The Booth Babe Controversy

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The booth babe… A controversial figure in the ongoing Gaming Gender Wars. Or so we’re led to believe. Popping up “Whack-A-Mole” style at trade shows, expos and conferences, they’re just another piece of dangerous debris on the “Sexism in Gaming” minefield, triggering outrage whenever they appear.

The thing is, are these lithe ladies with their perfect smiles and enticing curves really still such a hot topic? The issue certainly isn’t that anyone believes these models represent video game-playing women.

Booth babes are simply pretty promo girls hired from a modelling agency or eventing company, no different from what you’d find fondling cellphones at any tech expo, draped over a perfectly polished BMW at a car show or, I dunno, punting a new flavour of ice tea at a mall forecourt. Booth babes are a relic from a previous era. When they’re around, I half expect Don Draper and co. to be spotted in the background, puffing away on a Marlboro. I can’t really Hulk out in righteous indignation at the presence of these young women who are being paid to stand around in tight-fitting clothing and attract gawkers (hopefully not gropers). The situation is quite lame, or sad, depending how you look at it.

More seriously though, I don’t think there’s any denying that the persistent presence of booth babes at high profile industry events still hammers home the stereotype of how gaming is a boys’ club. And that isn’t cool. Even if the “behind-the-scenes” trade side remains male-skewed like pretty much every tech field, year after year of studies reveals that when it comes to game-playing, the gender demographics of consumers are quite equally split. So you need to stop making women feel like they’re irrelevant at these events unless they’re flaunting their jiggly bits.

If you don’t believe that’s enough reason for booth babes – those perky little dinosaurs – to go, there’s also the argument that their presence is insulting to guys too. The persistence of booth babes implies that men are slaves to their hormones. And that’s evidently a false generalisation too. My proof? During this year’s E3 I read more tweets about guys rubbing their groins over game trailers than as a result of any chick roaming the convention hall. A joke I know, but it doesn’t change the fact I didn’t encounter a single comment about the latter in my stream. Apparently booth babes have become more of a distraction than an enticement for serious, industry-focused gaming males.

Right now it’s best for the booth babes to totter off into the sunset. But this doesn’t mean that you have to dump all the eye candy, colour and fun from the expos. My suggestion is to replace booth babes with some decent cosplayers – of BOTH sexes – who will actually bring some “performance” to the expo. Plus, like pretty much everyone else at the event, I expect their hearts are in gaming, which is a pretty important thing.

Last Updated: June 14, 2012

Noelle Adams

Sometime Tomb Raider. Full-time Pop Culture fanatic and Geekaissance Woman. Most often spotted outputting Pop Culture opinion pieces, writing fanfic and original genre fare, cosplaying and bringing the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu smackdown. Editor of the Comics and Toys section.

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