You may have already noticed that the results are in for Penny Arcade’s survey on what PAX attendees do and don’t want in the exhibitor’s hall. I have to admit that I was a little surprised at the results.
Unlike many other gaming and electronics events, like E3 and CES, the Penny Arcade Expo has a ban on scantily-clad promotional modelsâ€”a.k.a., “booth babes,” women whose job is to attract the attention of the mostly-male attendees to a particular exhibitor. Penny Arcade decided to poll its audience online to get a sense of how readers feel about the policy. I’m not sure how many of the 6,000+ respondents are actually regular or intended PAX attendees, but it seems like as good a sample as you’re likely to get for this sort of thing.
Of those who responded, 20% “dislike” or “hate” the ban, 20% are “indifferent” to it, and the great majorityâ€”60%â€””like” or “love” the ban. Some additional key figures which Penny Arcade pledges to “formally message in our ‘booth babe’ policy”:
Sample Size = 6,313
Male/Female = 78%/22%
Rep needs to be trained/educated about the product (81%)
Anything that is considered â€œpartial nudityâ€ is banned (43%)
However, cosplayed characters are allowed to wear revealing outfits, assuming it is true to the source game (68%)
No messaging that specifically calls out body parts (47%)
worthy sentiment, and probably appreciated by the growing female gamer population. But seriously, how do you police something like this? Have Comic Book Guy quiz all the chicks with tight T-shirts? “No, I’m sorry. There was NO Mario Cloud Suit in Flip Flop Galaxy, World 2. Good DAY, sir!”
I found this comment hilarious, but I also think it sort of misses the point. I don’t think that Penny Arcade has to “police” this. I think the company is sending a message just by having the policy. Yes, there is some wiggle room in terms of the implied new rules regarding cosplay and product knowledge, but I think the spirit of the ban should be clear, and I have a hard time imagining that vendors will actively try to circumvent it and risk a backlash from an audience that is clearly mostly in opposition to this form of promotion.
What’s more, it’s worth noting again that the overwhelming majority of respondents on this survey happen to be men. I’d be curious to see the correlation between the gender of respondents and their answers, but that’s just the researcher in me talking. Even so, if every female respondent liked/loved the ban, and every respondent who disliked/hated the ban were male (which I highly doubt was the case, even before factoring in LGBT respondents), that would still mean that there are twice as many men who don’t want “booth babes” as there are men who do.
Think about that for a moment. Think back, for instance, to that article I linked the other day from Cracked, about 5 reasons it’s still not cool to admit you’re a gamer. Think about how much that piece focused on how the gaming industry tries to market to gamers as if we’re all sex-starved adolescent males.
This is not a safe assumption anymore, if it ever was. This is not just about appealing to a male audience vs. a female audience. This is about how people want to be marketed to, men and women alike.
Admittedly, a sample of Penny Arcade readers (or PAX attendees) may not be a representative sample of gamers at large, or even of “hardcore” or “hobbyist” video game players. Nevertheless, these kinds of results should give marketersâ€”and even game designersâ€”something to think about before assuming the quickest way to gamers’ hearts is through our pants.