More Than Meets the Eye
By Guest Blogger
Student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division
I have a job for you:
Stand in heels for ten hours in a noisy convention center while you try and grab the attention of every person walking by. They’re probably going to all be male. Half will want to talk to you while the other half will not. Either way, sell this product. You might not get a full half hour for lunch, and that will probably be your only break, but you can certainly keep the provocative outfit we’ve given you to wear. Oh and, one more thing, don’t forget to smile. The reason this other half won’t care enough to talk to you about this product is because they don’t think you know anything about it. To them, you’re just another girl who has been hired by this company to stand in front of their booth, look very attractive, and hand out t-shirts or blinking stress balls. And, actually, they’re right.
At its core, the “booth babe,” as she has come to be known, is a promotional model, hired by companies to attract clients/customers in order to gain sales, offer promotions, and educate the convention’s population about their product. More often than not, these girls know nothing about the product they’ve been hired to “promote.” They’ll admit this to you, then offer you a chance to win an iPad 2 or that car over there. While I know nothing about car shows, IT conferences, or many other conventions that are held each year, I do know about those events centered on the video gaming world. Why? I’m a promotional model for this industry.
I’d like to think that they’re all the same though, these mass conventions. Even the smaller promotional opportunities harbor the same need – to sell their product by someone who can hold your attention. If you want to attract potential customers or clients, who are mostly all male, an attractive female will almost always do just that. While it can be considered a stereotype, it is a fact that these companies hire promotional models for this very reason. And while I could divert into a novel, large blog rant, or thesis project that may argue whether this position objectifies women or not, there are already one thousand and one that do just that floating around out there.
I wandered into this controversial industry of promotional modeling only recently. After reading an article on a different kind of promotional model in a gaming magazine so sweetly delivered to me every month, I became curious. After further research, I nearly fell in love with the idea that my now agent built upon. It is true that the women I have the pleasure of working a gig with are hired as promotional models. The catch to this position, however, requires that these girls possess a vast knowledge of and experience with video games.
While I’m limited in what I can tell about the companies I have worked for, for confidentiality purposes, it has been proven that hiring us for any promotional gaming needs will enable you to be a bit more successful than that other booth over there. Why? Because we know what we’re talking about. There are still some uncertainties to the controversial world of promotional models. We are often viewed as objects, props that have a single use in this role.
While I keep my opinion to myself, I’m still reminded at every event that we are all different, therefore we view the world and its people, male and female, differently. I have my own reasons for being there too.
I love to play video games. Ultimately, it was the passion for art and concept that drove me to enroll at the Art Institute in pursuit of a Game Art and Design degree. I am excited to be here, but I am also excited to share with others that I have had some amazing opportunities come my way already through my line of work and my persistence in the Game Art and Design program. I am an active member of our chapter of IGDA, helped create and host an event that featured the Lead In-Game Animator from God of War II and III, and have even done some background work on a feature film. Do I have an advantage? No more than anyone else does. In most ways, I prefer going to school online – although I am faceless, my name means more, in a way. I have accomplished these things not through my looks, but in my drive and dedication to this field. All of these things manifested through my own network connections, and those began through being a diligent student online and simply keeping in touch with the right people.
I began the journey into promotional modeling because it gets me that much closer to possibly working for a major game development studio. If you had a chance to get your foot in that door, I am willing to bet you’d take it as well. Mingling with the gaming gods is something that appealed to me. It just so happens that I am female. It would probably take me five more years just to have the means to get to these conventions myself if I were not promotional modeling. Even then, I’d be just another lone female waltzing around with stars in her eyes when she chanced to happen upon her favorite game’s Art Director and the booth they were at. By being front and center, I have the opportunity to talk with the masterminds behind some our favorite games.
Ideally, I’ll end up devoting my time and talents to a development studio as a Character Artist, Quest Designer, or by being on the Concept team. How will promotional modeling tie into these dreams? I’m sure that meeting and greeting gaming companies up close has some merit. In this way, I’m creating initial, professional relationships with heavyweight names. Perhaps I’ll have a demo reel with me at a show. And perhaps the right person will be wanting to see it since I’ve already established that I possess some knowledge of their product. Rubbing elbows with these gaming industry giants has to mean something when I arrive at that level, and I’m at that booth to find out exactly what that something is.