Confessions of a Casual Girl Gamer: Girlfriend Mode

No doubt, you’ve heard all about the hubbub surrounding the “girlfriend mode” comment made by Borderlands 2 Lead Designer John Hemingway.

Mechromancer concept art courtesy of EUROGAMER.net

The controversy stems from the design of a character referred to as the Mechromancer. Scheduled to launch about 60 days after Borderlands 2 is released, the Mechromancer isn’t totally finished, yet. However, she does have one of her three skill tree’s completed: Best Friends Forever.

And that’s where Hemingway got himself in trouble. He called it “the girlfriend skill tree” and later, “girlfriend mode.”

Here’s what Hemingway said to EUROGAMER.net:

“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.”

Inevitably, the Interwebz rose up in outrage, and Gearbox Software (the company behind Borderlands 2) President Randy Pitchford was quick to deny cries of sexism and the like.

He took to Twitter with a series of declarations to set the story straight.

“The future DLC Mechromancer class has a skill tree that makes it easier for less skilled coop partners (any gender!) to play and be useful.”

Look him up at @DuvalMagic  for the whole string.

So, how do I feel about all this?

First, let me say that I’m not the greatest at FPS. My husband displays a great deal of patience when I deign to play with him. I’m a button-masher by nature and don’t have the patience to set up a shot, sneak around, or even refrain from charging in yelling every gamer’s favorite catchphrase, “LEROY JENKINS!” (Seriously, I do that. My husband is a good man.)

Really, I gotta say that I don’t have a problem with the Best Friends Forever skill tree. And, truthfully, I’m not all that bothered by Hemingway calling it “girlfriend mode.”

From a public relations standpoint, it was rather stupid, granted. But, I know guys like Hemingway; he wasn’t trying to offend women. He was just trying to relate to his audience. He was catering to the guys he thought would be reading the story on EUROGAMER.net in the first place.

That being said, however, the Internet is a very swift judge and jury, and Hemingway’s casual comment has turned into a deeper clash about women and gaming as it relates to sexism on a larger scale. But, that’s a whole other column…

What do you think? Were Hemingway’s comments sexist? Will this hurt Borderlands 2?

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5 thoughts on “Confessions of a Casual Girl Gamer: Girlfriend Mode

  1. TJ Johnston says:

    I don’t think it will hurt Borderlands 2 (are you going to let me get it in September?).

    Also, we should probably play it together. Just saying.

  2. I think this vitriolic reaction is piggybacking on the frustration over gendered insults online and in games from designers and players. Were female gaming not a forum flashpoint, I don’t think we’d be seeing this reaction.

    But, this is the perspective of someone entirely on the outside looking in at the gaming world.

  3. It hasn’t changed anything for me. I’m still buying the game. 🙂

  4. […] AirborneDhampir: It hasn't changed anything for me. I'm still buying the game. 🙂 […]

  5. […] who can summon a floating death robot called “Deathtrap.” She is the root of the “girlfriend mode” controversy. She’ll be available for download […]

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