Booth Babes at PAX Australia: The Response From Penny Arcade

We know quite well by now that Penny Arcade and the organisers of every PAX event don’t look too happily on booth babes at their conventions. They’ve been questing for the removal of them entirely from events, using their own platform as a starting point. But occasionally, something slips by, and at PAX Australia, it happened at the World of Tanks booth.

World of Tanks had one of the biggest presences in the expo hall, its booth space including as many screens crammed in as possible, massive red carpets, and a full tank on display. It was already quite a spectacle. But there were booth babes as well, women in short, tight red dresses and military attire. Questions began to form on Twitter: ‘I thought PAX was against booth babes at their shows – what gives?’

In a media Q&A with Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, the founders of Penny Arcade, the question naturally sprang up, and the two were more than eager to let their feelings on the matter be known.

‘Yeah, I actually asked about that last night,’ Krahulik responded. ‘I was walking through the exhibition hall [on Saturday] and it was the first time I’d seen them – and in my head I definitely registered them as a booth babe. And so I asked…and apparently on Friday they were, it was worse, and so we asked them to put some clothes on, so what you saw yesterday was actually pretty good.’

Krahulik explained that event organisers asked the women to put on leggings. ‘I guess that helps.’

The two seemed disappointed that this had happened at their event, and talked about the difficulties they face dealing with exhibitors who don’t treat the issue as seriously as Penny Arcade does, event after event. ‘It’s such a part of shows,’ Krahulik said. ‘It’s so common that exhibitors don’t understand. A lot of times we’ll say “no booth babes!” and they’ll say “okay (Krahulik imitates them chuckling).” And then when they get here we’re like “hey, put some clothes on,” and they’re like “what?! I don’t understand”. It’s a constant thing that we have to work on.’

‘They think we don’t mean it,’ Holkins added, ‘and they’re wrong.’ He believed that exhibitors treat booth babes as part of a ‘checkbox’, a list of things and features to have when exhibiting at conventions. There’s an assumption that’s it’s become a requirement. But it isn’t necessary. ‘It’s like, motherfucker, you have a tank! That’s plenty. I don’t have to see a tank and a leg. I am perfectly satisfied with your awesome tank in terms of spectacle. That’ll do.’ And we’d certainly argue for the truth in that claim – a giant replica tank is more than enough to draw attention to your booth and your game.

Holkins sees the situation as an educational procress. ‘It’s something that we have to teach them, and we’ll continue to educate them. They have their own culture that they bring to shows, and we have to battle it every year, and we have to alter the rules every year. It’s the same old thing.’ So while booth babes continue to be an issue for Penny Arcade and PAX, Krahulik and Holkins aren’t ready to give up.

Did you see the World of Tanks booth babes? Did you find them inappropriate? Is a tank enough of a spectacle?

16 comments

  1. sarcasmfairy · · Reply

    Don’t forget the Sennheiser headphone cop booth babes. They didn’t even make sense

    1. Them too! PA only responded in regards to World of Tanks but I imagine they were aware of the Sennheiser gang as well.

  2. A former employee of mine was in charge of hiring and running the WoT booth babes

    1. Any inside scoop? 😛

      1. f4ction · · Reply

        Just that it was apparently very difficult to find booth babes that could be a combination of being attractive, smart and actual players of World of Tanks.

        1. cindelella · · Reply

          Any goss on why they didn’t feel like booth boys were necessary?

  3. Beavwa · · Reply

    The world of tanks ones weren’t the worst. Good to see they were aware of the problem at least, my first thought was that the standards for PAX were maybe different for their first international event.

  4. Not sure of the full story, but I saw the WoT ladies actually playing the game at one point. No idea if it was a case of “let’s make the booth babes play the game so we can laugh at them” or if they actually knew what they were doing.

    1. Would that change much for you? Don’t mean that in a judgemental way, mind! But curious if them being able to play these games changes your impression of them.

      1. shadowrize · · Reply

        Selling the game via people that have some sort of meaningful connection to it is such a better experience for me. I find it far, far more engaging.
        Simple example would be the Indie stuff at PAX (and usually in general). They’re always so passionate about their product that it ends up being a very positive experience whether you play the game or just learn about it.

  5. […] can catch the full post on that at the Potaku site, with more of the […]

  6. EmbraceThePing · · Reply

    I was definately not impressed by the booth babes. Nor with PA for allowing it.

    Funny how an anal probe “gun” will get your game banned for sexual violence so not even 18+ can play it but associating sex (booth babes) and violence (war game) at a promotion where under 16’s are supposed to be allowed is ok.

  7. The Wargaming girls were trained leading up to the event and know more than the average punter about the game. They were even part of contests where you had to beat a team of them who were commanded by a community player. So it wasn’t all hire a bimbo to plug the game. The girls imho were a great addition to what I saw being done at the WG booth, maybe the uniforms needed a tone down.
    And while we are at it lets remove any “sexy” cosplay from the cosplay events in future because we wouldn’t want to objectify real women trying to win a prize by dressing all sexy like a sexified game character who does what for a games image/retail value?…..

    1. Where’s the booth boys though? That’s my issue. I see that stand, I see girls in sexified army outfits and boys in comfy pants and t-shirts. This says to me “This stall is for boys, not for you.”
      I don’t mind using sexiness to sell something when combined with real knowledge about the game, but they should be less exclusive and have boys AND girls dressed up.

      1. About EEO, you may have a point, I will pass on your concerns and maybe the company will listen and in future we hopefully see eye candy for both sexes at other events. It would be interesting to see if the male models get approached as much as the female models did/would, as from my point of view the largest percentage of attendee’s were male.
        As for the males in comfy clothing, they for the most part were volunteers, on their own time not paid to do promotional work.

  8. […] ban in recent years to a moderated approach. I didn’t see World of Tanks’ booth before they were told to cover up, but I stayed away from Sennheiser’s booth despite typically digging their products, thanks […]

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