Borderlands 2′s Best Friends Forever Furore

By Alec Meer on August 13th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

You can't fight here, this is the war room

Here’s today’s scandal, then. The Mechromancer, a post-release DLC character for Borderlands 2 has been revealed, and one of her skill trees is aimed at making the game more accessible to people who don’t play shooters. Officially, this set of abilities is called ‘Best Friends Forever’, and includes skills such as missed shots having a chance to auto-ricochet into their intended targets – i.e. allowing some victory from imprecise aiming. That’s fine. That’s even quite a good idea for anyone who wants to play the game with someone who isn’t well-versed in such things. I quite want to play it with my Dad, in fact.

The trouble is that a dev at Gearbox unofficially dubbed it ‘the girlfriend mode’ when talking to Eurogamer, which is clearly all kinds of offensive and quickly caused online outrage – definitely justified were the skills truly called ‘girlfriend mode’ but rather less cut and dried if it turns out to be just one guy’s personal (and foolish) nickname for the real title of Best Friends Forever. Gearbox are claiming the drama stems from misinterpretation and sensationalism.

Gearboss Randy Pitchford’s already taken to Twitter to claim that “Borderlands 2 does NOT have a girlfriend mode. Anyone that says otherwise is misinformed or trying to stir up something that isn’t there”, and God only knows what’s happening behind the scenes. Or, indeed, what the truth behind this mini-scandal really is.

I sighed when I heard about this. I stared at the wall for a full four minutes. I tried to think of good reasons to simply not report this, but I knew none would ultimately fly. The combination of the mainstream games industry’s male-centric attitude and the internet’s tendency towards hair-trigger response means this kind of thing is only going to increase in frequency, and even if it’s enormously dispiriting I think it’s important to follow the growing pains of a medium that’s long been stuck in adolescence if we truly do want improvement.

The phrase ‘girlfriend mode’ and attendant implication that women are rubbish at games (as opposed to, if you want to go with the difficult-to-dispute angle that the majority of players of mainstream games are indeed male, many women simply not being interested in playing power fantasy stuff like BL2) is exceptionally obnoxious and lead designer John Hemingway clearly wasn’t watching his words carefully enough when talking to the press. This does have echoes of the recent Tomb Raider sexual assault scandal, wherein it became increasingly hard to establish through all the noise, finger-pointing and opinion columns what was actually intended by a certain scene in the game and what was just one developer mouthing off. Whichever the case, it didn’t look good and scrutiny at least was justified.

With much of the internet equally quick to react this, I can understand the frustration at the developer that it’s been interpreted as the skill tree now being widely called ‘girlfriend mode’ rather than its true name of Best Friends Forever, but I’d be surprised if it really was simply one designer plucking a contentious phrase out of thin air. I’d be willing to bet you one shiny British pound that is not the first time ‘girlfriend mode’ has been used, but for all I know Hemingway really did come up with it on the spot.

For a developer already associated with an arguably chauvinistic property (i.e. Duke Nukem Forever, and divisive elements such as its notorious bottom-spanking feature and making light of enforced impregnation) and prone to contentious media statements (e.g. calling accurate pre-announcement news of Borderlands 2′s existence “shoddy journalism“) this isn’t going to help one jot, and I can only imagine future press encounters will be very carefully controlled.

Randy Pitchford has gone on to claim to that “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.” Again, can’t really argue with that. Can argue with even the most casual assertion that it is aimed at one particular gender, because even if that does come from just one staffer at Gearbox rather than the entire studio he sure as hell shouldn’t be saying it in front of a microphone. Pitchford has professed ignorance of the ‘girlfriend mode’ handle until now, telling a Tweeter that “I didn’t know it was a nickname. It’s not even a thing – just a skill built from the idea of playing coop with noob friends.”

He’s continuing to argue that the Mechromancer’s skill tree is a ‘noob’ mode rather than a lady-specific mode and that reports of Hemingway’s “personal anecdote” are “just sensationalism” even as I type this, so you might want to keep an eye on what’s said. He’s just added that “There is no universe where Hemmingway is a sexist – all the women at Gearbox would beat his and anyone else’s ass.”

It almost certainly boils down to a poor choice of words – the resultant question is whether those words imply a broader issue or were just an unfortunate slip of the tongue. It’s likely that Gearbox will have more to say, and hopefully that will shed more light one way or another.

What a horrible mess, with missteps on both sides of the debate. And one that I suspect is far from over, as this snowball probably has more than enough inertia to keep rolling for a while yet. I do hesitate to contribute to the furore, but I am conscious troubling mentalities of this kind do prevail around the industry, whether or not this particular instance has been interpreted accurately.

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466 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Dunbine says:

    Maybe he isn’t suggesting that women aren’t good at video games.

    Maybe he is suggesting that women who are good at video games don’t have boyfriends! Ah-ha! And so this is aimed at the larger girls-who-don’t-play-games-but-DO-have-boyfriends market.

    Even more insulting!

  2. somnolentsurfer says:

    My guess: It’s always been known as “Girlfriend Mode” internally. Probably because it likely originated with a designer’s quite reasonable desire to play with his girlfriend. Obviously they realised they could never actually release it with that name, so they came up with something else. But then they shoved Hemingway out in front of a microphone, and rather than tell some nice little PR planned anecdote about how he can now play with his family on an evening, he splurged and went “Girlfriend mode, lol!”

    Whoops.

  3. CaLe says:

    Everyone’s a sensitive butterfly these days. I’m getting kinda sick of it.

  4. Slinkyboy says:

    Best Friends Forever? That had to be the second name they came up with after they called it “girlfriend mode”! That pisses me off. These guys are bunch of old scrubs.

  5. Tasloi says:

    “..the internet’s tendency towards hair-trigger response means this kind of thing is only going to increase in frequency..”

    Yup, post it among the first and you can gain instant internet fame or notoriety. Even when it’s not all that clear cut or warranted, their sense for blood makes them run with it anyway. Often times they’ll just spin it to suit their point. A recent John Scalzi piece on female cosplayers comes to mind. But there’s plenty more examples. Dispiriting indeed.

  6. end0rphine says:

    They could just call it xbox/ps3 controller aim mode.

  7. Alexrose says:

    Most of the population aren’t gamers.

    Most gamers are male.

    Therefore, most people who play Borderlands 2 will be male.

    Assuming a fair distribution of pair bonds, most male gamers who have girlfriends will have girlfriends who aren’t gamers, as most of the population aren’t gamers, and even those who are are mostly male.

    Therefore, it is a perfectly logical assumption that most people playing Borderlands 2 who have girlfriends will be male gamers with non-gamer girlfriends.

    There’s no hint there that being a non-gamer makes you inferior in any way, just someone not interested in games. And a non-gamer wouldn’t be as good at games as a gamer, and would need a handicap to keep up with a gamer.

    Where is the problem? Are you implying that all gamers have gamer girlfriends who are great at games too? Because that’s a ridiculous assumption; there aren’t enough girl gamers in the world to pair up with all the male gamers, and to assume that you have these gamer-gamer couples more often than gamer-non gamer couples is logically and statistically flawed.

    From a purely logical perspective, most girlfriends playing the game with their gamer boyfriend will be non gamers, and therefore be at a disadvantage, so having a “girlfriend mode”, NOTE: NOT A “GIRL” MODE, is an entirely fair statement, and to draw sexist connotations from that probably identifes that you are overly sensitive about the issue for some reason, to a point where you draw irrational conclusions contrary to what GCSE level statistics would tell you.

    If it were called “Girl mode” there would be a problem.

    And also, assuming that “bad at games” means “inferior as a person” is just plain vile.

    • Premium User Badge

      RaveTurned says:

      Points of information: According to this 2012 ESA report, 47% of gamers are female. and 49% of households own at least one games console. That’s before we get into those playing games on PCs.

      Granted that data is from the US, but it suggests that there at least a good chunk of the population are gamers, and a significant proportion of gamers are female.

      • NathanH says:

        That report doesn’t really distinguish between “gamers” and “people who play games” though, does it? My mother is a person who plays games, but is not a gamer.

      • Wang Tang says:

        So let’s get into more detail, because a “gamer” is as much a gamer as someone who does “sports” does sports.
        We are specifically talking about FPS here.
        I did not find any newer numbers than these, and they are UK only: http://open.bbc.co.uk/newmediaresearch/files/BBC_UK_Games_Research_2005.pdf

        And I would guess that they shifted somewhat from 2005. But they did show a rather large gap between male and female FPS gamers.

        • Premium User Badge

          RaveTurned says:

          So if I’m reading the (annoyingly laid out) figures correctly, your source states that of all people ages 11-65, the proportion of people who play FPS games is 45% of men, and 12% for women. That means the percentage split of male to female gamers in FPS is roughly 79% to 21%. Put another way, one in in five FPS gamers is female.

          Granted, that is a pretty large gap. Even so, one fifth of a studio’s potential audience is a prettty sizable chunk of people to marginalise.

      • Alexrose says:

        Play games =/= Gamer. Just because you have a Wii in your house doesn’t mean you play Borderlands.

        Let’s look at the sales of Borderlands 1 (i.e. the target market). 4.5 million units. That’s not even 10% of the population of England, let alone the rest of the world.

        Only 10 million people bought Skyrim. Let’s say only 10% of actual gamers in the USA and western Europe (because it won’t have as big a fanbase in Asia) bought Skyrim. That’s still 100 million gamers, and that’s a massively optimistic assumption. Just counting western Europe there’s and the USA there’s 0.7 billion people. So even massively overestimating the number of gamers from there, that’s only 14% of the population being gamers.

        And the majority of them are male. What the ESA survey shows is that 47% of people who PLAY GAMES are female, not 47% of GAMERS. They say the average age is 35. Come on! You know that data is completely inapplicable to Borderlands. There’s no way the mean age of Borderlands players is 35. But even using that data, females are still in the minority. It’s a fair assumption that the majority of Borderlands players are male.

        But that’s only relevant to the extent of whether they should name it girlfriend mode based on the demographics of their target audience, not whether it’s sexist. If you’ve already assumed that the gamer is male, then to assume that their girlfriend will be a non gamer when we’ve just seen that the maximum number of gamers is 14% of the population using massive overestimations is completely fair. The expectation is that 86% of those male players with girlfriends would have non gamer girlfriends (assuming fair distribution of pair bonds, again).

        So, using that data you could feasibly argue that it’s stupid for them to assume most of their fanbase is male (but that would be silly because the data is inapplicable), but it’d be illogical to argue that the statement was sexist.

    • Skabooga says:

      That someone does not play the same games as you do and in similar amounts is a poor excuse to try and split yourselves off into separate labelled groups of “gamers” and “non-gamers”. Like it or not, they are consuming the same form of media as you are; consequently, they have a claim on it as well. We should welcome everyone who wants to share in our hobbies, to whatever extent, and not try and find some artificial distinction with which we can feel superior.

      • Alexrose says:

        No, they’re not. That’s exactly my point. A non-gamer doesn’t buy Borderlands 2. They are not consuming the same media, they’re consuming Wii Sports. If Wii Sports had a “girlfriend mode” in, it might be different, but we’re talking about an FPS whose playerbase are >80% male and a small minority of the population (5 million people on the whole planet).

        Nor do they have as much skill in video games, because they don’t play them. Gamers who spend thousands of hours playing games are obviously going to be vastly more skilled than non-gamers, so a male gamer (who make up the vast majority of Borderlands’s playerbase according to the BBC survey someone posted above) with a non gamer girlfriend (statistically likely assuming he has a girlfriend since according to that survey above only 40% of the population play games regularly and only 40 percent of them buy ANY FPS games, and that includes the tonne of people who just play CoD (more people bought MW2 and MW3 on the first day of release in the US alone than who ever bought Borderlands in the entire world)) is going to be better than her at the game, since she doesn’t play games and he does, and that demographic constitutes the overwhelming majority of their playerbase!

        It never said ANYWHERE “Females can’t play games”, it just makes the valid point that MOST people who bought Borderlands were male and of those who have girlfriends, most of their girlfriends will be non-gamers who are probably no good at the game, not because women are inferior, but because they are part of the 86% (Or 96.8% if you take into account the male to female ratio of FPS gamers) OF THE POPULATION WHO DON’T PLAY FPS GAMES.

        And another thing. If female gamers make up 20% of the demographic of FPS gamers, and they are equally likely to be in a relationship with a gamer than a non-gamer, then 12.8% of the population (40% (percentage of the population who regularly play video games)*40% (percentage of those who play fps)*80% (percentage of those who are male)) are potential boyfriends who play games (being overoptimistic because all data I’ve used includes stuff like CoD players who have no interest in borderlands and make up the majority of FPS players), then that is 2.56% (0.2*0.128) of their playerbase that are likely to be gamer girls who have gamer boyfriends (assuming 100% of their female players have boyfriends!), and that’s already a huge overestimation! This statement wasn’t directed to that 2.56%, which due to the approximation that all people who ever play fps own borderlands and all female players have boyfriends, is more likely vanishingly smaller than 1%, it was aimed at the majority of people to whom this applies!

        • Brise Bonbons says:

          Here’s a question: Do you think that dissecting the numbers in the way you have helps more women and girls who want to play FPS games but don’t feel welcome, do so?

          Does a comment like “girlfriend mode”, in the context of an option specifically aimed at players who are not your core audience (be they parents or 3 year old children or women) do anything to make them feel more welcome in your game? Does it do anything to make them feel like they aren’t out of place or excluded from the club in some way? Hell, not only is such a comment reinforcing the idea that girls need help to play the game decently, you’re now associating males who just don’t like FPS games (say, RPG players) with girls in a derogatory fashion, since women are widely stereotyped as genetically inferior to men when it comes to shooting off digital faces (because aggression hunting and other discredited evopsych nonsense).

          It seems to me that the statistics you’re talking about are both results of, and factors leading to, the exclusion of curious women from enjoying these sorts of games. They are likely to be keenly aware that they are a minority, that they are looked down on (as illustrated by the “girlfriend mode” comment), that they are seen by some as biologically inferior at this task, and that socially it is more unconventional for them to play these games than men.

          I hope you can see how it might be problematic to use the very statistics that illustrate and amplify the pressures keeping women out, to then rationalize actions that further reinforce the status quo of women being excluded. Its like saying “well, we don’t have any women in this engineering program, so they must not be interested in engineering. And since they don’t like engineering, we have no reason to reach out and make them feel welcome”.

          EDIT: If anyone caught it, I changed my analogy to be more on topic. Hope that doesn’t bother anyone.

          • Alexrose says:

            It’s a perception in society that has to change, not game studios.

            There’s not going to be an incident where a girl is like “Well, time to boot up that copy of Borderlands 2 I just bought. Holy shit, they have a girlfriend mode? Well this is just unwelcoming, I’m going to stop playing games entirely”.

            Or even, “Oh, I wasn’t sure whether to get into games or not, so I went and looked at Eurogamer’s Borderlands 2 preview and I was shocked and appalled to see that they were assuming the majority of their playerbase is male. When it is.”

            If you want to make an issue out of not enough girls playing games, you need to start by getting more of them to play mainstream stuff, but stopping this perception that e.g. CoD, BF etc. are MAN’S GAMES where MEN fight to the death in battle with sharp reflexes so they can upgrade their rank.

            And a lot of the girls who actually try those games will be demeaned by 13 year old boys on Xbox Live. It’s not as if the developers of Borderlands are going to change that. By the point where a girl is buying Borderlands 2 and reading Eurogamer articles, she is already a gamer, she doesn’t need people to make her feel extra welcome just like you don’t need someone to pamper to you. She gets to play great games like you do and that’s her incentive, she doesn’t need white knighting.

            Hell, less than 14% of the army are female, so when the mainstream games are about stereotypically male roles, is it really surprising that girls are driven away from those games?

            I’m sure stuff like fantasy novels and science fiction TV shows and films have driven people to try computer games, but those are male dominated territories too. This is not a problem that Gearbox have to concern themselves with, or should be accused of contributing to at all. This a problem with society’s perception of gaming as a whole, and hopefully in a couple of generations the imbalance will stop. Gaming amongst older people (the parents of these potential female gamers. A tonne of modern gamers are gamers because their parents bought them games consoles and games) is still regarded as childish and stereotyped towards males. That isn’t the fault of one PR guy in making a fair comment in an interview directed at people who are already gaming enthusiasts.

            If one PR guy said something that was actually legitimately negative and offensive about.. I don’t know, your country, or race or gender or some demographic you were part of, there’s no way that would make you say “Right, I’m never gaming again”. This is a non-issue.

          • Skabooga says:

            I was talking more about the exclusionary, insular attitude of a segment of the game-playing population than I was about the gender issues at hand specifically. Of course, the two are part and parcel of each other, with the former contributing to the latter.

  8. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    It really only got me that he is quoted saying “for lack of a better term”. Because really, noob, newbie, newcomer, etc., would not suffice.

  9. Maldomel says:

    This is ridiculous. If you think about unskilled people you might play with, the girlfriend is one person you’ll think of. Poor choice of words from that dev, that’s fro sure, but no reason to make a scandal (I’m pretty sure many people, wether they be working at Gearbox or not thought about calling it that way).
    Oh, Internet, you sure like to go crazy for little things…

    Also, BFF is not a better name if you go that way, just a more acceptable one…

  10. Premium User Badge

    Cross says:

    I’m with Gearbox on this one. John Hemingway was obviously talking from a personal experience. Taking that and turning it into “All girls are bad at gaming”-statement is the kind of thing i’d expect PETA to do with animal sentiments, not gamers and especially not gaming journalists.

  11. StingingVelvet says:

    Invented scandal you mean.

    Most girlfriends are completely uninterested in games and/or suck at them. It’s one of the most accurate generalizations one could make, certainly more accurate than a ton used by the people acting pissed at this. And sexist? Jesus, brief stupidity maybe.

    This is the epitome of an invented drama on the internet.

    • Skabooga says:

      Most girlfriends are completely uninterested in games and/or suck at them. It’s one of the most accurate generalizations one could make

      These are the type of comments we take umbrage at. Likely untrue, but regardless it smacks of an exclusionary attitude.

  12. NathanH says:

    This seems fairly innocuous to me. I don’t think too much fuss should be made over innocuous stuff, Something along the lines of “A developer shouldn’t really say something like that, but let’s not overreact” seems a measured response.

  13. HisMastersVoice says:

    After browsing through the comments section here and elsewhere, I wonder how many people using the term misogyny know what it actually means.

    • abandonhope says:

      In its most heinous form misogyny is the assumption that women either don’t or can’t play video games.

      • Zelos says:

        I hope you’re being sarcastic because neither of those things is misogynistic. Potentially sexist, but definitely not misogynistic.

        • abandonhope says:

          I probably should have put in an “Evidently.” Quite sarcastic.

          I tend to think that the sexism in games topic actually showcases what a thoughtful and mature community RPS has, but I’m utterly sick of seeing it talked about for piddly issues such as this. Being gamers, most of us are going to have an opinion here, but I doubt many of us actively follow news stories concerning sexism of greater consequence–and I’m sure most of us wouldn’t take the time to engage one another in a 300+ comment discussion on one.

  14. Vando says:

    In all likelihood, this comment won’t be read, but I’ll weigh in nevertheless:

    First of all: I really like the idea behind this game mode. It’s a great way to make a game accessible to rookie players without cordoning them off behind a separate ‘easy mode’ barrier that might prevent them playing with their friends.

    However: the existence of the game mode itself is not the point of controversy. The problem is that a single – yet significant – member of the dev team has gone on the record describing this game mode in a way that reinforces a negative stereotype of a significant segment of the gaming community.

    It may seem easy to dismiss it as a throwaway comment, but this sort of casual stereotyping only reinforces itself if it goes unchallenged. There is absolutely no need to insinuate that this mode is ‘for girls’, and the only way to stop people making these ungrounded generalisations is to call them on it every single time until they stop.

    • Vando says:

      Also worth mentioning: to say ‘this is a common term’ does not make it ok. To say ‘everyone knows what the term is meaning’ does not make it ok.

      Is it possible to communicate the function of this game mode without the use of a disparaging stereotype? Yes. And this is all that the ‘knee jerk pitchfork mob’ want to see. I do not understand why this is a difficult concept to either grasp, or to then accept as a reasonable request.

      Give me one good reason why a person would need to refer to this as ‘girlfriend mode’ over and above any other term.

      • Siimon says:

        What term would you prefer? Noob mode? Nobody wants to be the noob, thats insulting. Beginner mode? That sounds like it’s going to smother you in helpful advice. (I’m not being sarcastic here, I just don’t really see the big deal here, my gf would be more insulted by noob mode than girlfrield mode – gf mode sounds cute and sociable and inclusive to her, altho I’m sure it sounds different to a gamer girl.)

        • Vando says:

          Ah, but the issue is not ‘what the name of the mode says about people who play this mode’, it’s ‘what the name of the mode is saying about women’. Yes, it’s essentially easy mode. If you feel shame about playing that mode: whatever. It’s not important. But labelling it as ‘for girls’ is insinuating that girls HAVE to play on easy mode for god knows whatever reason.

          • NathanH says:

            Its name has nothing to do with girls, though. The “problem” is something a developer said, probably without thinking too much about it, and what he said doesn’t imply that he thinks that girls are inferior at games either, you have to really search to get that inference from it.

            He said something offhand that was a bit ill-considered, and that’s about it.

          • Vando says:

            He said something that directly assigned a negative trait to a gender. How do you not see this is a problem? I agree that it doesn’t have to be a big deal: a simple ‘shit, good point, my bad’ is probably enough to reset the cultural influence-o-meter here.

          • NathanH says:

            It didn’t assign a negative trait to a gender. As I said, reading this as saying that women are somehow inferior at gaming is totally wrong. What he means is “partner-who-doesn’t-play-games mode”. What he’s saying is “girlfriend-who-doesn’t-play-games mode”, then shortened to “girlfriend mode” (this shortening isn’t an issue). It’s unfortunate and perhaps sexist to make this slip, but nothing more sinister.

            The meaning is clearly not “you can use this to play games with silly useless girls”, rather “you can use this to play with your girlfriend who doesn’t play games much, and I unfortunately forgot that plenty of girls play games so the “you” in question may in fact be a girl and so this sentence makes me look a bit silly.”

          • abandonhope says:

            Girlfriend is not a gender.

          • Skabooga says:

            Girlfriend is not a gender-neutral noun, sweetheart.

  15. Freud says:

    We live in a culture where people not only enjoy feeling like victims of some slight, they actively look for slights to be victimized by. Sadly, PC gamers seems to have this characteristic to a higher degree than most other groups of people.

    The guy expressed himself clumsily. It’s not the end of the world. Move on.

  16. Premium User Badge

    MajorManiac says:

    But what does the Mechromancer class actually do?

    I’m hoping its a kind of Overlord style class. I’d love to play that.

  17. Siimon says:

    I don’t think the developer did anything wron by saying (and I’m paraphrasing here) that ‘for lack of a better term, girlfriend mode’ is something that he wanted in the game.

    To me, “girlfriend mode” is a good way to describe something in a casual setting. Best Friends Forever doesn’t tell me anything about what it is, except that I at first glance disappointingly thought it was some meta/achievement stuff which I personally don’t find interesting.

    I for one am excited about this mode, and my (apart from Plants vs Zombies and maybe occasionally Zoo Tycoon) non-gamer girlfriend is as well. “Girlfriend mode” summarizes what this skill-tree/dlc thing is in a a great way.

    It is not called so in-game, which I can see being offensive, but it was one guy who said that he wanted a girlfriend mode, a personal anecdote and was not used in PR-media or anything. I want a girlfriend mode, and so does my girlfriend. I
    t wasn’t Duke Nukem-style offensive by being referred to as “B*tch mode” or something and has a completely innocent real name.

    Hey, internet, calm down a little yeah?

  18. Thomas says:

    You call it girlfriend mode, i call it console mode.

    • Serenegoose says:

      Could you imagine the outcry from the console gamers if it was called ‘console mode’ though? “We’re not bad at games! PC elitism!” But call it girlfriend mode and everyone should calm down, because of course girls are bad at games.

  19. loktar says:

    I am very sad to see how heavy handed the moderators have been in deleting comments simply because they don’t agree with them. I’ve seen many now gone that were not rude, or disrespectful in anyway. Its now hard for me to believe any article will not be heavily biased after seeing the type of moderation that has taken place in just the comments alone. This is a sad and terrible way to moderate any sort of discussion.

    With that said I believe the submit buttons text should be changed from Opinion Away.

    • Zelos says:

      RPS comments have always been like this on anything remotely controversial. Posts disagreeing with the writers will frequently be deleted even if they are reasonable and fair.

  20. torchedEARTH says:

    In situations like these I think it is useful to consider what the statement would make you feel like if the target audience was changed.

    For example, “Boyfriend mode” because boyfriends invariably cannot shoot straight and need help in shooting games.

    To me that sounds foolish and an ill advised thing to say.

  21. Mr Rud says:

    worst RPS article ever

    Will “gentlemen” understand that BS like this doesn’t help the “gaming femminism” cause at all ? There are a lot of battles and improvements to be done in this direction, arguing on possible implecations carried by semantics isn’t a part of them

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      Huh? Alec is just reporting that a ruckus has occurred over something a Gearbox develop said during an interview. His comment on it is actually fairly balanced. It certainly matches with my opinion that it was silly thing to say, but he doesn’t seem to be calling for resignations or boycotting the game.

      The fact that such measured article has caused such defensive responses from the “I’m not offended, so it must be fine” crowd is rather ridiculous.

    • CrookedLittleVein says:

      Nope. No. Not even even close. Not by a mile.

      Worst article ever? Possibly the review of NV.

  22. gulag says:

    Of course all of this outrage seems to stem from people who assume only male gamers can have girlfriends…

  23. zachforrest says:

    Eurogamer just made it a scandal. They know their message board is a bunch of self-righteous nutters. To quote Stewart Lee – ‘tediously politically correct’.

  24. aircool says:

    Girlfriend Mode.

    Sounds alright to me as, let’s be honest, that’s who it’s mainly aimed at.

    I mean, if they released a ‘boyfriend’ version of fifty shades of grey that was just photo’s, I wouldn’t take offence.

    I’m not sure what fifty shades of grey actually is. I presume it like Harry Potter or something if it’s popular with the laydees.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      Actually I would quite like a ‘boyfriend’ mode, because my boyfriend is crap at gaming. Are gay men like me allowed to play Borderlands 2 or is it just for straight men?

  25. aircool says:

    Whilst we’re all raging on equality issues, how about some colourblind and left-handed modes :)

  26. Friend says:

    I’m a little disappointed that this became a thing so blown out of context, not to mention a bit ashamed at the sheer volume of righteous ire it’s triggered on the journalism/commenter side of the fence. It was a thoughtless but ultimately innocuous statement from a single member of a development team during a single event– more importantly, it was also a statement made with the intent of describing the feature in question, not made to be an insult. As others have pointed out, were it to be referred to as “mom and dad mode” by the same person, I find it hard to believe that the outcry would have been any more than a smattering here and there. The quote is representative of nothing more than one person saying something silly and a bit regrettable in front of a microphone. That context has mostly disappeared in the fervor of responses surging forward to defend the integrity of the amorphous slighted woman, though.

    Putting the concept of Woman in Gaming on a pedestal that cannot be touched lest it shatters is hardly better than leaving it in a ditch of thinly veiled sexist sentiment; both are equally extreme, and equally condescending. An industry which gets as hung up on an unremarkable and incidental comment as on more serious and directed issues of representation is hardly an example of growing maturity.

  27. Laurentius says:

    I loved Borderlands, actually it’s my favourite fps but Gearbox has serious problems with sexsim, things like this and DNF can’t be absolved by saying that they are just being crude or clumsy.

  28. Elmar Bijlsma says:

    I’m still waiting for word of a “god mode”. As an atheist, I’m looking forward to being very offended, possibly even outraged. Or sumfink.

  29. Gusdor says:

    Newsflash – its fine and you are overreacting.

  30. benjamin says:

    Does anyone else think that’s it’s actually quite a funny joke?

    I do!

  31. Utgaardsloke says:

    Perhaps it is some sort of cultural divide in play here, but I don’t find the word “girlfriend mode” particularly offensive or sexist. You lot in RPS are a bit too hair-triggery on gender issues in gaming, like you want to white knight as often as you can.

  32. Thoric says:

    Here’s an exercise for you guys.

    1.Turn on a women’s show
    2. Wait for the “oooh men, they’re so useless without us right?” quip.
    3. Move on with your life without giving a shit
    4. Realize that’s what every female gamer did after this “scandal”.

    All I wanted was some Borderlands 2 info with a few puns thrown in, not this sensationalist crap.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      Yes, those poor men always being marginalised and objectified by the media. Society really does treat men unequally doesn’t it? I mean despite having higher salaries and social status and living an a phallo-centric society designed to make them dominant over women they really do have as much right to be angry at the way the media constantly treats them as objects for the pleasure of women.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        He said that women on TV might make some throw away comment about blokes, that male viewers wouldn’t even notice, let alone care about. He didn’t say the total opposite thing, that you think he did.

        • LionsPhil says:

          …did either of you make it to point 4?

          This isn’t “men get it too but aren’t sensitive pansies like them girlyfolk”.

          It’s “most people just let something this minor blow over regardless of gender”.

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            Phil, that’s the exact point I was making. You read into my typing “male viewers” as also meaning ‘female ones would do the opposite”. To clarify – I agree that a number of members of both genders are likely to react the same way – with indifference.

          • Eddy9000 says:

            Yeah, made it to point 4. The idea of a man saying with no evidence whatsoever that women probably just don’t care about marginalisation didn’t seem to challenge my point all that much.

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            Eddy – I agree that women are at a disadvantage in our society, from pay grades to assumptions about roles and status, beyond through to sexual violence. No one denied that here. Where we differ is on how much this gearbox fiasco is comparable to the more outstanding examples of prejudiced shittery. Don’t assume that just because someone hasn’t agreed with every point you made, that they are on the polar opposite side.

  33. LegacyMan says:

    How about a little role-reversal to highlight just how odd this is? I just put together a web comic on Borderlands 2 and ‘good friends’ http://www.legacysystem.ca/2012/08/13/andy-online-in-good-friends/

    • Hematite says:

      Haha, that’s actually really good.

      Edit: There seems to be an asterisk in the last panel, is it missing a footnote?

      Re-edit: oops, that probably would have been a spoiler for the comic.

      • LegacyMan says:

        Thanks Hematite–I really appreciate the feedback! And good catch on the footnote, I meant to put an asterisk in the blog post section to link back to this article

  34. Mordsung says:

    I’d say it more implies that the girlfriends of gamers are rubbish at games, not that girls are rubbish at games.

    I think the outrage is a little misplaced.

    While the statement could be considered gender insensitive, it kind of gets the point across of what the mode is meant for.

    It was a badly chosen word, not some symbol of systematic misogyny.

  35. SirKicksalot says:

    This is just as offensive as those “husband sucks at wife’s job” cleaning products ads.

    And Duke is a hedonist.

    • Anabasis says:

      Actually, yeah it is, because the underlying dynamic of those ads is that men suck at housework because it’s properly a woman’s job and the man should be out providing for his family and making important business decisions not doing the dishes.

  36. BanzaiAlpha says:

    @Brise Those are terrible stereotypes; we never know what Guild leaders are into these days.
    I just wonder if this’ll become Gearboxs’ bane from the community that also goes, ‘Evil sexist companies like EA!!!1!’

  37. jimbonbon says:

    Jeez. The fact that people are taking this so seriously is genuinely depressing. It was a misplaced comment, sure. But that’s it, nothing more.

    Nobody is accusing women in general of being inferior at gaming. Nobody is saying that women are not as important as men. From this particular persons individuals opinion, this ‘extra easy’ setting seemed an ideal option for a girlfriend who is not good at gaming, but you would like to play games with. Maybe even his girlfriend. Makes perfect sense.

    Should he have then expanded to include boyfriends who aren’t good at gaming, noob friends, old relatives, pets? No. You are ALL smart enough to put two and two together.

    At worst it’s a nickname a number of people coined. It STILL isn’t intended to be offensive, its probably just the most obvious use case for the feature in their lives.

    • jimbonbon says:

      Having read some more posts in this particular topic, maybe I was wrong on one point…

  38. campingfag says:

    Christ more difference politics.

    AS A BLANK I AM OFFENDED ON BEHALF OF ALL BLANKS, YOU BLANKIST!

    Ruined liberalism in the West I say, all for the benefit of a couple dozen obscure revisionist “disciplines” for lazy, embittered academics who lost their chance at being real revolutionaries, but lack the courage to do anything about real misogyny, racism, and intolerance, choosing instead to shame already progressive minded people into feeling bad about everything.

  39. wintermute says:

    The one and only good thing about this is the size of the public outcry.

    It shows that general (mostly male) attitude towards women in gaming is slowly but surely shifting towards the better.

    Yes, there are still a lot of terrible comments, a lot of laughable strawmen trotted out, but the people who are making a fuss about this (male or female) are not giving up.

    For most male gamers this kind of thing is just beyond their understanding. Their circle of friends is mostly comprised of males, their contact with females is limited to strictly controlled environments (school, uni, work) and social opportunities (bars, clubs) are limited to self-doubtful staring from behind their drinks.

    Without the opportunity to learn about and empathise with women through social interaction, their viewpoint becomes a feedback loop. All their knowledge of women comes from media, which are a terrible place to learn about fellow human beings.

    The more these kind of stories are publicised, the bigger the chance they can interrupt these feedback loops. RPS (or any other forum centered around a common interest) tends to be highly polarised and united. So when all of a sudden a large number of people are disagreeing on something so OBVIOUS, it creates a dissonance which can be an impulse to learn about the other point of view, instead of spouting the usual ingrained “knowledge”.

    This kind of dissent is essential. It is one of the hardest things, speaking up against the prevailing opinion as a member of the group. Easier on the internet, but still requiring a lot of patience and thick skin.

    Keep fighting the good fight gentlemen.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      For most male gamers this kind of thing is just beyond their understanding.

      This is like the textbook definition of male privilege. And most probably could understand it if they bothered listening to people different from them, rather than just saying I HAVEN’T PERSONALLY EXPERIENCED IT THEREFORE IT DOESN’T MATTER.

  40. coldvvvave says:

    How long before you guys start to get offended by “God mode”? I mean it’s obviously heretical.

  41. Dominic White says:

    Honestly, there’d be no controversy here if they’d just named this perk ‘I meant to do that!’. There’s a lot of humour inherent in completely missing a shot only for the bullet to ricochet right into the target. Gender doesn’t have to have anything to do with it.

  42. Cryo says:

    It’s depressing that every RPS article on this topic brings out another wave of subhuman sewage in comments that I need to add to block list.

  43. Ultra-Humanite says:

    RPS aiming to achieve new lows in stupidity.

    • Anabasis says:

      My favorite thing about this comment is that people on both sides of the debate can think “jeez, I know right?” with equal ease.

  44. RegisteredUser says:

    Having flown over the first 4 pages of comments, and though I am not sure whether this is due to the heavy moderation or not, but I feel very glad that the majority of comments reflect more of a “blown out of proportion” stance.
    And that we didn’t get 1000 comments about how we should be ashamed of our male gaze ruining ALL the things and how we’re all sexist assholes and need to go pay some woman to tell the world about it right now.

  45. newprince says:

    I see the only way to remedy this situation is for EA to make the next Sims with a “Boyfriend Mode”, where a character can drop in, throw turrets and explosives everywhere, grow facial hair by the second, hate **** everything into oblivion, and snipe sims at a mile away, with blood and shiny orange-highlighted weapons spewing out of their neckholes. Then they can drop out and everything can be reverted to before he spawned in.

  46. piecewise says:

    God damn it, does everyone have to get fucking offended at everything these days? Ever think that maybe the guy was calling it that because he, personally, tried to play games with a girlfriend who wasn’t very well versed in gaming? That it might be something he’s attributing to a personal experience not something he’s trying to say is a universal failing? And that MAAAAAYBE he didn’t expect anyone outside of the office to hear about it.

    Gahh, this is becoming like politics: Wait for someone important or connected to someone or something important to say something mildly offensive or easy to misconstrue or the like. Blow it out of proportion and scream about how everyone who doesn’t agree is either secretly (Insert prejudice here) or a whiny little (epithet) who is getting all overly sensitive about nothing. I’m just getting so goddamn tired of looking at gaming news and seeing the newest shitstorm because someone included a dickjoke in their code or something.

  47. bit_crusherrr says:

    Another mountain made out of a molehill.

  48. Premium User Badge

    ChrisN says:

    Let me see if I’ve got this straight:

    - Midget strapped to a shield: not offensive. (not to mention other depictions of them in the game)

    - “Girlfriend Mode”: offensive.

    People have some really screwy thresholds for being offended.

  49. Eddy9000 says:

    Wow, the comments on Eurogamer are way more pro-women’s empowerment than here. It’s a shame what’s happened to these forums since the site started. At least the comments on Destructoid make me glad I still post here.

  50. BreadBitten says:

    You may not want to admit it but there is a thing called ‘instinctive racism’ and if you know what it is you should realize that the same rules apply to sexism. I guess the point that I’m trying to get across that these are just words, stupid and thoughtless for sure but I doubt that there were any thoughts of male chauvinism behind those words.