The use of paid models to advertise inside of conventions—better known as hiring booth babes—has been contentious for many years. E3 is chock full of hired promotional models; PAX (and PAX East) ban the practice.
The Eurogamer Expo, which takes place in London every autumn and attracts roughly 50,000 visitors, is now following PAX's lead. Eurogamer head Rupert Loman explained the ban, which begins with the 2013 Expo, on the site's forums today.
Loman described the origins of the Expo, and said "We want the games to do the talking and we want to present games and gamers in the best possible light." The Expo, he explained, has always had an informal stance discouraging exhibitors from hiring booth babes, but after this year—where three companies ignored the guideline—it's becoming an explicit rule. "Of course, exhibitors need to bring staff to the show," Loman acknowledged, "but they should be interesting, cool and exciting (Master Chief was /amazing/!) and knowledgeable (developers and publisher staff) rather than pretty girls in revealing outfits just for the sake of it. We want the show to be friendly, and all 50,000 attendees to feel comfortable."
The companies who disregarded the guideline and brought promotional models with them this year were reassigned to the 18+ area of the convention floor. Next year, the policy will be a blanket, "Booth babes are Not OK."
In another post on the site, columnist Rab Florence added that, "it's important in life to look not only at what things are, but also at what they do and what they mean," and highlighted that from his point of view, "women's place at any tech-related event can only be as an attractive decoration to sweeten the event for the men. It says that women aren't truly welcome in that world, because the moment you objectify something it isn't part of anything. It's just there. It's just something else to be consumed. Fundamentally, it depicts a woman as a product."
The same old arguments come up every time any talk about conventions, models, and the combination of the two does. It's not just about seeing women in revealing clothes, and banning the practice isn't some kind of ultra-conservative censorship. Companies who hire models solely to attract visitors to their booths, without involving those workers in any other capacity of design or sales, are sending negative messages to nearly everyone. They're telling men that the product doesn't matter, only the pretty ladies do. They're telling women that their presence as consumers—their time and money—aren't wanted. And they continue to perpetuate a stereotype that can do real damage to the perception of women working in the games industry.
By having (and using) an age-gated, 18+ zone at the convention, and by banning exhibitors from using booth babes, Eurogamer is taking positive steps toward making their event more welcoming and accessible not just for one narrow slice of the population, but for the entire wide diversity of people who play games.
Booth Babes and the Expo [Eurogamer]
Lost Humanity 15: Booth Babes [Eurogamer]
(Top photo: Eurogamer blog)