Inside Gaming Culture: Should Booth Babes and Cosplay Leave Gaming Events? (Op-Ed)

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Written by Dustin Murphy

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G4TV Booth Babes. This photo is property of G4TV and is copyrighted by them.

You may have heard that not to long ago PAX has decided to limit the use of what we know as “Booth Babes”, but why does this really matter? First off, lets take a bit of a look as I’ll be breaking this one entry discussion into a rather lengthy and broken up article for some of you. So lets start there before we get underway.


/-/ What the Hell is a Booth Babe? /-/

So what exactly is a booth babe? Ever been to a convention where you will see women who wear next to nothing or are rather appealing eye candy, but seem to know nothing about a product, which still happens just to lure you in? What about those men that look like a walking ‘hunk’ that just poses all day, but says nothing or very little? Well there’s your booth babe. These ladies are used to dress up as scantily clad (sometimes not-so-much) to represent a product such as game, gaming peripheral, clothing product, or simply just to sponsor the company by dressing up as a character from their game, movie, anime/manga, or simply something that has to due with their product.

These women are what draws many young men in, helps the product they are selling – sale, and even brings in more customers for that company.


/-/ So What Started This? /-/

Jessica_Nigri_Lollipop_ChainsawCosplay

Jessica Nigri’s original costume on Friday (Left) and the one she was asked to change out of (Right). Photo was originally posted on her Twitter account.

The answer to this question isn’t all that clear. With many things coming around to the common denominator being that booth babes were trying to draw attention to a product they didn’t know, were wearing too little in the means of clothing, and just seemed to be bothersome; it was clear what was going to happen – they would be banned altogether unless the following was done: Wear appropriate attire (meaning it must properly represent their character), know the product (at least something about it) and sponsor the product in a way that seemed reasonable. So what truly started this? Complaints at PAX and a poll that PAX did on their website. Yes you read that right, attendees caused the want for more control regarding booth babes.

I know you are properly asking why this even needs to happen, why it has happened, and if someone has actually been kicked out or asked to leave unless a change was made. Well, unfortunately it has, and many of you actually know one of the big-time cosplayers that it happened to. Originally reported by Kotaku back in 2012 (you can read the article here), Jessica Nigri, who is well known for her designs, cosplay, and approach to what she does, was asked to leave the floor, dress in a more appropriate attire, or she couldn’t return. This was actually confirmed by Robert Khoo who is  the president of business development for Penny Arcade. So why was she asked to remove? Below we have used the pictures in which were posted to Nigri’s twitter to show what she had been wearing, but was her asking to fix/alter or change really a big deal?

From the evidence that has actually been shown by Kotaku and even Destructoid, it’s a bit dumbfounding as to why Jessica Nigri would have been asked to leave, but we know one thing is certain – there is more to it than just that. After having dug around Jessica had changed back into her costume she had worn the night before (a Friday), but was soon asked once more to alter the costume or stay on the bus, which then resulted into her once more changing her outfit into a costume that seemed.. Well to not match the character she represented all that much.

After digging around it comes out that Jessica, the folks at WB, and even PAX are cool with each other and understand that PAX, now alongside E3 has a strict “not booth babe” policy, which requires the people at the booth to understand and have knowledge about the product they are trying to help sale. After this event, PAX once more decided to reaffirm the policy (2010) to see how the fans felt about this. The surprise? 66% out of over six thousand people stated that they wanted models that weren’t just in skimpy clothes trying to hawk products like they do at other events. Instead they wanted models that were family friendly, ones that represented a product to its core, and even offered knowledge of what they are promoting. Something that is completely understandable and even can be approached with a heavy understanding for what they are doing.

So what exactly does the PAX policy state? Lets take a look real quick at the official statement on their policies page.

“PAX has a strict ‘no booth babe’ policy with the purpose of creating an environment where everyone can feel comfortable and welcome, and the focus is on games, not hired booth staff.

Booth babes are defined as staff of ANY gender used by exhibitors to promote their products at PAX by using overtly sexual or suggestive methods. Partial nudity, the aggressive display of cleave and the navel, and shorts/skirts higher than 4’’ above the knee are not allowed. If for any reason any exhibit and/or its contents are deemed objectionable to PAX management, the exhibitor will be asked to alter the attire of its staff.

Cosplayed characters that are playable in-game are an exception to this rule (within reason), and exhibitors must obtain permission from show management prior to the show.

If for any reason an exhibit and/or its contents are deemed objectionable to PAX management, the exhibitor will be asked to alter the attire of its staff or remove those staff from the show.”

So why does PAX enforce these rules as they do? To understand it, it comes down to a common sensus that con-goers want people who represent a product, know about it, and can help them understand WHY they should want it, which is something that is completely understandable. Even having after been to a couple of conventions before becoming a writer, I often found myself confused, wondering where to go, and how to go about it due to the fact booth babes seemed to be everywhere, and knew little to nothing about what I was looking at. Granted they were eye candy for who passed by, but it still lead to a common issue; they were literally just eye candy.


/-/ So Why the Restrictions /-/

Jessica_Merizan_Holly_Conrad_Cosplay1

Jessica Merizan (left) and Holy Conrad (right) displaying their Mass Effect Cosplay as seen on Heroes of Cosplay.

When attending a convention, attendees are going for a few things; games, pictures, and well the swag – that’s undeniable. Most of this leads to several things that can be stockpiled into a summary; they want to know about what they are seeing. When attending a convention whether I’m reporting on it or simply wanting to learn about the product from mild curiosity, it isn’t uncommon to ask questions regarding the item I was looking at. My first experience with a convention as a reporter where I attended QuakeCon 2014. Thanks to this experience I got a feel of what a small convention (the crowds were not small at all) would feel like were it to get even bigger (trust me, QuakeCon is going to keep getting bigger). What I noticed there was pure knowledge by the people I approached in the video games area or even the table top area. There I was able to ask questions about games such as The Elder Scrolls Online, Dying Light, Wrack, Super Fun Time,The Evil Within, Battlecry, Defense Grid 2, Warframe (even though I knew about it), and the ever-growing fan favorite PayDay 2. There I was able to try each of these games out while getting hands-on with things such as Gunnar’s (if you need some gaming glasses, definitely check out Gunnar Optics), Bawls Gurana (never tried it? Grab the cherry flavor if you find it), Nvidia’s Shield Controller (android powered and played Borderlands 2 and Titanfall like a champ), and even sit down and enjoy a little bit of Magic the Gathering in the down time.

What made these booths work, however, is the fact their help was not hired hands. Instead the men and women working at the event knew their product and even were trained to understand it. This meant that booth babes and or some form of eye catching medium were not needed. It was the simple appeal of their stand that got showgoers to walk up, enjoy the booth, and learn about the product. It’s because of restrictions such as this, that shows like PAX have become more noticeable, and allow fans to have a better interaction with the games that they are anticipating or have already experienced and simply just want to enjoy them. Because of this, it was easy for show-goers to take their time in order to participate and enjoy what they were looking at. This is why many of the restrictions that PAX has put into place has become effective and allows attendee’s of all ages to make an appearance in order to enjoy the things they were looking at and even interact a bit more with direct sponsors from those companies.

With an even thinner ice to walk on, Cosplay as well as Booth Babes go hand-in-hand. Booth babes, as stated earlier, are used as a tool to lure people over to booths; whether the booth personnel is male or female, the idea is there that they are a “booth babe”. With these cosplayers, it’s not hard to find what game they are sponsoring and why their role is important to the set piece a company has put into place. Just look at Borderlands 2’s diehard fan Chloe Dykstra who managed to pull off a rather well done Gaige Cosplay. Thanks to her knowledge about the game, her fandom of it, and even her capability to appear as her favored character, it’s not hard to see why knowledgable booth babes and cosplay could go hand-in-hand and even offer a bit of a helping and even bring forth consumer awareness about the products. It’s tactics like this that E3 should embrace, but also events in order to make cons a family friendly event, and even embrace the ideology that booth babes as well as cosplay can work in a rather helpful as well as informative manner.


/-/ Should Cosplay be Banned Altogether? /-/

Jessica_Nigri_Lollipop_ChainsawCosplay02

Jessica Nigri after she changed from her PAX costumes posted above. Credit is to Kotaku and Jessica’s Twitter.

This is a sticky situation and one that has been appearing on a lot of cosplay communities since the Cosplayers that go do feel that their craft is being threatened. In many ways, it is, and this is because of several things that have collided. While it’s not necessarily PAX’s fault or any game convention for that matter, it’s the scrutiny the public eye has turned to look upon the conventions, and even them stating that they are ongoers and that they prefer to have a family friendly environment where they can feel safe, happy, and not exposed to what they may see and that they may or may not agree with. But the question remains – what could this lead to if it impacts the cosplay community for Comic Con and other conventions? 

At this point, it is hard to say exactly how it will land if it does on the Comic Con community as well as the anime-con communities. At this time? It seems safe to say that those will go unchanged and will remain untouched. The answer to this is quite simple – no, cosplay should not be banned altogether. Instead it should come down between the event staff who can decide and not decide what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. It comes down to it, cosplay itself is an art, one that takes time, integrity, dedication, and a steady hand.

Just remember; even if you cosplay there are others that will see it, there are rules, there are guidelines that dictate what is and what is not acceptable, but don’t let it get to a point where it is purely censored, instead enjoy what is there, take it in, but keep it friendly enough for everyone else that is around so that they can enjoy what is going on around them.


/-/ Closing Thoughts /-/

As a person who appreciates arts such as cosplay, fan art, written formats, and even music – it’s hard to not enjoy such things. As well all know though, every format of art whether its in person or not comes with time and dedication to make it happen. In this case cosplay is the target that is being monitored closely by conventions such as PAX and E3, which could possibly set a trend through the entire gaming community as a whole, but could easily also find itself hitting the anime conventions based upon the communities responses.

 Like the PAX ordeal, they had openly asked fans as well as attendees what their take on the whole convention was, and they even had a poll where people could answer and got a rather large as well as overwhelming response from the community as a whole.

With my closing thoughts, I want to turn the attention over to you. What is your thoughts on cosplay regulation, restrictions, as well as requirement for simple knowledge of the product a cosplayer or booth babe is representing? Does it seem like something that needs done or has PAX as well as other gaming conventions overstepped their boundaries?


About the Writer:

DustinBATGRPhoto1Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, MMO’s, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable and can’t be softened by even the biggest names in the gaming industry. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. To follow Dustin, hit him up on Twitter over at @GamingAnomaly, find him on his Google+. Wanna game with him? You can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.

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