On Saturday, Damien and I attended this year’s EB Expo in Sydney. We’ll have our thoughts on all the games, as well as opinions on the next gen consoles that we got our sweaty, pox covered hands on later in the week, but today I want to talk about something I saw at the event. It’s not a new issue – it’s one that has been talked about and written about and yelled about at great length after seemingly every trade and community event in the games industry. Every single time. And yet, every year, every event, it happens again. Someone, somewhere, is not getting the message.

I am, of course, referring to the issue of booth babes.

I don’t care if it’s been written about a gazillion times before. I want to write about it too, right now, because damnit, rage.

Several booths at EB Expo this year employed beautiful women, supplied them with a gaudy handful of hemlines, and sent them forth with pamphlets to gather a crowd to the booth. Covered (I use the word incredibly generously) in technicolour expectorations of brand names and logos, these women are walking billboards and pamphlet dispensers; a collection of breasts and buttocks whose sole purpose is to attract men.

It’s tacky. It’s pathetic. It’s sickening. And it’s still too common.

I hold no enmity to those women. They’ve got a relatively sweet gig. Getting paid to stand around for 12 hours in uncomfortable clothes and uncomfortable heels, getting stared at and photographed and sneakily groped by thousands of strangers all day. Well, maybe it’s not that great a job. I don’t know. But either way, all the women themselves did was accept money for time and services, just like every other employee anywhere. No, the booth babes themselves hold no blame for the practice.

The ones to blame are those who employ them.

The sad thing is, someone, somewhere, thinks that booth babes work. PR companies splash out money every year on booth babes. Set aside the pay for having people help at the booth (someone would have to be employed to help anyway), they still have to justify the expenditure on “uniforms” for the booth babes, and the various themed set pieces and trinkets that serve as further window dressing. In a business where margins matter (ie any business), any wasted cash is bad. So someone, somewhere, is saying that spending the extra cash on having booth babes brings in extra revenue.

I don’t have adequate vocabulary for what I think of those people.

About 40% of EB Expo’s Saturday attendees were women, based on absolutely no concrete data at all other than my observation and guesses. I talked to a woman or two while I was there, and the topic of booth babes came up. They felt awkward about it. If booth babes target men and push away women, then spending money on a practice that targets only 60% of the potential audience while alienating potentially 40% of the audience is not good value. Even if my estimates, assumptions, and mathematics are completely unrepresentative, it still isn’t worth the damage the practice does to, well, everyone.

Booth babes degrade women, reducing women to objects, decorations to act as honey pots for ogling men and reinforcing institutionalised misogyny. Booth babes degrade men, saying that they are expected to be a collection of base sexual urges with no control over themselves. Booth babes degrade the products they are employed to promote, stating that their product is so rubbish that marketers need to attract men with scantily clad women to even be interesting. And booth babes degrade every person who plays video games, reinforcing the stereotype of gamers as the ugly loner boy virgin desperate for any female contact at all, rather than reflecting the true diversity of the demographic.

The practice of employing booth babes (and I know that gaming conventions aren’t the only places where the practice occurs) should die a swift death so we can move the entire narrative on. Games and hardware can sell themselves, and those who attend these conventions deserve to be treated that way.

Booth babes? Stop doing it.

Lachlan Williams
Former Editor in Chief of OnlySP. A guy who writes things about stuff, apparently. Recovering linguist, blue pencil surgeon, and professional bishie sparkler. In between finding the latest news, reviewing PC games, and generally being a grumpy bossyboots, he likes to watch way too much Judge Judy. He perhaps has too much spare time on his hands. Based in Sydney, Australia. Follow him on twitter @lawksland.

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17 Comments

  1. Is this your way to officially come out of the closet or something? You don’t like the fact that private company advertising targets it’s biggest customer base? You think these girls who make a living doing this will be saved by you? I happen to know a girl who makes a pretty good living doing this, and she loves it. You make it sound like the women are slave prostitutes. The misogyny word popularity right now is laughable.

    I really don’t know what’s going on, but this must be the hot topic on college campuses right now. If you don’t find women attractive, that’s your problem. This whole rant not only alienates a lot of this site’s readers, it makes you look foolish by really pressuring a personal belief where it doesn’t belong. Why don’t you move to a place where misogyny really happens, like the Middle East. At least they will be covered up so you won’t get those sexual feelings you like to suppress. What a world… men ashamed to be men.

    1. Afghanistan’s nice this time of year. Women over there don’t dress accordingly they get there heads chopped off…… Kinda puts things in perspective doesn’t it.

      1. It’s part fo the same spectrum – in afghanistan women are expected to be one kind of object, here they’re expected to be a different kind. How can we tell the afghanis to treat women like humans when we treat them like decorations?

        Both in afghanistan and here, it’s about giving women freedom from men’s expectations for how they should or shouldn’t be.

        1. Only attractive women. I went to a tech writer convention and most of them were far from decoration. Let me guess, you don’t wear makeup.

        2. Please allow me a moment to explain. Can’t go into great detail but. In a remote village in afghanistan, near the pakistan border. My unit came under fire, we repulsed the attack. But when we returned sometime later. We found the headless bodies of two women. So we asked the village elder what happened he said they were executed by the vice and vertue brigade. For leaving there homes uncovered. Apparently during the fire fight they ran outside, to protect there children. And forgot to put there burchas on. There corpses were left there as an example… Yet here we are debating this, I’m sorry, just seems rather petty. We’ve come along ways here in the U.S. And that’s something to be proud of. My point is, at least the women in this article have a choice. But everyone is entitled to there opinion. And I respect that. Have a wonderful day.

    2. women make up the majority of gamers, last i checked

      1. It consists of 45% and most of them play in the casual and mobile market. Action PC and console titles are dominated by males. Just hop online and play COD… most are young males. The ESA clumps all markets together.

    3. Unlike you it seems, I’m capable of giving a shit about the treatment of women in two parts of the world at once! And more! And I know that just because we don’t outright kill women for going to school doesn’t mean we’ve met the minimum requirements for treating them like full humans.

      1. It really doesn’t matter what you want. What matters is what individuals want in a “free society”. Look, I understand that you are young and you buy into “issues” that aren’t really “issues”. I thought communism was a great idea when I was 22. If I owned a business and chose to advertise this way, it’s my business. My co-worker’s daughter that does this is pretty happy. She had a great time getting paid to dress up for comicon – she also got some evil circus movie gig out of it too. You are not smart enough to create a model of the perfect society. REally, don’t flatter yourself by putting your views over other people.

        If you are offended by beauty contests, sports, strippers, dancers, actors, singers, and everything else that’s in your feminist activism pamphlet, get over it. These views have been around a long time and people will always disregard them. Opinions are like assholes. I am just shocked at how obsessive you guys are about using attractive people for advertisements. My wife even laughed at this.

        1. I find it ridiculously hard to believe that you have a wife.

          1. Burned! LOL, she doesn’t work either. She is a full time mother of a bunch of little girls. They love Disney princess stuff too. I prefer it that way… I don’t want to have another destructive entity in the home. Want to hear something really scary? I do all of the cooking too!!!

    4. How in the hell does this make him ashamed to be a man? Booth babes are treated like objects at events for people to stare at and are used as promotional “items” to attract people to their booths. Sure, they are being paid and sure there are a number of them who probably enjoy their job, just as strippers may or may not enjoy their jobs.

      It’s certainly a good tactic by companies, but is it right? That’s up to you to decide and Lachlan only provided his opinion on the topic and his certainly allowed to do so here. To me, when I see a booth babe it makes me think of all the commercials that use a good looking women to advertise a product that doesn’t need a good looking women to advertise it.

      1. If you guys want to change our culture, good luck. It’s nice to know that there are people out there that think they know what everyone else wants out of life. Being offended is natural, just don’t tell me I am wrong for not agreeing with it. You could always build an army and control the world as you desire overlord. I am 90% sure this was written because he wanted to impress someone at school. Probably some library looking chick. I just get really irritated that people have the nerve to think they know what’s best for everyone else. It’s totally disrespectful and condescending.

        My wife went to a bridal shower convention and came back with a Chip and Dales photo with a muscle man posing with her. Do you think all of the men there had insecurity because of that? Why do masses of Americans worship felon football players? Get over yourselves -typical idealistic college kids with activist bullshit. I have been to the middle east and have a little more appreciation to our freedoms here.

        If you really want to be a political activist, go out to your nearest hooters with all of the other bible thumper feminists and protest. I have seen these “developer girls” in conventions, and most of them can’t even bother to comb their hair.

        1. Lol, Lachlan teaches English as a college teacher, I’m sure he’s seen his fair share of different types of people. Nobody’s trying to change the culture here, it’s the way that these “booth babes” are used. That’s very short sighted comment you wrote by stereotyping Lachlan as a college kid looking to impress a chick.

          This article shows a different point of view to yours and you don’t like it so you’re assuming he thinks he knows what’s better for everyone else. It’s an opinion and he’s entitled to it. As I said in my comment above, There’s certainly perks to having booth babes, I totally agree with you that I would be more attracted to checking out a product if there’s some hot babe standing over there catching my eye.

          But, why do these women need to be wearing super revealing clothing just to attract people to a product?

          You make some pretty offensive assumptions about people in your comment and honestly your comment is more disrespectful than anything that was said in the editorial.

          1. I agree. It is pointless to argue about opinions and he does have a valid question on society. It’s a good way to debate. I know they are not going away but my initial reaction was “is this guy crazy?!?!” Maybe he is from is different culture.

            I think of is as that Twilight movie series. My wife goes nuts for it. She is in her 30’s and savors over the hollywood studs. I don’t have a problem with it. A lot of companies sell fantasy and dreams through their products. For example, when I go to CES, I always go to the car section just to see the girls and they are pretty cool. They take pictures with you and we all have a lot of fun. When I was young, I felt awkward in these situations. Now, I don’t feel that way so much. Sure some creeps get in there and make it negative but the rest of the convention does not have the hot babes.

            I am sorry for the stereotyping. We all do it on certain levels. I am just in the position to be able to express it here -it’s not like I am at work or anything. I feel people are more honest when they express themselves with the good, bad, and ugly. It does get people to open up when you dabble in that too. Get the blood flowing.

  2. Thank you for this article. Unfortunately, the misogyny of this industry is not only evident in booth babes. Look at the hate speech online, look at the games themselves. Despite that 40%, developers still struggle to get support for games not driven by the male power fantasy and publishers still don’t get their appeal.

    As you say, a confident woman displaying or using her sexuality is nothing bad. It’s her right to do it. However, that does not make those who use that any less vile. It’s not only disrespectful to female gamers, but male gamers too. It’s like assuming a man only thinks with their lower half and that no matter what kind of product it is, breasts and a backside will make them buy it.

    It’s also showing disrespect to the developers, the artists who created a game to be liked, not a game to have people fooled into buying it. That said, many developers have no problems with using that themselves. Most games are filled with quite scantily-clad well-“equipped” women.

  3. This is why the australian game industry is so terrible and censored, people like you

    Who cares they aren’t but naked running around you need to be more comfortable with your sexuality, and hell who doesn’t like looking at good looking girls? …Whats your next article going to be on, beaching should ban two piece bikinis? If anything how about you stop going to these expos if you don’t want to see them, Im tired of everyones I don’t agree with this, this should change view on life….Did you rent out the building for the expo? Did you set up dates and manage the whole thing? no well then when you do you can decide whether booth babes are aloud or not, until then either A) Stop going B) Grow up, the only one making everything sexist is the people claiming sexism

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