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.


    Didn't E3 close a few years back and then re-open claiming to be refocused on the industry and not all this over-indulgent sleaze..?

      Which speaks to how powerful the method is at work.

      But hey, we shouldn't make some women in the industry feel annoyed (who by the way currently don't exist because she never cites anyone or anything, just herself). God wouldn't want this for the games industry. We should change everything based on the opinion of one woman who derives reason from pompous, presumptuous speculation.

      "A publisher has put sexy women in its booth to attract the men. I feel left out, because I'm not interested in those sorts of things. Well, fine, I'm going to write exactly why the show has to be catered to ME, and how important it is that they market to ME, and how upset and left out I feel when they don't. Maybe if I write an article about how unfair it is for the women... no! I should write an article about how unethical it is for them to be there! No one can deny that! Some of the booth babes I spoke to don't even know anything about the game! I can use that! Maybe generalise it a bit, make it sound like a more prevalent problem than it is, y'know, so I can get my point across. And maybe one day, E3 will be what I say it is. The guys won't like it... but who cares about them, they're just silly perverse, inferior thinkers anyway. Sure, there maybe lot less sales as a result, and some smaller devs might have suffer because of it, but whatever! They should have had more confidence in their game! Because good games are like a giant arrow sign of attention, kinda like how boobs are with boys. Look, who cares about all that, as long as I can go to a future E3 feeling more accepted. Even if nothing changes next year, well, at least the article will get some major clickage."

    No problem with this sales technique if its for a game like Bayonetta or Lollipop Chainsaw. But for games which dont feature sexuality as a main theme it just screams tacky. Now dont get me wrong, I enjoy looking at women Id never in a million years be able to touch without paying. But its not the reason Id go to a gaming convention.

    This comment has been deemed too hilarious for this comments section and has been deleted.

      Look who got moderator duties! :)

    As an IT worker who rarely gets invited to model parties (or parties in general), and whose work is predominantly males with the odd female sales rep, I don't actually get to talk/interact with attractive women all that often.
    So when these conventions come around its a great chance to meet some of these ladies who I would NEVER interact with in any other situation, mainly because I just would never be in a situation where they would happen to also be. Whether it is just ogling/getting a photo op, or actually having a fun conversation (which I'm sure a lot of them would prefer) is up to the situation.
    I think it would be a shame to remove this one opportunity for those some of us who have chosen professions that are not desirable to the opposite sex to actually get to meet and talk to these people who are effectively just an extension of the fantasy would that the games are trying to create anyway.

    I think everyone needs to take a bit of a chill pill and see it from other ways. Yes, Kate is right in regards that most booth vendors don't give a flying pig what the models are doing. The only thing that matters is that they're there to get the attention. As a freelancer photographer, I've seen that all too often with many shows. And honestly, that's advertising for you. The same could be said for lingerie/underwear. Majority of advertisement is about near perfect bodies for male and females. Have you see a 'normal' person try to do a shoot? Rarely and most of the time, it's for publicity, not for endorsement of the product.

    On the flipside, if Kate feels that interacting with these models are uncomfortable, why write about in the first place? Because you are uncomfortable doesn't mean other females are as well. Some of the freelancer journalists I know doesn't give a damn about models and only go for the real products themselves. As others said, they're just attention grabbing. If she feels E3 is quite uncomfortable, go to Japan and see the Tokyo Game Show. Let's see how she handles it.

    I realise this is fed from Kotaku US, but does anyone else get a sense of hypocrisy when at the very bottom of this article is a picture of Selena Gomez selling a magazine with the headline "SELENA GOMEZ SHOWS SKIN"?

    I really appreciate efforts like those of PAX to make more women feel more comfortable in the subculture. Women who don't mind the skimpy displays won't stop going to the events if the practice is stopped or reduced, the women who were uncomfortable with it may begin attending! And participating! And women who are hired, will be hired for a variety of factors that uplift women's status in the community. Its hard enough already that many women who do work at booths who are the writers, creators and experts on the game are often not taken seriously. Practices like this make it even worse. And it prevents women from advancing in the industry by replacing the role of paid women reps, with one time models hired just for the show and paid low wages for difficult and uncomfortable work. Versus the stakeholders in the company who get a share of the sales, or sales staff who may get commissions or other valuable benefits of working for a company on a regular contract.

    Putting women on display as sex objects has widespread affect on the subculture. It sets a mood. A mood I don't enjoy . I do however, enjoy games. I enjoy talking about the games and playing them. I don't enjoy the atmosphere, where a man comes up to me a at gaming convention and strokes my neck. Or begins the conversation at my chest and inviting me to take my clothes off. Game culture is more sexed up and more sexist than your standard frat party.

    Each time a gamer woman speaks out and says something like this bothers her, she is silenced by the majority, which is men, and told she is the only one that feels this way. It effectively keeps women gamers from being heard. Even if there are many of us, if we speak out individually, then obviously we are of no value alone. That is bullshit. This author is of value. Her opinion does matter!

    A bird in the hand is worth three in the bush. This is true of most client bases. For every woman eloquent to write her opinion, brave enough to speak up, and with the connections to get an article published somewhere it will be seen, there are many more who don't have those attributes. You should take this author seriously. And when another woman speaks up in a similar manner if you use the same "you are the only one" argument on her. shame on you, because you would be lying because you would have read this article and perhaps dozens like it before and said that she is the only one.

    MOre power to booth babes! The man who wrote this article is not heterosexual!!

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