETTY or even that they DRESSED LIKE PROSTITUTES, it's that they don't know shit about the GAME they are supposed to be selling/supporting
    4. Women in the games industry and female game players find it offensive for any of the above reasons but also because by using women only it leads to a certain mindset - that being that regular girls aren't allowed, this is either for super pretty, sexy girls, or this is for the boys who want super pretty sexy girl - not you girls who aren't "hot" (this is an ethical issue)

    DOES THAT ABOUT SUM IT UP?

    Now that we both have the different sides of the coin, and now that we can both see what the other person is talking about, is it really that hard to have a logical conversation that doesn't degrade into childish name-calling?

    "J" had a pretty good spin there going for a while so i salute who ever that is ("J" could be male or female i guess) so kudos.

    To everyone else: Read what i just wrote, read the list, those 4 points on either side are the main ones i have identified - if there is another you want to add, feel free, but they seem to be the 4 BIG points both sides have made.

    Round 2... DEBATE!

    and to further on that, do you see anyone complaining significantly when men are used to sell underwear, or anything like that? Do i immediately think that I cannot wear this underwear because I am not buff and tanned with a 6 pack?

    No, it's called exaggeration.

      It seems the moderators aren't interested in the other side of the coin - fair enough.

        I think you might be jumping to conclusions there a bit, fryiee.
        Comments are usually auto-approved but sometimes, through a magical word filter (which should be gone) or if you post too many links, you'll be automatically put into moderation. There exist no actual moderators here; at least, not in the traditional forum sense.
        So don't think you're being censored, it's probably the system being screwy.

          good to know, I didn't think I had discussed anything too provocative !

      Darling that's because they are advertising UNDERWEAR. Not something that has nothing to do with underwear.

        Not the point I'm making - what I'm saying is that if these girls were average looking, 30something 'gamer gurls', there would be barely any complaints haha

        Pretty stupid if they're doing that at a gaming convention. Oh, you meant that figuratively. Oh wait that still doesn't make sense coz they're there to make you relax, more open-minded and more palatable to what you are about experience; hot, steamy, bootylicious orgy of gameplay.

      If those types of ad make people feel uncomfortable, then of course issue should be raised and discussed in an appropriate forum. And it's not about a person feeling they cannot 'wear' something because they're not buff, it's about the constant portrayal of a gender only being appreciated for 'being sexy'.

    I wonder when people are going to start complaining about the shirtless, buff, tanned guys in tight jeans trying to promote games they know nothing about?

    Ethical considerations aside, I can't really see the point in booth babes. It tells me that the developers in the booth have no knowledge about or faith in their game. So they just grab some scantily clad women and chuck them in front of it. And there's nothing really attractive about how those women look, the tacky clothes just look generic. Again, if thats meant to be symbolic of the product, forget it.

      In that case, please erase from your mind, and purge your shelves of every game that has gained critical acclaim over the years that has had babes at their booths, which would at least include every final fantasy game. Every Mass Effect game. Every Nintendo game, well, pretty much all games, that have featured at E3.

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