Monday, August 13, 2012

Random Shots: Girlfriend Mode

  • Guess what? I've acually played some MMOs over the last few days. I even want to write about them. But no, I'm here writing about sexism again. Because that never gets old. Nevertheless...

  • So what's the story? Gearbox gave a studio tour to Eurogamer (and other media outlets, presumably) to talk about Borderlands 2, and the pre-order bonus class, the Mechromancer. During the interview, designer John Hemingway referred to the character's Best Friends Forever skill tree as "girlfriend mode". Since the article broke, Gearbox president Randy Pitchford went on the attack, but that didn't do much more than fan the flames.

  • I am a little reticent to blast this man with the full force of the Internet Hate Machine for a comment made out of turn. I really wish there was more context for the two word quoted that freaked everyone out. But considering that author Wesley Yin-Poole has always come across as a straight shooter, I doubt that illumination would paint the phrase in any better light. Because even if he didn't mean it a deragatory way, that's where he ended up at the end of the day.

  • Folks, we can't use language that implies an entire gender (or race, or sexual orientation, et al.) is somehow lesser just because of how they are born. It is demeaning to them and it is demeaning to us because we perpetuate this stupidity. I would love if my wife or daughter saw me playing this and wanted to join in. How belittled would they feel if I put the game on "girlfriend mode" for them. Sure, that's not what they call it in the game, but it's out there now. They can't take it back.

  • I would much rather be playing Borderlands 2 than writing about it. I've actually stopped reading anything because I want to go in fresh. This isn't going to keep me from buying and playing the game. But I really hope that Gearbox owns up, says it will do better, and really does so.

  • P.S. If you are curious about how to stamp out sexism, take a look over here. Someone is doing it right.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. To be honest, I think this whole thing is so dumb that it hardly deserves the rage it has drawn. As in what he said was dumb, and the fact that he said it was dumb. I agree wholly with one of my friends who said it best when she stated that his comment was likely not malicious, but he really should have known better. After all the awareness that has been raised lately, how can someone still be so clueless as to blurt out things like that? I can only shake my head in exasperation.

    1. Everything does feel a little out of proportion. However, we have to call this stuff out when we see it. That's the only way they'll know they need to do better.

  2. I agree, MMOGC. This whole thing is silly. Was it sexist? Sure. I understand some people being offended, but it doesn't deserve the rage. For years, gaming was primarily driven by young men. It is only within the last decade or so that the voice and role of the female gamer has gained notoriety. In that context, imagining a young guy trying to get his girlfriend into a violent shooting game and her being a bit out of her element isnt so crazy. The statement is risqué I guess. But using a historical context, it's not nearly so bad as people are making it seem.

    1. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt, but we can't use history as an excuse for screwing up. Hopefully Gearbox will learn something here.