Borderlands 2’s “girlfriend mode” is sensationalism at its worst

Yesterday Eurogamer published an interview with Borderlands 2 lead designer John Hemingway. He wanted to talk about a new class in the game, dubbed the Mechromancer (awesome name by the way). The main objective with the Mechromander was to build a class that would be noob-friendly for people like your little brother, your parents, or perhaps even your girlfriend.

Here is the original quote from Hemingway:

The design team was looking at the concept art and thought, you know what, this is actually the cutest character we’ve ever had. I want to make, for the lack of a better term, the girlfriend skill tree. This is, I love Borderlands and I want to share it with someone, but they suck at first-person shooters. Can we make a skill tree that actually allows them to understand the game and to play the game? That’s what our attempt with the Best Friends Forever skill tree is.

Somehow that turned into a bit of sensational quoting and before the day was over the term “girlfriend mode” became a gaming blog staple, even though the quote never specifically said that to begin with. You can’t get away from using the term now to describe the situation, hell I’m going to use it in the title of this article.

The real issue, as pointed out very well by Colin Moriarty, is that many sites are quick to pick up and sensationalize at the drop of a hat.  Hey, I’m not going to lie, sensationalism gets the views and I’m even tempted to write about it myself. But in the case of inferring that the term “girlfriend mode” was sexist and wrong and deeming and whatever else is pretty ridiculous.

Here we have a guy making Borderlands 2, a game we all will surely love and I’m sure he loves equally, who wants to talk about the game as much as we want to listen. He even states “for lack of a better term”, which implies that if he had a better term he would probably say it, it was just the first thing that came to his mind.

I guess all I’m trying to say here is that Hemingway didn’t mean to get all “girls aren’t good at video games, so we made you a skill tree”, he just wanted to say that “those we want to play with the most, but suck at video games, here is a skill tree for you!”

So, I’m no longer going to rush out to the defense of Hemingway or anyone else at Gearbox, but all I have to say is always be careful what you say on the record and don’t immediately backpedal when somebody presses you about something. Those of us who are sane and can see what you meant to say are still around, so make sure to get the right message out before the wild sensationalism spreads.


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About Ryan Saul

Hailing from Portland, OR I work by day and blog by night. I like to consider myself a video game connoisseur, playing as many new things as I can get my hands on. Its hard to hold me down to one game for very long before I move on to the next big thing. Luckily, that works pretty well in terms of video game blogging.

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