Nothing a games-publisher does says “We have no respect whatsoever for our customers” than booth-babes – except perhaps the EA Sports division.

I know, some of you EA marketing folks are among the regular readers here, and I’m not tarring you all with the same brush, but you might want to hide under your desks for a few minutes, because I’m going to speak very plainly.

Game-killing bugs, bad design, games that cannot be played through to the end, games that should never have been released in the state that they are, and cheapass movie license trash. Those are all staples of the industry, unfortunately.

Booth-babes though, as a marketing gimmick, are just insulting. I’ve got nothing at all against the women who do the work. It’s a job like any other – and not an easy job by any means – and people are paying for it.

But really, the whole notion that they have to be there is an insult to gamers, and to game journos – whether or not that insult is actually warranted.

We’re not sure who, exactly, the upcoming Electronic Arts game, Dante’s Inferno got sent to for marketing, but so far the whole thing has been what Bill Harris would call “a towering mound of asshead.”

At E3, EA got a bunch of people posing as a concerned Christian group to hand out leaflets decrying the game. Leaflets containing at least one classic Christian heresy, and istockphoto watermarks on the images.

Yes, not content with making a mockery of Christian groups with heretical text, they also portrayed them as copyright infringers. There’s all sorts of things wrong with that.

So, then we have EA’s “Night of Lust” competition, which in theory was a photo competition with booth-babes, but labelled “Commit acts of lust.”

The Night of Lust competition

Because putting one foot in your mouth just isn’t enough.

One woman who has worked as (among other things) a booth-babe had this to say:

[A] con does not suddenly suspend personal rights for anyone with breasts. Gals who go there to dress up and have a good time get sexually harassed, NEVERMIND the “booth babes” who “signed up for it” and then have their employer put them out for a contest.

Those of you using the “they can walk away” excuse please go back to the playbook for “she was asking for it” and figure out how you’re being a sexist asshole. A job–even one based on someone’s looks–DOES NOT EXCUSE OTHER PEOPLE of CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR.

Have any of you BEEN a “booth babe”? No? Then STFU. Myself, I’ve been a “booth babe” at many comic, scifi and anime cons for the last several yrs. I was also the training manager for ALL employees, running the booths and overseeing the product of two major companies. I also happen to be attractive and enjoy wearing costumes. I have a four-yr degree and my day-job is in the comic industry. But I guess I’m ASKING to be groped because I’m one step up from a hooker, right? Even if I WAS a f****** hooker, that gives no one the right. I can walk around in a thong and pasties and it’s nobody’s license to touch.

As for those that think the “fine print” settles everything, you’re sadly wrong. I just worked a con last week where about 2-in-3 people would come stand directly under a large sign and STILL ask me the question answered on it. People don’t read. You’d be lucky if they read the whole ad, let alone some fine print bullshit.

Then there’s the girls. The brass BALLS on EA to put a bounty on OTHER booth girls. Hell, girls in general. After all, how does someone know who other booth girls are? At one SDCC I was trying to have a conversation with my editor off on the fringe of a booth, not wearing any “booth babe” identifiers–just being a girl in a costume–and we kept getting harassed by people who thought I was one of the booth’s “babes.”

Lastly, you guys think that people offended by this are over-reacting because SANE people at a con would never do something criminal? Spoken like someone who’s not female and dressed up at a con. Last week I had some moron ACTUALLY STALK one of my new girls. Kept coming back to the booth even after she told him she wouldn’t hang out. He kept getting more insistent that she hang out with him and give him her phone number. Kept telling her he’d come back when she asked him not to. Tried to FOLLOW HER. Yah, that’s obviously not dangerous AT ALL. I’ve had my own issues over the years, including stalkers, men trying to take invasive photos, or grabbing things they shouldn’t. I have at least a couple of guys a con who cross the line. Please don’t downplay the seriousness of a situation that you know NOTHING ABOUT.

Why aren’t you guys pissed that EA thinks gamers or con-goers are all socially-inept virgins anyway? Way to piss on ALL of your gaming audience.

We all know where this sort of thing ends up... Electronic Arts has apologized. That’s … great.

Apparently it means nothing though, because they also apologized for the last demeaning, disparaging stunt (the fake Christian protest). Talk is cheap.

I can only assume that whoever was responsible for these two stunts is cheerfully giggling away and working on the next demeaning stunt.

6 thoughts on “Booth-babes”

  1. I’ve had many men come up to me over the years, confused why women don’t get ‘into’ IT stuff or gaming stuff.

    This sort of thing really IS part of the reason. People have a limited tolerance for insult, and an even more limited tolerance for personal risk.

    Before I continue: I am well aware that the bad behaviour is limited. Few or no mature, sensible, reasonable geeks and gamers do this stuff. It’s usually those who are on the fringe of the industry, or the very small percentage who are either genuinely misogynistic, or general assholes to everyone.

    But frankly, that’s enough!

    And it really DOESN’T help that the majority of the mature, sensible, reasonable geeks often don’t believe us. We can’t even complain without being told we’re oversensitive or hysterical!

    Some women do get chased off before even starting. Some get into it for a while, but get exasperated and wander off into a different industry (sometimes related, sometimes not).

    Some get into the industry, stay, but become hypersensitive to it and get reputations as ‘dragon-ladies’. Or ‘feminazis’, or ‘man-haters’.

    A very few get into the industry, stay, and learn to handle it with grace and poise. My hat is off to those women.

    And yes, I have met a few women who have been in the industry for an extended period of time (five or ten years) without encountering this misbehaviour. But in my experience, that is very, very rare.

    So … please believe us. Please try to support us. And when you see a person treating women as public-breasts (or otherwise being an asshole), tell them off.

  2. God damn it. What horny, drunken frat-boy marketing intern came up with that idea, and why didn’t anyone sane object (or why weren’t the objections listened to)? “Commit an act of lust” is practically an invitation to sexually harrass — or even assault — women. And the prize for the best (read: most extreme) photograph? A night with two strippers! Yes, let’s encourage and entice all the sleazeballs to take their behavior to new extremes.

    I wonder what other brilliant ideas they came up with? Maybe, “Commit an act of wrath! Take a picture of yourself assaulting a gay/black/Jew/foreigner, then find another one and repeat for more chances to win!” … What could go wrong?

    It’s a shame Dante never described a special circle of hell for douchebags who make it in marketing. Perhaps they could be forced to play crappy EA games for all eternity while ugly, smelly, socially awkward demons grope and try to kiss them, all the while being bombarded with ads that demean them and insult them.

  3. The only clue on who worked on the campaign was the whois on, the site that hosted the contest rules (which is now down), which showed it was registered to a David Mikula of Portland, Ore.

    A Portland David Mikula on LinkedIn ( is a freelance art director, with current work for Wieden + Kennedy; EA is one of their clients.

    No hard link, but a lot of connections.

  4. the thing is, if the current booth babes go on a strike, they will probably just hire sluttier booth babes to fill their places…

  5. Babe Booth only tells me one thing about their promotional game/product in unspoken words… that they actually sucks, not worthy of my time.

    But what you know… I don’t go to cons.

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