Boothbabes or Cosplay? - Inspired by PAX East

OG_slinger wrote:
Malor wrote:

Well, sometimes it does. Word of mouth can still be pretty powerful. But it's not as important as it once was.

We call those folks Key Influencers. It's actually easier to find them these days with blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Once you know who they are, you charm them, give them some free stuff or access to your execs and wait for the nice posts or comments. There's actually some pretty scary stuff on the consumer side involving social mapping and targeting trend setters.

I first noticed this a few years back when Ain't It Cool News first started getting really popular. Once Hollywood caught on that AICN was a Key Influencer with more nerdy movie-goers, Harry Knowles started getting invited to hang out on the sets of movies in production, got scripts slipped to him by big name directors, and so forth. His impressions of movies were always much more positive after he'd been pampered a bit by the producers.

That kind of thing will only become more intricate as companies start to get, as OG said, deeper into social mapping and can better suss out individual members of a social network to apply sales to in an effort to inspire sales throughout that network.

Just for the OP. This is a Gearbox booth right? You have played Borderlands? Do you recall the gentleman with the spiky head asking you to "suck it?" Then there is the sterling, and progressive attitude of Duke Nukem.

Anyhoosit. It is on the PAX staff to enforce the rules. So regardless of a lack of tack, it is on the staff to go to the booth and ask that the girls leave or dress in a more appropriate manner, while stifling laughter at the frumpy neck bearded men who have not showered and why their attire is within reason.

Personally, I find "booth babes" tacky in just about every situation. Now this is borderline gay, but I do not want a girl distracting me from the new motorcycles at a chopper show. I want to go up to the new Yamahas and Harleys, try on the latest helmets. I am not all that intrigued with the cute chick who is less approachable than the Queen Mum.

KingGorilla wrote:

Just for the OP. This is a Gearbox booth right? You have played Borderlands? Do you recall the gentleman with the spiky head asking you to "suck it?" Then there is the sterling, and progressive attitude of Duke Nukem.

Nah, haven't played Borderlands; the ad campaign annoyed me. And I'm well aware of Duke Nukem; I've been playing the series since the 2D days. But what's done with pixels is different from what's done with real people in the real world.

Paleocon wrote:

Just out of curiosity, do people have a problem with PR professionals in general? If, for instance, a male non-gamer was hired to man a booth because he was good looking and presented himself well, but had very little appreciation for gaming, would this be a problem?

Is the male non-gamer manning the booth being asked to wear nothing but a codpiece? A chainmail bikini? Assless chaps?

I would pay to see that.

Tanglebones wrote:
Paleocon wrote:

Just out of curiosity, do people have a problem with PR professionals in general? If, for instance, a male non-gamer was hired to man a booth because he was good looking and presented himself well, but had very little appreciation for gaming, would this be a problem?

Is the male non-gamer manning the booth being asked to wear nothing but a codpiece? A chainmail bikini? Assless chaps?

Not to just crap on your point. But I know the "actor" at any comic con for Conan or Kraven of The Incredible Hulk will be dressed in a pair of fur briefs or just his undies.

Hypatian wrote:

I would pay to see that.

+1

Paleocon wrote:

Just out of curiosity, do people have a problem with PR professionals in general? If, for instance, a male non-gamer was hired to man a booth because he was good looking and presented himself well, but had very little appreciation for gaming, would this be a problem?

Yes. I would find his lack of product knowledge or appreciation for the product an annoying hurdle that I'd have to endure so that I can get him to get me to talk to someone else who actually knows the material.

If their marketing and product are so on-the-fence that they feel that using meat to lure people is necessary, they've already kinda failed.

It doesn't matter the gender of the person selling it so long as they can actually sell. Maybe I value good salesmanship too much. People keep bringing up the "sex sells" mantra, which I won't dispute because it so obviously works. On people who think with their gonads. I find it a little cheap, and it makes a statement to me that says "your buyer's savvy is at the intellectual level of hur hur, lookit dem titties."

As a female that happens to game, I find the general lack of boothbabes at PAX refreshing, so a few stray ones in attendance are still better than what you see at most conventions. I've been to a few car and bike ones (alone, sometimes!), and I generally left those places feeling...strange. When a place creates an environment where the women involved are there to be looked at or objectified as things used for a cheap sell, it makes it so that the women entering those places as fellow spectators are also looked upon with the same objectifying lens by other patrons.

Booth babes in general make me uncomfortable. Sure, they may be making some money on the side, that they chose to do it of their own free will. Good on them for doing something they're okay with as they wish.

It's just a bit of a shock every time I'm suddenly shaken free of the hobbyist's high of being surrounded by things I love when I realize the focal point (hawt ladiez) of a campaign is directed at an audience that doesn't include me. Observing that dissonance makes me realize that attracting my half of the population isn't one their concerned with in the least. I could do without that.

Cosplayers? Oh cosplayers, you go on and get down with your weird selves. I would never do it, but I can admire the work and effort it takes to take fan boy/girl-ism to that level.

Paleocon wrote:

Just out of curiosity, do people have a problem with PR professionals in general? If, for instance, a male non-gamer was hired to man a booth because he was good looking and presented himself well, but had very little appreciation for gaming, would this be a problem?

Yes. Though to be fair, I don't think those PR folks are there for gamer attendees anyway.

[edit]

I wasn't aware of the no-booth babes rule at PAX. The last PAX I was at was in 2007 and there was at least one booth babe in attendance. Not being a normal convention-goer it was my first exposure to such things and I've gotta say that I felt really bad for her.

Tanglebones wrote:

Is the male non-gamer manning the booth being asked to wear nothing but ... Assless chaps?

This has been a richly evocative thread, what with "tits-for-hire" and now this. A postern for the Western "Have Guns, Will Travel" would've been silly enough, but you should thank whatever diety that I haven't the Photoshop skillz to produce the hypothetical cover box for Serious Sam of Finland.

Can I say that I am both proud and a little disappointed that this thread has existed this long without a single picture?

I believe that marketing in general treads a very fine line between sincerity and evil (lying).
Boothbabes are a form of lying.
Paying beautiful people to fake enthusiasm for your product doesn't speak well of your product.

An experiment I'd like to run is to create a Boothbabe zone at a large convention. Just a single booth where beautiful people hang out and hand out business cards with short descriptions of products and directions to the associated booth at various other locations at the convention. My guess is that a large portion of the participants would surreptitiously gravitate around that area and that the booths closest to that zone would see the most traffic, regardless of the products advertised on the business cards being distributed.
Theory: Proximity to Beautiful People = Attention.

Rezzy wrote:

Can I say that I am both proud and a little disappointed that this thread has existed this long without a single picture?

IMAGE(http://img146.imageshack.us/img146/8056/dukenukempax.jpg)

There ya go. For reference of course.

clover wrote:

So I wonder, then, what PA's definition of booth babe is and whether they intend to actually enforce their own rule... it was only one vendor, but if they were able to make a successful end run around this I highly doubt it will be a one-time thing.

Once it went up the flagpole, the powers that be took care of it. 2K didn't make ay sort of end-run; they barely got over the line of scrimmage. It took less than an hour from first official report to a change. They were still schoolgirls, but they weren't so scantily clad. Had they not complied and stayed that way they would have ben ejected. Those girls were knowledgable of the game and games in general. It's not my place to discuss what rules-lawyering 2K pulled to try to get past the already quite strict rules, but suffice it to say the powers that be are already looking at changing the phrasing of some of the rules for next time to make them even stricter.

This stuff is not in any way tolerated no matter who is doing it, and will be handled where/whenever it comes up. That's why I suggested in the thread if you see an issue like this, don't bother with Twitter. Find an Enforcer and give them the details (company, time and place, pics are good too) and it will go from there much faster than hoping Khoo's assistant catches a tweet.

The problem is always with us, and all we can do is handle it on a case-by-case basis. Remember those GameCrush girls from last Prime? We made them put some clothes on and buy exhibitor badges and display them prominently so people knew this was a paid gig. They weren't back this time, as you may have noticed.

I was taking to one of our PR guys about this and he pointed out that there's another factor in place here. There is a very high percentage of attractive people in the PR business, and PR people aren't necessarily familiar with the products they push regardless of gender or type of product. As far as looks go, it bears out in their own company. The site rep they had is an older but still gorgeous lady, with a handsome Asian guy and a smokin' hot Brazilian guy to help her. They're better than most in that they know this business and they're damned good.

I have a question for the room. What else do you suggest be done? Do we have an ugly-test and ban anyone who doesn't look like the cast of Freaks and Geeks? Do we ban all females from the Expo hall staff?

momgamer wrote:

I have a question for the room. What else do you suggest be done? Do we have an ugly-test and ban anyone who doesn't look like the cast of Freaks and Geeks? Do we ban all females from the Expo hall staff?

In my opinion: Looks have nothing to do with it, but competence does. If you want eyecandy to represent your product then make damn sure that the eyecandy can contribute intellectually. Make them a functional part of the presentation and not just the bait. If the eyecandy can't be taught then there damn well better be an engineer or developer standing at his/her hip.

momgamer wrote:

I have a question for the room. What else do you suggest be done? Do we have an ugly-test and ban anyone who doesn't look like the cast of Freaks and Geeks? Do we ban all females from the Expo hall staff?

If that's how it was handled, I don't think any changes need to be made at all. Something violated PAX's own rules, and it got dealt with accordingly. The ambiguity here was that we didn't know whether it had been or not, seeing as we're not privy to the info you have.

I don't think the question was ever "are attractive people allowed", or "are people with boobs allowed", it was whether they were only hired to display boobs, where that fell within the rules, and what the official response was. But I'm not the OP, so that's what I parsed from it.

I know PAX has been catching a lot of flack lately, but this doesn't seem to be a PAX dogpile.

Rezzy wrote:
momgamer wrote:

I have a question for the room. What else do you suggest be done? Do we have an ugly-test and ban anyone who doesn't look like the cast of Freaks and Geeks? Do we ban all females from the Expo hall staff?

In my opinion: Looks have nothing to do with it, but competence does. If you want eyecandy to represent your product then make damn sure that the eyecandy can contribute intellectually. Make them a functional part of the presentation and not just the bait. If the eyecandy can't be taught then there damn well better be an engineer or developer standing at his/her hip.

That sounds like a task for the exhibiting company, not the event organizers.

Rezzy wrote:
momgamer wrote:

I have a question for the room. What else do you suggest be done? Do we have an ugly-test and ban anyone who doesn't look like the cast of Freaks and Geeks? Do we ban all females from the Expo hall staff?

In my opinion: Looks have nothing to do with it, but competence does. If you want eyecandy to represent your product then make damn sure that the eyecandy can contribute intellectually. Make them a functional part of the presentation and not just the bait. If the eyecandy can't be taught then there damn well better be an engineer or developer standing at his/her hip.

-- edit: added quote to make clear who I was talking to. Took too long to write around this pesky job-thing. Sorry, clover. --

That rule is already in place. We don't like give them a test or anything, though. If you have a specific problem, find an Enforcer and give them the details. The right people will investigate and see what needs to be done.

There's only so much you can do, though. The whole PR business is like this. You have guys pushing feminine products and girls pushing men's stuff they can have no idea how it works. Heck, I don't know where you work, but it might be instructive to find out how much your marketing guy actually knows about your products. Considering what ours tried to do while I was gone, I can tell you it's probably very little.

It's a process of education, too. West Coast companies have been dealing with this idea since 2004, and have learned somewhat. The East Coast guys are just starting out with this concept. The staffs for the two shows (even for the bigwigs like Nintendo and Microsoft) are not the same. It'll take time for things to filter through.

Thanks, momgamer, for chiming in. Sounds like you're running a tight ship up there.

I'm not running it, thanks be to a gifting God. I have enough trouble in my own little bailiwick.

clover wrote:
momgamer wrote:

I have a question for the room. What else do you suggest be done? Do we have an ugly-test and ban anyone who doesn't look like the cast of Freaks and Geeks? Do we ban all females from the Expo hall staff?

If that's how it was handled, I don't think any changes need to be made at all. Something violated PAX's own rules, and it got dealt with accordingly. The ambiguity here was that we didn't know whether it had been or not, seeing as we're not privy to the info you have.

I don't think the question was ever "are attractive people allowed", or "are people with boobs allowed", it was whether they were only hired to display boobs, where that fell within the rules, and what the official response was. But I'm not the OP, so that's what I parsed from it.

I know PAX has been catching a lot of flack lately, but this doesn't seem to be a PAX dogpile.

I know you're not privy to it. They can't just announce it, either, without other side-effects. It's a tough line to find and hold and thank goodness it's not my job to make that call. Stuff like that tweet has a long half-life as it flutters around the aether, untethered to any other context info. You can't stop it, or even really blunt the curse.

It's just hard no matter what you choose to do. To quote Alan Shepherd, "Sometimes you just get a pooch that can't be screwed."

momgamer wrote:

I was taking to one of our PR guys about this and he pointed out that there's another factor in place here. There is a very high percentage of attractive people in the PR business, and PR people aren't necessarily familiar with the products they push regardless of gender or type of product. As far as looks go, it bears out in their own company. The site rep they had is an older but still gorgeous lady, with a handsome Asian guy and a smokin' hot Brazilian guy to help her. They're better than most in that they know this business and they're damned good.

Pure public relations is an image industry, so, yeah, a PR agency isn't going to hire someone who is ugly. It's the same reason a lot of pharmaceutical sales reps are attractive young women: there are a lot of men in media and no man hates having an attractive women talk to them. Yes, it's sexist as all hell, but it's also the difference between having an editor answer your email or return your phone call.

As an average looking bloke, I had to go the hard route, which was learning the market, my company's product, and what each media outlet was looking for.

momgamer wrote:

There's only so much you can do, though. The whole PR business is like this. You have guys pushing feminine products and girls pushing men's stuff they can have no idea how it works. Heck, I don't know where you work, but it might be instructive to find out how much your marketing guy actually knows about your products. Considering what ours tried to do while I was gone, I can tell you it's probably very little. ;)

My first PR agency job? Shilling Monistat for the Johnson & Johnson account. Nothing like being a 21-year-old dude and calling Cosmo's health editor to pitch a new yeast infection product... I still hear her laughter in my nightmares!

That being said, all of us marketing folks aren't idiots. I know more about the products I've marketed than the sales reps I've worked with. From my end it's actually the developers who are the biggest problem because they are so far removed from the customer and tend to get caught up the "oh, shiny" of new technology.

What's for sure is that very few technology companies have good product marketing--the folks that shape what should go into the product and can translate what the technology means to people who necessarily don't care about technology.

clover wrote:

That sounds like a task for the exhibiting company, not the event organizers.

Right, but that should be the expectation of the organizers from their registered participants. And, from momgamer's account, it sounds like the Pax organizers are doing well above average on that front.

momgamer wrote:

Heck, I don't know where you work, but it might be instructive to find out how much your marketing guy actually knows about your products. Considering what ours tried to do while I was gone, I can tell you it's probably very little. ;)

We actually just went through something like this. Our agency has to pass an accreditation process this year, which includes interviews with random employees, customers, and peers to see how our various services stack up to the core requirements and guidelines of our mission.

First time I'd heard about a lot of the stuff we're doing, but that's why they don't send me to the fancy retreats to advocate for us.

Nothing wrong with admiring someone aesthetically, even when I was a kid I knew I enjoyed looking at hot women, doesn't have to be exploitation or whatever, nobody's eyes explode...

Just cos one group does it for free (cosplayers) and the others are paid, I don't really get what's the difference. As long as the paid girls are clearly labeled as promoting something.

Actually it kind of bothers me that a game expo is the one that does this, I wonder if it's because of potential immaturity or what.

casual_alcoholic wrote:
Rezzy wrote:

Can I say that I am both proud and a little disappointed that this thread has existed this long without a single picture?

IMAGE(http://img146.imageshack.us/img146/8056/dukenukempax.jpg)

There ya go. For reference of course.

Oh, ok, exploitation of the guys, I guess

Mex wrote:

Oh, ok, exploitation of the guys, I guess

That's the girl I was talking to in line, the cool one. The other girl freaked out, she was like, "You have to do a normal one or we'll get in trouble." So they took another normal one, but my friend managed to take both shots. I thought it was funny.

clover wrote:

Part of the reason this is noteworthy at all is because PAX has traditionally had a very strong "no booth babes" policy.

...

So I wonder, then, what PA's definition of booth babe is and whether they intend to actually enforce their own rule... it was only one vendor, but if they were able to make a successful end run around this I highly doubt it will be a one-time thing.

This ^. I don't like the hypocrisy. I've been to a PAX that was relatively booth-babe free and then I went last year and thought that there were definitely booth babes and that the rules were being flaunted. As I said in the Dickwolves thread Jerry and Mike can actually turn down $$$ if they want. If they want to maintain the integrity of the convention as it was originally intended they don't need the money of companies who will walk away if they aren't allowed booth babes. Something tells me at this point PAX, being a business, isn't going to turn down that money.

By the way, can someone point me in the direction of a summation of the "Dickwolves presence". I wasn't there so this is the first I've heard of that.

H.P. Lovesauce wrote:

Thanks, momgamer, for chiming in. Sounds like you're running a tight ship up there. ;)

Hmm... I must go to an alternate reality PAX. My little brother at Pax West 2010 was commenting on the booth babes. He's their target audience. Kind of a dudebro. And he definitely considered there to be quite a few booth babes. I mention his opinion as he's never been to a trade show of any kind. So he was definitely going to the booths with booth babes and getting his picture taken. A lot. Maybe that's why I noticed it more.

DsGamer. What booth babes? Where? What company? I mentioned those GameCrush biddies myself, but they were dealt with and they weren't in the Expo Hall and didn't have a booth - they were roaming the public hall which we can't control much. That big one with all the escalators running up the middle is officially part of Freeway Park and we can't keep anyone out of it.

The ones I know of were there for other reasons, were knowledgeable about their game if not games in general, and kept to a certain level of decorum. There was nothing like a booth babe to me, but that may not be true of your brother.

If his definition of booth babe is basically any human female in a booth who may be physically attractive and not be rude to him, then yeah. There's a lot of them. In fact, with that definition there may be more of them.

I mentioned above that PR people tend to be pretty and they're not exactly shy. And they don't mind too much having their picture taken. The blonde running the EA booth, for example, was pretty enough even I wouldn't have kicked her out of bed for eating crackers and I know she took pictures with people but that's not why she was there. She was there because she's a jackbooted hardass about getting that ridiculous monstrosity of a booth setup and torn down on time and keeping it running smoothly in between.

Not all of them are PR. Two of the most gorgeous ones in there were backend systems devs from Turbine. One of the reasons a lot of companies send their female staff to PAX is because they don't have to be worried about being taken as mere eyecandy. It's slightly ironic, I guess.

Even being in a costume doesn't necessarily garantee a girl is what we call a booth babe. That goes for the Xblades chick and the gal in the Velvet Assasin outfit. Both were knowledgeable about the games, and that Velvet Assasin gal could and did hold her own against a Frag Doll.

They also might not have been staff of anyone. Those two incredible Bayonetta cosplays running around last PAXEast were civilian cosplayers not involved in any company in any way, and didn't even know each other. I can't remember any very pulchritudinous ones that were good enough they would have been mistaken for "working girls" at last Prime off the top of my head except maybe the Witch, but that may be because I'm still trying to Clorox away the image of the transvestite Chun Li and the transvestite Bridget from Guilty Gear we just had at East.

This brings us back to the question, how do we draw the line any harder? Women in the tech industry (and it's supporting fields) already run into enough of this kind of crap. Heck, just read any thread around here that involves Jade Raymond.

No one would ever assume I'm there because of what I look like but I have gotten crap when I walked the floor in civvies. And I know one gal who ended up in tears because of being harassed and she was an electrician trying to fix a problem in one of the booths. So do we start discriminating against them even harder just because they're pretty and someone might think they're just ornamental?

momgamer wrote:

The blonde running the EA booth, for example, was pretty enough even I wouldn't have kicked her out of bed

IMAGE(http://img13.imageshack.us/img13/8837/tumblrlbtd9dnh8v1qabsbo.gif)

I better leave this thread now

Certis wrote:

Especially given that you can't seem to be more specific, where momgamer has been.

Like names of companies I think have what could be considered booth babes? I admit I can't do that. I wasn't at PAX East 2011 and I didn't keep track of them in 2010 at PAX Prime or in 2007. That wasn't my job nor something I particularly cared about. I just noticed it. So I admit it's my recollection vs. her actually working for PAX is a mismatch. It appears it may be a mismatch I always lose unless I make it my personal mission to recount instances of booth babes.

....

Just took a quick spin through one of 3 albums of photos my bro took at PAX 2010. This one was where he was getting "booth babes" and cosplayers to do the robot. Only downloaded photos of people who actually worked booths. Left cosplayers out of this for obvious reasons. So I'm seeing Rift represented, Monday Night Combat, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Pink Gorilla Games, End of Nations, some random exhibitors with short shorts and "Play Me" t-shirts and some elves from a booth I don't recall exactly.

Anyway, that's just random photos I found in his gallery. Once again, I don't know what constitutes a booth babe and what constitutes a beautiful woman asked to dress up in geek boy fantasy and work an exhibitor's booth. I just know the line isn't as clean as everyone makes it out to be.

http:[email protected]/sets/72157626290040884/

Your opinion does count. But I don't know how to answer your perception. My entire post was a long list of the gray areas, and you're the one who is tarring everyone with a broad brush.

I'll add another one to the list. You mentioned that some of them said they didn't work for the company. That's because often PR people do not work directly for the company; they're contracted straight through the exhibition organization (Reed Exhibitions) as part of the expo hall exhibitor deal. So if you ask them, they can't say they work directly for Sony or whoever. It's not just PAX; when I was contracting for Microsoft and got sent to PDC, I had to say I worked for the contract agency and couldn't wear the official T-shirt. When I went back the next year it was as a Softie, in the right shirt and everything. They didn't send me for my pulchritude, thank goodness.

Thanks for the pictures. That helps the discussion a lot.

1 - don't recognize, but they look like civilians; would need to see badges, but I doubt either one has anything to do with the speech recognition booth behind them
2 - the GameCrush gals I discussed above who were forced to put on clothes and ended up ejected anyways
3 - don't recognize them; there were a couple sci-fi games
4 - head pr chick for the side-scrolling indie title that involves a cel shaded hot-pink kitty killing alien robots whose name I can't remember; staff for small companies often wear a lot of hats
5 - Xblades chick; I discussed her above
6 - last try by DNF to get school girls by; they were forced to put on t-shirts, and why DNF tried to follow the rules a little better with those skimpy sweaters this time (still wasn't good enough and now they're changing the rules so they can't be back at all)
7 - PR for either EA or Ubisoft (can't remember)
8 - sidekick to EA chick I refer to above
9 - don't know, but don't see anything really wrong with her outfit either; Looks like Triton headphones PR; wish her badge was switched around
10 - GameCrush gals again

As far as my perception goes, I would say only one person truly controls that, me.

However, the less blurry the line is, the less likely I'm going to perceive PAX is crossing it. Once again, though, I wasn't interested in calling PAX out so much as discussing what constitutes a booth babe and what doesn't. Because I agree that there is some reverse sexism potentially in telling a female gamer or a member of a company who is objectively good looking, that she can't promote the product by posing as a character from the game.

Like in the case of the woman from Rift or Monday Night Combat they're clearly representing characters. I'm not sure that's a bad thing. And I'm honestly not sure what the difference would be if suddenly a hunky Nathan Drake showed up. I find that interesting turf. I like that PAX has standards and I personally prefer that they play it safe on that issue. But whether or not it should bother us in the first place is a topic I think is worth talking about, because I don't think it's black and white, honestly. I have my opinion, but then I'm progressive enough to understand that if my wife or sister wanted to go dress up like a game character they liked or worked on who am I to say they can't?

Does that make sense? I'd actually like to debate the original topic. I don't know that I'm right. I just know my perception is that the line is blurry. Whether it should be blurry is a whole other story.