Borderlands 2’s Best Friends Forever Furore

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.


  1. MistyMike says:

    So this is an unlockable SKILL TREE which you can buy out for experience points? Experience points which you get by completing tasks in the game without said skills? How does this make any sense? By the time somebody gets to the top of the tree they have already LEARNT to play the friggin’ game without the easy mode.

    • Xocrates says:

      The original Borderlands allowed you to respec, and I assume plenty of “easy mode” skills are near the bottom of the tree. It makes perfect sense.

      Frankly, this sounds like a neat idea. Besides, it’s one tree in three, it’s not like you have to use it.

    • ocelotwildly says:

      Well this is designed for Co-op play and I imagine (although couldn’t confirm as I’ve not played it, or much of BL1) that you get a fairly generous sprinkling of reward points from the achievements of your companions (completing quests etc.). I think it is actually a fairly good inclusion as you can afford to be a bit of a passenger as your friends complete the less taxing earlier missions, but by the end you can help out even if you consistently overshoot when you turn to aim, accidentally toggle crouch etc.

      I also think that seasoned gamers can seriously over estimate how intuitive it can be to play things like FPS’s if you have not had many years experience with the controls and general feel of the genre. I hate to unwilling perpetuate the stereotype that has got us all here in the first place, but when I persuaded my (mostly non-gamer) girlfriend to give Portal a go, I was initially amazed at how difficult she found just moving around, but it made me realise quite how much I had internalised the conventions of gaming.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Indeed. Bizzare as it may seem, plenty of people cannot do WASD and mouse at the same time. They’re doing well if they can hold W and steer away from walls. Forget circle-strafing or precision footwork: dodging in any way whatsoever and firing at the same time is a huge challenge.

        • MistyMike says:

          I think some of the worst cases of GAMER ENTITLEMENT show up in this context. A lot of gamers complain about how games are made for cretins today with all the ‘press X to Y’ prompts on the screen. Look, just because you’ve been gaming since you were 3 (and you’re 45 now) doesn’t mean the entire games industry should cater to YOUR experience. There are more games being sold each year and thousands of people joining the hobby. They are not idiots, they just didn’t not spend years learning gaming conventions which are second nature to seasoned vets.

          • Azradesh says:

            It took me downwards of an hour to learn how to play my first game, I was 7. There really is no excuse for not been able to learn.

          • Xocrates says:

            When I was 7, game controllers had one d-pad and 3 buttons.

            Also: Not having an excuse to not being able to learn isn’t the same as having an excuse to bother. For all the bitching of “dumbing down”, mainstream games are actually getting more complex to play.

          • ocelotwildly says:

            @azradesh Whilst it might be a point of personal pride that you were so overwhelmingly gifted at the tender age of 7, I would point out that is inordinately easier for people that age to pick up things when their brains are more receptive to figuring out their environment and learning through doing. I would contend that that was actually the optimum age to start playing computer games in order to get a firm grounding in their rules and conventions.

            Having watched my 75 year old grandmother try to navigate her first computer and painstakingly click the scroll button at the bottom of the page when she wanted it moving down, and struggle to master the elusive double click, I would suggest that when it comes to computers ability to learn has a fairly strong inverse relationship with age of first exposure

          • mlaskus says:

            Except, the younger you are the easier it is to learn stuff like that. You had an advantage.

            Ah, ninja’d. :)

          • Ergates_Antius says:

            There really is no excuse for not been able to learn

            How about “I’ve got better things to do with my time”. Not everyone cares about games enough to make learning the skills worthwhile.

          • Azradesh says:

            If you have better things to do with your time then why are you playing games?

          • DrGonzo says:

            He is right. Games are easy to learn. Especially with a mouse and keyboard. Introduced my girlfriend to games by making her play Half Life 2 on pc, she learnt it easy.

          • LionsPhil says:

            I don’t know, maybe we want to burn through some plot in the few hours of time we do have, rather than repeating a section over and over again for a hollow sense of achievement. (Spoiler: being good at games is not actually a useful life skill, and does not produce anything of value.)

            Mike got the wrong e-word. This is pure elitist bollocks.

          • Ergates_Antius says:

            If you have better things to do with your time then why are you playing games?

            Having fun playing games is not the same as accruing the very specific skillset required to play certain types of game.

            If playing games isn’t a big part of your life, then learning these skills is a waste of your time. In the same way that me, spending time learning the rules of Dressage would be a waste of time as I have no interest in watching or taking part in it.

          • Faxmachinen says:

            LionsPhil: The same thing can be said about the ability to kick a ball into a net with your foot.

          • newprince says:

            I don’t know, maybe we want to burn through some plot in the few hours of time we do have, rather than repeating a section over and over again for a hollow sense of achievement. (Spoiler: being good at games is not actually a useful life skill, and does not produce anything of value.)

            Mike got the wrong e-word. This is pure elitist bollocks.

            Being good at a LOT OF THINGS produces nothing of value. What has that got to do with anything? Being interested in plot over mechanics is pure elitist bollocks. How about that for baseless claims?

            If I have fun with a game that is pure mechanics and little to no story (like Counter Strike for example), leave me alone and let me like it. That it requires mechanical skill is no indictment of me, game fans, or the developers. Simply go somewhere else with this plot nonsense.

          • LionsPhil says:

            @Faxmachinen: I agree entirely. And yet people don’t feel the need to look at a kickabout in the park with your mates and say “if you’re not training for the World Cup, why are you even playing?”

            @newprince: You have completely and utterly missed the point.

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            @lionsphil – People are also less prone to telling those in amateur football leagues that their skills are useless, mostly because it’s assumed everyone involved is aware football is recreational and that it’s also impolite.

            Not to mention though there has been plenty of studies showing developing both skillsets (video games and football) affects your body and mind in ways that are also beneficial to more productive tasks.

            I’m not supporting the whole “games are easy, people are just stupid if they find it hard” rhetoric, anyone who lacks the basic understanding that other people not possesed of the same long-honed skills are allowed to enjoy games too irks me as well. I’m just saying the “whatever, games don’t pay the bills” (unless you’re awesome at them) retort is a pretty remarkable copout, and will only make them look justified if that’s the best response anyone can muster.

          • Azradesh says:

            I’m not saying, “games are easy and if you can’t play them you are stupid”. I’m saying learn how to play, and if you can’t be bothered and only want the story then read a book, watch a film or even a youtube play through of the game.

            To go back to football, no one is trying to say, “hey, lets make football super easy for everyone that sucks”.

            Anyone can learn to play games and most of them have very easy difficulty settings. Before anyone says that it’s not a ‘useful skill set’ again, remember, it’s entertainment and none of that is ever useful nor will it ever be. And really, if you can’t be bothered to learn them, then find something else!

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            Urgh, long over-streched metaphore incoming.


            No-one’s trying to stop people playing bad football with their friends who are bad at it either. All they want is to be able to play football at the difficulty level they enjoy. As for “everyone can learn to play games”, I think your perspective is skewed as to how long it actually takes. Many skills are interchangable between games of all genres, so can give the impression that games are quick to learn from scratch if you’ve been playing them all your life. As a challenge, try swapping your mouse and keyboard hands and timing how long it takes you to get good enough to be competitive in any FPS again. Even then it should come to you much, much quicker than someone completely new to games, who has to learn the basic co-ordination skills and all the theory/conventions common between many games.

          • Azradesh says:

            Good grief man, I didn’t say learn to play competitively, just learn to play. Learn which button does what, how to aim. Things like that.

            This does not take a long time. You’re overestimating what you actually need to know to play a game. You don’t need to be Korean to play and enjoy games. This is all in reply to MistyMike’s comment that it is “GAMER ENTITLEMENT” to expect people to actually learn to play the game.

            This is utter bullshit. It took my none gamer girl friend less then 15 min to learn how to play portal, and 3D game spaces confuse her. But you know what? She learned it because she enjoyed the game and wanted to play it. If playing and learning how to play a game are unplesant things for a person, then they don’t actually want to play it and should do something else! The game shouldn’t be changed for them so much that it’s hardly even a game any more.

            Frankly MistyMike and his bullshit can fuck right off with that idea.

          • MistyMike says:

            Whoah Azradesh

            you read me wrong. I actually think that learning and overcoming challenges lies at the very heart of the enjoyment that stems from gameplay. What I meant was that gamers shouldn’t exect and incredibly high barrier of entry for modern mainstream titles. If players are to learn, the game should make an effort to teach first.

          • uiasbvbs says:

            We can’t always control how people will take our words, but we should make every effort to make changes when they are necessary.

          • Lycan says:

            Splitting hairs here, but surely all it requires is a spectacular tutorial that is skippable (i.e., doesn’t include story exposition). But yeah, I think we’d be stifling creativity by regimenting how a game should teach its players…

            Gah, I don’t really feel strongly about this to be honest. I’m a “hardcore” gamer myself but the first time I bought a PS3 I found it surprisingly uncomfortable to learn how to use the controller after years of playing with KB / mouse. I’m one of those who rarely skips a tutorial, whether or not it includes story exposition :P

          • jrodman says:


          • Azradesh says:

            Sorry for the misunderstanding MistyMike. Surely difficulty settings and tutorials cover that?

            @ jrodman.
            Yes, that’s clearly what I’m saying…

          • GameCat says:

            “(Spoiler: being good at games is not actually a useful life skill, and does not produce anything of value.”

            Disagree, a few months ago I just won 4 (four) tickets for 2 day music festival. Headliners – Linkin Park and The Prodigy. I won because I made good score in guitar hero-like game.
            Or simply *cough* Diablo 3 *cough* real money auction house.

      • Gregg B says:

        Hm, that’s funny because Portal was the first FPS my girlfriend played and completed. Actually, no, she did have a wander about in System Shock 2 many years before but it wasn’t for long. She got the hang of Portal pretty quickly though (and somehow, not knowing where she was supposed to go, she managed to get back into the PREVIOUS chamber after GLaDOS tried to drop her into the flames. Which is crazy. That’s some pretty determined play for a FPS newcomer). I also remember very clearly introducing a friend to the original Half-Life and being amazed at how quickly he picked up the mouse and keyboard controls despite having never used them before. Having said all this, I don’t for a second believe that this is how it happens most of the time and like you, I think we do perhaps take our ability and affinity for granted.

        Interestingly, my girlfriend has much more trouble with a pad (on any game) than she does with a keyboard and mouse which I suspect is down to her being more familiar with those interfaces after years of PC use. Hell, after years of using consoles I still can’t play a first person game very well with a pad…

      • ANeM says:

        The problem I see with the inclusion with “Best Friends Forever” is that it really isn’t very useful for PC gamers. On consoles you only need one copy of the game and the DLC, convincing your less FPS-skilled friends to join in is easier when the barrier of entry is simply sitting down on a couch with you and picking up a controller.

        However the PC version lacks splitscreen. How am I supposed to convince someone who isn’t a fan of this sort of game to first buy the game, and then buy the DLC on top of that to be functional? Not to mention the fact they would probably then need a headset, unless we were to play over LAN, which would require them to lug their computer around; a machine which may or may not even be able to run the game.

        While I’m not entirely adverse to an “Easy mode” tree, it is frustrating that it is coming in the form of premium content. It just seems to run contrary to its goals.

        • Ragnar says:

          I’ve bought games just to play with friends.

          Look at it this way, you have a friend that likes games, but he’s into Strategy or RTS or RPG or whatever, and doesn’t play FPS. Now you can have him play this with you, and he can use the BFF tree to make his playing easier.

          Or you say I want to play with my dad, who likes FPS games, but struggles to play them (due to controls? age? I don’t know).

          Or say I want to play with my daughter, who’s never played an FPS before?

          Maybe it’s because of my working professional viewpoint, but the biggest impediments to coop gaming for me and my friends are 1) lack of time, 2) availability of friends, 3) difficulty of scheduling. The cost of the actual games is a distant 4th.

    • tetracycloide says:

      Well, the first several levels, arguably the entire first playthrough, is pretty easy to begin with. This isn’t the kind of game that starts off hard right off the bat.

      I think it can be much more interesting than that. The specific skill where your bullets hit if they’re close enough, for example. How does that work with masher type revolvers and shotguns that shoot a spray of several pellets instead of just one bullet at a time? Would they all hit? Normally guns like that are very limited by the spread of their pellets but maybe with this skill you could get almost all of them/all of them to hit even tiny targets. I could really see this ‘noob mode’ tree being quite a powerful tool in the hands of an expert.

    • MistyMike says:

      I see, still when I spend skill points I would like to get the skills that convey the idea of I’M AWESOME not I SUCK, EASY PLEASE!

      • Xocrates says:

        Skills in ANY game tend to make the game easier, the only difference here is that these are being designed specifically to be useful to the lower skilled player, and they can still make you feel awesome but we won’t know that until the character is out.

        Also, the same article notes that the same class will be getting a tree designed for the more skilled players.

        • Baines says:

          If they’d called it “Homing Bullets” instead of saying missed shots can auto-ricochet to hit the intended target, and ignored phrases like “girlfriend mode” or “noob mode”, it would have been fine. People who complain about an “easy mode” skill set would have quite happily spent points to get homing bullets and not thought twice about it.

          As for “girlfriend mode”, I find it highly unlikely that only one person at Gearbox has called it that. Probably several have. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the women called it that, not just the men.

          That the character in question is female only makes it seem more likely that people at Gearbox were at least thinking of it as “girlfriend mode”.

    • Deano2099 says:

      The problem with the phrase ‘girlfriend mode’ is it’s both sexist and accurate.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        In what sense is it accurate, really? There are plenty of female gamers these days. John Hemingway effectively grouped all female gamers together. Convenient, perhaps, but hardly accurate. Even if the majority of the fairer sex isn’t an experienced gamer it’s a no-no.

        • Unaco says:

          “John Hemingway effectively grouped all female gamers together.”

          Did he? If he’d said it was a ‘girl mode’ or a ‘woman mode’ then yes, I’d definitely agree with you. But he didn’t… he used ‘girlfriend’, not ‘girl’. He was effectively grouping the female partners of gamers.

          I still think it’s an unfortunate term, and probably shouldn’t be used… it still implies that all gamers are heterosexual males, and their partners are going to be bad at games. But I don’t think it groups all women together and calls them crap at gaming.

          • DrGonzo says:

            What difference does your point make whatsoever?

          • socrate says:

            wow that make no sense at all

          • gwathdring says:

            Unaco has a point, and it makes a fair bit of sense. Nathan puts a similar idea more explicitly below.

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            There’s a pretty big difference.

            Alec said he’s making an assumption about an entire gender being unable to play FPSes. That’s a bad assumption that people should know better than to make.

            But what he said actually makes two different assumptions. First that the partner of someone who plays FPSes needn’t be very good at them, that isn’t nessecarily harmful or wrong (last I heard, FPSes weren’t so popular that more people play them than don’t). The second is that they’re female, that’s wrong but not really harmful (no implication of their abilities, just a failure to account for all possiblities.). There’s no reason to think the two assumptions are linked from what he said.

            It makes me chuckle that with a name so close to socrates the outcome of a simple logical problem has confused you so.

          • jalf says:

            If a “girlfriend mode” exists”, and a “boyfriend mode” does not, then it implies that “female partners of gamers suck at games and need all the help they can get, but make partners of gamers do not”.

            In other words, to put it briefly, “girls suck at games”.

          • gwathdring says:

            Jalf, that’s not particularly sound formal logic you’re using there. The informal logic of it is scarcely better.

            There’s plenty to be upset about in the assumption that the entire audience is a) going to be male and b) have no non-gaming friends they want to play with other than a girl-friend.

            It’s not officially called girl-friend mode. So this isn’t an issue of one existing and one not-existing. It’s an issue of one of the team employees deciding to call it girl-friend mode instead of something else. Bear in mind said employee is a male gamer, himself and might feel odd calling it “boyfriend mode.” Which would probably come off as seeming a bit forced. Also bear in mind that someone who perceives the audience as male-dominated isn’t necessarily doing some logical mathematics to come up with this terminology. Or trying to comment on female gaming prowess in general.

            Why stretch the context and assume it’s meant to be a judgment about all women, everywhere? It doesn’t help anything and it just means there’s more nastiness and tooth barring to go around.

        • NathanH says:

          It would be grouping them all together if the suggestion was that all female gamers should play in “girlfriend mode”, Of course, that isn’t the suggestion at all. “Girlfriend mode” is something designed for non-gamers; anyone identifying themselves as a “female gamer” would not be using girlfriend mode and wouldn’t be expected to by the designers.

          I think the idea that this is denigrating the abilities of female gamers is totally off the mark; the unfortunate thing about the comment is the implications about the demographics of Borderlands players and their partners, not the gaming abilities of girls.

        • Ragnar says:

          Am I the only one who thought that he was just speaking personally, as in him being male and having a girlfriend who struggled at FPS games, and thus it was “girlfriend mode” as that’s how he thinks of it?

          “Player who struggles with FPS combat mode” is certainly more PC, but everyone will view it through their own lens and see it as “girlfriend mode” or “dad mode” or “husband mode” or “Walker mode” or whatever.

          Isn’t the important part that they’re trying to get more “FPS challenged” people playing co-op with their friends, which is a great thing, but shame that it’s only coming out 2 months after the game is released and at an extra cost?

  2. CurzoJools says:

    If they’d nicknamed it “Woman mode” I think I’d agree with you. But “Girlfriend mode” kinda insinuates that it’s a mode for people who aren’t the primary owners and players of the game. In the same way calling it “Dad mode” would be different from “Elderly mode”. But I’m sure most people will just think I’m talking out of my arse…

    • The Godzilla Hunter says:

      I agree in that, while it was a bad statement, there was probably little malice behind the words which, too me, makes it better (though it still is a poorly used phrase). The implication of the word ‘girlfriend’ as opposed to simply ‘girl’ is that the mode is for people who are strangers to the medium, as opposed to women in general. It still is bad phrasing, of course.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Indeed. Bit of a mountain from a molehill, here. I’m sure the dev’s been in the boss’ office having a quiet word about thinking-before-speaking when on the record already. Just a burst of foot-in-mouth syndrome.

        If they start making it all pink with flowers and advertising it with ponies, then we can break out the torches and randy pitchforks.

        • Gregg B says:

          I see what you did there.

        • Groove says:

          Yeah, it’s definitely a stupid name, but it’s not much more than that. The argument that assuming you’ll have a male audience leads to alienating females is quite correct, but this is a pretty benign example of it.

      • Leandro says:

        Yeah, interpreting that it is implying “women are rubbish at games” is a bit of a stretch. It’s more of a recognition of the simple fact that men play more games than women, and specially games like Borderlands.

        I usually agree with RPS in these matters, but this is an overreaction to me.

        • Nameless1 says:

          It’s not the first time, they seem to be fanatics of sexism. They cannot wait to post about the next totally usuless and pointless scandal in women’s rights (?). It’s embarrassing.
          I’m really growing tired of this.

          • DoctorBrain says:

            I have to agree with you there. Every time something like this comes up, I watch the RPS writers and readership trip over each other trying to sound the most politically correct, the most socially progressive, the most understanding of women’s plight. It’s absurd.

            This guy made the comment that this “easy-mode,” training-wheels character is equivalent to “girlfriend mode.” He said this because girls are typically not interested in video games, have less experience with them, and therefore perform relatively poorly in them. He is not, and obviously never intended to imply, that girls are inherently bad at games because of their gender.

            There is a vast difference between being offensively sexist, and recognizing trends. No amount of white knighting is going to change reality.

      • Snargelfargen says:

        While the term “girlfriend” wasn’t very appropriate, almost everyone has someone similiar in their life. This quote (also from Hemingway and the same interview) is a lot better:
        “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.”

        I can imagine being pissed off if it appeared a company was being condescending towards me, but the idea of skill in games has become toxic. The contempt shown towards “casual gaming” as a whole needs to stop.

      • lionheart says:

        Yep, I’d say this really is an example of sensationalism and knee jerk overreaction.

        Fact; the vast majority of players of this game will be young men, fact; the vast majority of them, if playing with someone who doesn’t normally play games, will be playing with their girlfriend.

        If you want to haul around a vast chip on your shoulder, you’ll always be able to find exceptions to accurate stereotypes and claim they are offensive. I mean, why isn’t it boyfriend mode? What about male gamers with boyfriends? Huh, are you excluding me, YOU F*CKING HOMOPHOBE!!!! WHATS THAT? YOU WANT ME TO GET INTO THAT CATTLE TRUCK YOU F%*£$!G NAZI!!!!

        And all this when that isn’t even the official name of the mode, but simply a very apt way of summing it up. In fact I’d challenge anyone to come up with a more simple, easy and effective way of communicating the nature of the mode than

        “girlfriend mode”


        “mode in which one being of equi-valuable human (oh wait speciesist) sentient worth (in the non-capitalist sense of worth, of course) can interact with in a mutually beneficial way their significant other (or others, don’t want to offend polygamists) who is less experienced in this particular medium (but has equal potential and value and can be just as good one day) in experiencing the digital entertainment experience known as borderlands 2, and in a way that is non-hierarchical and non-patriarchal and fully embraces all socio-cultural and ethno-morphic value structures in a non-positivist normative post-structuralist framework of conception.”

        or perhaps not.

        • Snargelfargen says:

          “Fact; the vast majority of players of this game will be young men”

          With smartphone apps and facebook, this is no longer the case. At all.
          Edit: or social games such as Rock Band or just about anything on the Wii or about a million other examples. The problem isn’t too many male gamers, it’s an industry composed of male gamers that doesn’t understand how to market itself to the world at large.

          Gearbox is (admirably in my opinion) trying to broaden the appeal of a niche market product, whilst shooting themselves in the foot.

          • lionheart says:

            THIS GAME, this game, not games in general, not farmville on facebook, THIS GAME.

            I have lots of female friend who love playing stupid shit on facebook, or angry birds on their iphone.
            I have one female friend who plays console games, FPSs etc. SHE IS A LESBIAN MECHANICAL ENGINEER, she is the one woman in a hundred.

            Some stereotypes are very accurate, this is one of them.

            The audience for gaming, even hardcore gaming, may one day be significantly female. But only when the games aren’t about things that OVERWHELMINGLY appeal to males. Violence, murder, war and comptetitive or team based multiplayer do not appeal to 99% of women, and they never will.

            Despite social constructionists’ views about gender, the vast majority of male and female interests consistently line up with the same things they’ve been doing for the last several hundred thousand years. Until you genetically modify them that will never change.

            If you want a real problem to solve, ask why more big budget games aren’t directed at subjects and genres that women generally find appealing. And don’t use the get out that “appealing to women” is sexist; every polling organisation, political consultancy, market research firm and advertising agency in the world understands that fact and puts their money down on its reality every day.

            EDIT; I see you added a bit that roughly agrees with the end point I was trying to make.

          • Snargelfargen says:

            Oh my bad, I misread your post entirely.

            I think I agree with what you are saying, but resorting to generalisations, anecdotes and fictitious percentages is not a good way to do it. If you care about the subject, why not put some effort into it? Or just avoid presenting anything as a fact, that’s what I do!

          • gwathdring says:

            And most of my Gaming Society buddies are female. The whole “stereotypes are there for a reason” shtick is a crappy comeback in any of these sorts of discussions. The problem isn’t that it’s statistically inappropriate to deal with the young male gaming audience first. The problem is that too many games and companies have an awful attitude about it.

            Let’s forget sexism for a moment. The “hey, we’re selling to group X … who cares if our methods are a turn off to group Y?” is just clicky and insular and obnoxious and rude to customers who don’t fit the primary targeting data. People not necessarily being interested in your product is not an excuse for making it unnecessarily repulsive to them. That’s bad business.

            This particular instance? It’s not a particularly big issue to me. But the culture it comes out of is a big problem, and that culture is part of what has so many people ready to jump on the smallest mistake: a lot of people are tired of the Men’s Country Club atmosphere in the gaming industry. I’m part of their target audience and I’m still tired of it. I just want good games and I want to be able to share them with as many people as I can get to take an interest. Sure some people just aren’t going to like certain types of games … but there’s not reason I can think of for gaming to be gendered entertainment no matter what the demographics of the audience may be.

    • RagingLion says:

      I agree. I think that’s the context it’s supposed to refer to.

    • NarcoSleepy says:

      I was just about to comment that this is more like “Dad mode”. Once upon a time, I was pretty good at FPS, ala Quake III. Now I have an eleven year old son that kicks my ass on a daily basis – I can no longer compete at all, and it’s shaming when I can tell he is letting me win sometimes. This definitely sounds like Dad Mode to me, and being a dad, this in no way offends me.

      • sysdefect says:

        Just because you’re not offended doesn’t mean that you’re not being marginalized in some way or another. If it were “Dad” mode, in many ways it does marginalize a pretty large demographic for really no reason at all. It makes an implication besides male with a child, a father. Just because you might happen to be older, mentally feeble, technophobic, and a father, doesn’t mean that other fathers are. In fact I can imagine that many of the developers are parents and/or not bad at video games/FPSs or whatever. And while it may be “entirely harmless” or inconsequential or situationally applicable, the question is why? Why make the distinction? Is it for comedic effect? Do you think you’re coming up with fresh material by saying “dad mode” or “girlfriend mode”? The conclusion is that there’s not really any reason, besides deliberate prejudice, or your own latent prejudices.

        • lionheart says:

          Are you trolling or are you really this painfully over-sensitive over someone violating in such a minor way your carefully defined definition of what is and isn’t politically acceptable?

          Here’s an idea, how about people can say and do what they want, and if it doesn’t directly cause real actual harm (and no, being offended doesn’t count), then it’s none of your bloody business. You and people like you’s constant po-faced enforcement of your ideals and values on to those who don’t fall into line and spout the exact same authoritarian rhetoric is the most loathsome corrosion of a free society since mccarthyism.

          • Snargelfargen says:

            Not that I agree entirely, but sysdefect isn’t enforcing a set of ideals or advocating censorship. They also aren’t demonizing an entire group, rather choosing to present a coherent argument and criticism.

            Or are you saying sysdefect hates commies?

          • lionheart says:

            making opinions you don’t like socially unacceptable is effectively censorship, its an attempt to control the discourse by making anyone who doesn’t agree with you into something you can label as a bigot or a reactionary, or “prejudiced”. The tyranny of the majority is far more dangerous than legal censorship in damaging open debate.

            Sysedefect didn’t say anything that extreme, but it’s just another example of “reasonable” ways of discrediting opposition or disagreement, how can anyone be in favour of “excluding” people, or of “prejudice”?

          • dethtoll says:

            What the hell are you even going on about?

    • Dowson says:

      Agreed, this is clearly not even remotely intended to be offensive and if they called it Dad Mode or Mum Mode no one would give a crap.

      But because it referenced girls potentially the same age range as you that you can humanise the internet seems to flip its self. This anti-misogyny stuff has gone well beyond a joke to the point where if this happened offline in the real world you’d think it was actually an exaggeration poking fun at feminism.

      • Underwhelmed says:

        Congratulations! You are completely missing the point and are part of the problem! Why don’t you share your opinions on “reverse racism” and how the white male is the most persecuted minority in the world while you are at it.

        • Dowson says:

          Only on the Internet is treating women as sensitive children offended by the insinuation someone might have a girlfriend who isn’t into games considered anything but archaic misogyny.

          I actually forwarded this to a friend and told her people were getting outraged.
          She replied “At what?”.

          • ocelotwildly says:

            This attitude really frustrates me, to think that people who get a bit worked up over this are only doing so in order to defend the honour of the poor saintly women who may be offend should their delicate ears hear such ghastly meanness.

            I don’t like to hear stuff like this come from the mouths of games developers because it is damaging gaming as a whole and keeping it stuck in the slightly musty smelling bedrooms of teenage boys for far longer than is necessary. It frankly doesn’t matter whether a girl you know has OK’d it and told us we can all stop worrying and move on with our lives.

            Its part of a wider conversation about who gaming is for, and how the people who make the games imagine who they are making the games for. The assumption that the people who like games will be male with girlfriends uninterested in such fripperies means that the games that will be made are for men, and slightly developmentally stunted ones at that (although I must admit BL2 does look fantastic just, you know, a bit silly). This is a vicious cycle and it is a problem for gaming, because frankly I am getting fed up with the cold tripe we constantly fed by the big studios and long for a day when some of the exquisite, artful, funny and interesting games that exist out there get a bit more of a shot at the big time.

          • FartFarticus says:

            Thank you for your anecdote about some friend of yours not being offended!

          • Anabasis says:

            Oh, well if you asked a real live woman I guess it’s OK then.

          • Dowson says:

            I can understand that point and I guess its pretty valid, but look at the amount of outrage it generates compared to what the issue actually is. If you want to signal that gaming has grown up and is for everyone, getting angry like hell isn’t the way to do it and in fact proves that gaming hasn’t really changed, people just like to think it has.
            This obviously applies to most things, endings of games, inclusion of multiplayer, removal of features. I wasn’t intending that all to be ME3 related.

            I’ll spell it out for you because its not obvious enough for you apparently.
            It was the ‘at what?’. At what are people really getting angry over?

          • Anabasis says:

            @Dowson I think I understood you perfectly. You shared that “at what” anecdote to demonstrate that this whole thing is a non-issue and that therefore anyone upset by this or criticizing Hemmingway’s statement is fabricating a controversy out of nothing, and the fact that the friend in question is a woman seemed to me a further attempt to demonstrate that no one should ever be offended by this because there are women who don’t find this offensive. Perhaps that last part was a bit of over-extrapolation on my part, but I still think you shared that story about your friend not understanding why people are offended as a means of discrediting people who are upset.

        • StingingVelvet says:

          He’s right though, this is invented outrage at the most basic level.

          I have a girlfriend who is disinterested in games and sucks at them when she plays to amuse me. I would guess of the gamer men who have girlfriends that is the experience of the VAST majority of them. Gaming is also EXTREMELY male-focused.

          So we can understand where these words came from, or we can pretend we outraged at the thought of it to try and feel superior. I choose former.

          • Hmm-Hmm. says:

            He’s right though, this is invented outrage at the most basic level.

            Let’s have a look at this, shall we?

            I have a girlfriend who is disinterested in games and sucks at them when she plays to amuse me. I would guess of the gamer men who have girlfriends that is the experience of the VAST majority of them. Gaming is also EXTREMELY male-focused.

            This may be the truth, but is that a reason to reinforce that worldview? Also, the fact that gaming is male-focused while females are getting more and more into gaming is a problem, not a reason to wave away concerns.

            So we can understand where these words came from, or we can pretend we outraged at the thought of it to try and feel superior. I choose former.

            That’s a bit black-and-white, don’t you think? When all’s said and done I agree with you that hey, the developer in question probably didn’t mean anything by it and it is understandable. On the other hand, what we (well, I at least) do not want is to reaffirm a male-exclusive gamer outlook and as a spokesman for his company (in this instance) said developer hasn’t really helped in that respect.

            And then you may want to consider that female gamers see this sort of thing a lot in gaming. So, while this isn’t really that big of an incident, it helps to point out that the gaming community has a ways to go to become truly accessible to and accepting of female gamers.

          • StingingVelvet says:

            It’s not his responsibility, nor yours, to change the social statistics of gaming. He made a comment that is very accurate, relevant and gets the point across. It’s only a generalization in the sense that it is true for the vast, vast majority. The only reason to get mad about it is to 1) white knight the fuck out of it, or 2) pretend it’s not true so more girls will switch from Zuma to Battlefield, which isn’t going to happen anyway.

      • Chandos says:

        “This anti-misogyny stuff has gone well beyond a joke”

        I guess to some of us it was not and never will be a joke.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          If you think the term “Girlfriend Mode” is truly misogynistic, then you need some serious perspective in your life.

          • Ed123 says:

            Or a lobotomy.

          • lionheart says:

            Ha! almost choked on my sandwich at that one.

          • Hematite says:

            While I think this ‘controversy’ is a storm in a teacup, I have to say that calling the noob-tree ‘girlfriend mode’ is mildly misogynistic in several ways. It implies:

            – girls are inherently bad at games
            – girls are not and should not be the primary market for tripe-A games
            – girls will only play this game with male assistance (although there may be a special exemption for lesbians)

            etc, etc. I’m sure I could think of some more. I’m sure none of that was intended, which is why I don’t really care about Hemingway’s offhand remark. But arguing that it’s can’t be interpreted as misogyny or would have been ok if he HAD meant it just isn’t right. People say stupid things, and there’s no point dwelling on it.

          • Snargelfargen says:

            It’s a slightly off-colour joke. I’d be ok with it in an informal setting, but it’s unprofessional, sexist and generally terrible as part of the public face of a corporation.

            Calling it misogynistic would imply an active antipathy towards women, and that at least, is not present.

            sexism != misogyny just like ignorance != hatred

        • bulletbill88 says:

          What a bunch of confected outrage! Where is the same indignation when the term ‘chick flick’ is used to describe a movie targeted at females? Do we really have to pretend there aren’t differences between the genders?

    • bglamb says:

      Yeah, no idea why they would assume that the majority of their audience would be male and thus be likely to have a non-gaming female partner.

      Those crazy woman-haters. In fact, now that I think about it, isn’t that homophobic too? Quick! Fire up the press!

      • tetracycloide says:

        Yeah, no idea why they continue to have the majority of their audience be male. Maybe girls just don’t like video games?

        Those crazy woman-haters indeed.

        • bglamb says:

          So you’re saying that the ‘girlfriend mode’ is sexist because they are not trying hard enough to include women in their target audience.

          That’s an … interesting way of looking at it.

          • tetracycloide says:

            I’m saying assuming males are the only ones really playing your games is a great way to end up with a majority male audience. Funny how that works isn’t it?

          • bglamb says:

            Maybe they didn’t assume. Maybe they did some market research and (shock, horror, newsflash) discovered that most gamers are young and male. Designing a product for the market that exists is just sound business sense.

            Sure it’s good for game designers to broaden their market, and Nintendo’s consoles have done wonders there, but this is, arguably, trying to do exactly that! (albeit not very tactfully)

          • StingingVelvet says:

            Maybe they’re part of gamer culture themselves and are not completely blind.

          • RaveTurned says:

            @bglamb: Please read this.

            The average gaming age is 30. 47% of gamers are female. These figures are from 2012.

            Your assertion that most gamers are young and male is an old stereotype no longer supported by data. Unless you have a different source to back up your claim?

          • fyro11 says:

            Indeed. And we have RPS to thank for being a part of the problem. The way twitter’s been set alight, a lot of the female population that were averse to gaming will remain staunchly as such. I swear I’m seeing tweets from female journalists that have absolutely no background in games journalism. Perpetuating the myth that we all hate so much. That gaming is still in its infancy and needs to grow up. All because of a single developer’s ‘personal anecdote’ being blown out of proportion.

            And Gearbox, kudos for making your game accessible to more people than you’ve done in the past. But as ever, your efforts will be misunderstood by many and will have the opposite effect.

          • Reapy says:

            I noticed that in your linked article they included puzzle, social, and mobile games in their survey. Yes, women love them some online puzzle and anagram games.

            This type of gaming is wildly different than borderlands 2 on a console. Males like certain types of games, females like other types of games. So just because a lot of women play farmville and online scrabble, doesn’t mean they are going to make the jump to a console FPS.

            Men and women are different and different activities appeal to them. I am sure that having a ‘male/female culture’ wrapped around an activity may be a determent to the opposite gender getting involved, despite liking the base activity, but this can also be extended to lots of other things besides gender. For example, I find the whole fighting game scene a little to ‘urban’ for me really enjoy.

            Anyway, comments are overblow to pass the time through a slow news week.

          • bglamb says:

            Well, apart from the fact that those stats say that most gamers are still young and male (42% female, not 47%), I am under the impression that most of the growth of the market away from the stereotypical gamer has been made by games that are not similar to Borderlands 2.

            Casual (like facebook) games are a gigantic new market which consists of more female gamers than males, which is why the stats have swung nearer towards (but still a very long way from) parity between the genders. Another large new market has been the Wii, which has again attracted a high proportion of older and femaler gamers.

            Correspondingly, this means that FPS games will probably have a significantly more male based audience than even the already quite high 58% quoted in your study.

            link to – Section 1.5 particularly.
            link to

            But in actual fact I wasn’t asserting that most gamers are young and male. It’s the kind of thing I would research rather than assume if I was gonna make a triple-A game. That’s what I was suggesting the game devs probably did.

      • aldo_14 says:

        If we’re going to be dragging out lazy stereotypes, then why are we presuming the audience has a partner?

      • Eddy9000 says:

        You’ve missed the point totally. It is irrelevant whether more men play Borderlands than women, by referring to an easy mode as ‘girlfriend’ mode women are further marginalised from gaming culture, allowing games to be further marketed towards men and for female characters in games to be designed to please a male audience rather than present empowering or respectful portrayals.

        • bglamb says:

          I didn’t miss the point. I haven’t seen hard stats, but I’m prepared to believe that women play less FPS games than guys, and are thus less experienced at them, and are thus worse at them *in general*.

          The point is that there is a difference between making a generalisation (or acting on one) and treating an individual like they are this generalisation.

          One of those is sexist and one isn’t. I think people should learn to differentiate between them.

          If you were making some software for the 65+ age group for example, you might assume they will be slower to learn new things, or lacking in computer knowledge, or have bad eyesight. That’s because these phrases describe significant portions of this age group. It’s not the same as saying “If you’re old you must have bad eyes and be stupid”.

          Learn to tell the difference please!

          • Eddy9000 says:

            By making a generalisation such as calling a ‘noob’ mode ‘girlfriend’ mode you are marginalising many individuals, I really don’t see how this is any better than making the assumption of a single individual.

            My point stands: describing women IN GENERAL as less able to play computer games than men in this way, regardless of whether it is true or not excludes women from gaming and contributes to a male centric gaming culture in which women are at best ignored and at worst exploited for male pleasure rather than empowered. Regardless of whether more men than women play computer games this statement is unhelpful and sends the message out to women that they are not being taken seriously by computer games developers and that their only role as computer games consumers are to play along with their boyfriend whilst twisting their hair around their finger and saying “can I play the easy character? All those other ones that you play as are too hard because I’m just a girl”. This is unlikely to address the disparity between male and female gamers. Perhaps alternatively you could tell me what positive benefits come from describing your noob mode as a girlfriend mode? I’d be interested to hear how you think this statement makes gaming culture a better and more inclusive one.

            There is a difference between a statement being statistically true, and the way it is presented, and the effects and (un) helpfulness of promoting the idea in a public forum.

          • bglamb says:

            Well yeah I completely agree with you. It was a stupid thing for the guy to say in an interview.

            All the reasons you give for why are correct, and they are all based on how the comment (and the intention behind the mode) would be perceived as opposed to the intention behind trying to make the game accessible to their target audience’s girlfriends.

            They should be patted on the back for trying to do something positive, and then that guy should (and probably will) spend an entire month taking interview classes.

        • roxahris says:

          “allowing games to be further marketed towards men and for female characters in games to be designed to please a male audience rather than present empowering or respectful portrayals.”
          Game developers come from the same era the rest of us do. The portrayal of female characters in video games is no more skewed than their portrayal in books or movies. And who decides what an “empowering or respectful portrayal” is? Does that apply to men too, or is this just blatant feminism? Why can’t we have equal rights and fair portrayals for both genders, while taking into account that all fiction doesn’t NEED realistic and believable characters instead of functional and well-written caricatures?
          Perhaps I’m just a bit jaded here, but in these sorta times where gaming blogs devote entire articles talking about how ANTI-FEMALE and MISOGYNIST off-hand comments based on common notions of relationships (which is a bit of a stretch, but who’s going to say it’s anti-gamer because it assumes people have partners?) – which, mind you, is wholly accurate, as the society we currently live in hasn’t exactly progressed to the point where non-heterosexual relationships are wholly and widely accepted (I can guess what you’re thinking – don’t even say it), and nor is there any substantial evidence for masses of female gamers existing outside of the realms of social and mobile gaming or indeed taking offense to this in the first place (the female gamers I have asked about it – yes, really – consider it a fair amount of rubbish, mainly because the ones complaining are more feminists than gamers) – and entire legions of people come up to repeat the old same tired arguments and accusations of how degrading this is to women and oh my gosh how many of them will stop playing videogames now?!
          It’s just that this sorta strange, lopsided approach to the whole equality thing bugs me. I just wonder why it’s okay for people to tell others to give loads of money to an analysis of female roles in videogames and then turn around and insult an analysis of male roles in videogames just because apparently the “issue” of characters that confirm to set standards of being fit/good looking and headstrong being unrealistic is one that applies only to women and not men when, in reality, it turns out that fictional characters on both sides are often rather unreal due to being part of a work of fiction.

    • MistyMike says:

      I’m sure calling it ‘granny mode’ would be both sexist and ageist! And ableist!

      • Eddy9000 says:

        yes, it would be, hence lower difficulty modes being called ‘easy mode’ rather than ‘granny mode’. what is your point?

    • Jeremy says:

      It should be called “gender neutral significant other that doesn’t play games very good-mode,” which seems to have been the intention of his statement. The problem with language, generally speaking, is that we use it based on our experiences and internal context. When things leave our mouth, those words will similarly be contextualized by every single person reading it, and unfortunately, calling something “girlfriend mode” is just going to be taken the wrong way. We’re not always in control of the meaning of our words, whatever we might like to think. That being said, I feel like this is a pretty minor controversy and hardly speaks to bigotry, whose meaning I’m convinced most people no longer understand. The worst we could probably say about this guy is that he just used the wrong words to describe his meaning.

      • ocelotwildly says:

        I fully agree that they guy who made the comments meant no harm by them and I hope he isn’t currently rocking back and forth under his desk as he views the unfolding witch hunt. But I do think that when people say such things, we are allowed to have a conversation about what they mean. Such statements give insight to the mindset of games developers when they imagine the audience for whom they are creating their games. I think it is good for RPS and its readers to stick its head above the parapet in such a situation, not just so the developer thinks twice about opening their mouth in future, but thinks twice about some of the assumptions they make as they develop the game.

        • Archonsod says:

          If their target demographic is male gamers, I don’t see why that’s a problem. Any more than say romcoms being targeted at women, or Fifty Shades of Grey aimed at the illiterate.

      • Jeremy says:

        Yeah, that’s a good point. I’ve definitely said some things in my day, without intention of harm, and realized just how much damage I had actually caused. We can’t always control how people will take our words, but we should make every effort to make changes when they are necessary.

        • NathanH says:

          I agree, but also there’s the opposite: we need to be considerate of people who say things that might be a bit of a bad idea to say. While “I didn’t mean it like that” and “it’s clear what I was meaning” aren’t particularly good defences to saying things that are offensive, it also needs to be the case that people don’t go searching for misinterpretations. It’s a two-way thing: if we are saying that people need to reflect on how things they say can be interpreted, we also need to reflect on how we choose to interpret things other people have said.

          Some of the responses here and, presumably, elsewhere, seem rather over the top to me. Some of the interpretations being drawn seem to be ones you have to go and look for, and I think we should be trying to avoid that sort of thing. For instance, although “this guy is saying the girls can’t play games” is a *possible* interpretation, I don’t think it’s a very *reasonable* one to make. Yet it is being made a lot.

          • kemryl says:

            The thing is, until gearbox issues a real apology instead of just denying that it is a problem, they are suggesting that there’s nothing wrong with what was said. That’s unacceptable, even if it was really just an unfortunate choice of words by an inexperienced interviewee.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I thought girlfriend mode would’ve let me play with some sort of hot virtual girlfriend distracting me… not that I’d actually have to supply the girlfriend, or be one myself.

  3. bodydomelight says:

    I’ve already argued about this so hard in the Eurogamer forums that I Godwinned all over my keyboard. It was truly awful. I am suffering from flashbacks and dementia. Thinking of taking Gearbox to court, reparations for my Girlfriend Mode Syndrome.

  4. teknohed says:

    So, I loved borderlands 1, I played it for probably about 60 hours with my wife. She’s actually better at FPS games than I am. However, we wanted to play with my brother and his wife. The problem is they are both a bunch of WoW playing MMO nerds who really do kind of suck at FPS games. I like that this mode exists. should it be called “girlfriend mode”? No. Will it help me spend time with my brother online? possibly.

    • Dinger says:

      Was gonna say worse than that: my wife is generally rubbish at shooters, but she loves Borderlands 1, and is better at it than I am. So, on personal experience, this is doubly nonsense, tempest-in-a-teacup internet horsecrap. There’s so much more sexism to be fighting against than to waste all of our time with this. FIDO.

    • JarinArenos says:

      I’m trying to figure out whether I’d find “RPG Gamer mode” more or less offensive… <.<

  5. AmateurScience says:

    The original Eurogamer piece made absolutely no comment on this at all beyond reporting it. But it has snowballed spectacularly.

  6. RagingLion says:

    The phrase “girlfriend mode” has been used for a while – the guy didn’t pluck it from thin air.

    Personally, the first thing that the use of the phrase conjures up in my mind isn’t that it inherently suggests girls/women are less likely to be technically skilled at games but that there are many keen gamers who have other halves who aren’t as interested or practiced in playing those games but would still like to join in the playing of the game. The same could apply to a boyfriend of keen girl game-player.

    • bglamb says:

      I think it’s meant to imply that most gamers are male, and they will often have non-gaming partners who are female.

      I know personal experience is not science, but I have made many friends through gaming (almost all male), and they all (like myself) have partners that they have met outside gaming. Their partners (almost all female) don’t really play games, and thus are not as capable due to lack of experience.

      It’s not sexist to assume that most people who are going to be invited to play co-op despite the fact that they are not really a gamer will be partners of existing players. And most players are guys, I think.

      • tetracycloide says:

        I think you’re assuming the name fits because you know people it fits and completely overlooking the group of people for whom the name not only doesn’t fit, it’s offensive, because it’s easier on you and your point of view that way. Calling it ‘girlfriend mode’ might be well and good in your circle of co-op friends who are all guys and have girlfriends that don’t play very often but show up every once in a while. What about girls that are the primary game player in their relationship though and are quite good at FPS games? How do you think calling it that affects their gameplay experience if they’re in a random co-op game with several other players? Do you think she’d have no right to be offended when/if one of the others inevitably suggests she’s playing the wrong class because ‘mecormancer is the class for girls?’

        • bglamb says:

          Well yeah, totally. That’s why girlfriend mode is a terrible, sexist name for it. Generalisations can be hurtful when applied like that. I just think there’s a difference between saying something like ‘most gamers are male’ and ‘if you play games you must be male’. The comments made by the developer are, I think, firmly in the category of “We see males as our largest audience, and we designed this for non-gaming friends they have, which are often going to be their partners, which we expect to be girls.” as opposed to “Girls are all noobs.” I think it’s possible to keep those two distinct.

          That’s why it’s often a sound business decision to market a game at males, but it would be sexist (and thus wrong) to call it ‘a game just for men.’ But when making decisions I think it is entirely defensible to think “what is our target audience” and “what do they want” and then cater to that. It’s no more sexist to assume that non-gaming partners are likely to be female than it is to assume that gamers are male.

          Generalisations and assumptions are not bad in and of themselves. They only become bad when we apply them to individuals.

      • Archonsod says:

        “I think you’re assuming the name fits because you know people it fits and completely overlooking the group of people for whom the name not only doesn’t fit, it’s offensive, because it’s easier on you and your point of view that way”

        The problem there is that finding something offensive is merely an expression of emotion, and doesn’t in and of itself provide justification for anything. You have a right to find something offensive just as I have an equal right to be offensive; welcome to the free world.

        • tetracycloide says:

          Doesn’t provide justification for anything? What planet do you live on?

          No one is even remotely claiming he doesn’t have a right to say what he said or that you don’t have a right to be offensive. What people are pointing out is that, unless your goal is to offend people, it’s a good idea to actively avoid offending people even though you can.

          Not to mention the comment I was specifically responding to was just brushing the offended folks under the rug as if they don’t matter because they knew some people who weren’t offended.

    • Rilgon says:

      So what would be the harm in “newbie mode”, or – given the official name of that talent tree – “best friend mode”? I know I had friends growing up that were kinda crap at stuff like Goldeneye.

  7. TwoDaemon says:

    Aye, the Eurogamer piece is actually notably reserved about the whole thing, which I can kind of respect. I also like the idea, so it’s a real pity that the wording used to describe it was so poorly thought out.

    I notice someone at RPS HQ is on the ball, too – a couple of refreshes have shown some rather unsavoury comments disappearing at an impressive speed. Kudos!

    EDIT – I might add that, regardless of my views on whether or not “girlfriend-mode” is sexist or not (I’ll not be drawn on the topic) it was poorly thought out, because it’s been a big topic lately and people are feeling attentive. Sexist or not, it was a poor choice of words.

  8. TheAngryMongoose says:

    Wait wait wait… A skill tree designed to help worse players particular… fighting styles is being put on a pre-order bonus character? Who thought this was a good idea?

    W/e, knowing skill trees, the highest theoretical DPS setup will probably come out of this “BFF” tree.

    One thing worth pointing out, this controversy has advertised a Borderlands feature to at least one potential customer (me), so that could be a good reason not to report it.

    • TheAngryMongoose says:

      And let’s be honest, Gearbox really wants to create an image of a manly-mans company that doesn’t have a space for girls and girly things – shame really, they have it in them to make good games.

      • Xocrates says:

        Given that the game is being written by Anthony Burch, I find it doubtful they’re trying to create a manly-man image with no room for girls.

        • ReV_VAdAUL says:

          We’ll see, Burch didn’t seem too unhappy to be credited for working on Duke Nukem. He talked a good game before getting hired by Gearbox but has gone awfully quiet since then.

          • Xocrates says:

            Dunno, even if he had a problem with being credited on DNF it’s unlikely for him to say it (at least while he’s still working at gearbox and/or gearbox are still defending the game), and the subject of women in gaming still comes up from time to time on HAWP.

            But yeah, we’ll see.

          • LionsPhil says:

            FWIW, I believe most of DNF’s awfulness was there back when lumps of its plotting were leaking from the stricken wreckage of 3DR, before anyone decided to mount a salvage operation and throw bits at Gearbox.

      • Imska says:

        How does this ‘manly man’ thing square with the fact that both BL and BL2 have fairly kickass playable female characters? Granted, BL’s was dressed a bit impractically, but that doesn’t detract from her lethality. I don’t buy it.

        • tetracycloide says:

          I’m fairly certain an ‘impractically dressed’ ‘lethal’ woman is still a male centric fantasy.

          • revokatt says:

            What would a female centric fantasy be?

          • Wedge says:

            Except she really wasn’t. Of the 4 characters in Borderlands, only one had any sort of body armor on, the other 3 had clothing you could all call equivalent. We’re not talking bikini body armor here.

    • Azradesh says:

      Pre-orders get it free but anyone can buy it. It’s not actually done yet and won’t be done for ship. It’s not a day one DLC thing.

  9. ocelotwildly says:

    A well judged piece on this slightly confusing tempest in the increasingly turbulent teacup of twitter. I find it hard to get too worked up about by the original comments, but I think the furore just demonstrates the number of people (here and elsewhere) who can say “but girls ARE rubbish at games” without thinking about the cycle of cause and effect that led to that, or the fact that they (and Gearbox dev) are unconsciously perpetuating it.

    • Meat Circus says:

      What worries me is what it says about the mentality of Gearbox, and by proxy gaming as a whole, that there wasn’t as single person who said “now, hangonaminute, maybe we shouldn’t call it that…”

      Is prickish misogyny so deeply ingrained in Gearbox that EVERY SINGLE PERSON believes that’s an acceptable way to behave? How does that happen?

      • ReV_VAdAUL says:

        It really isn’t Gearbox’s fault specifically. A bias towards male attitudes and perceptions is scarily heavily ingrained in our culture.

        link to

      • Hematite says:

        Did I miss something or is the only source for ‘girlfriend mode’ one guy speaking informally in an interview? Now, it does seem likely that it’s an internal nickname at Gearbox for the noob skills, but I suspect there were a lot of people who thought it was a bad idea for a name – including Hemingway right after the interview.

        • ArthurBarnhouse says:

          Yeah I think that’s the worst part of this. I think we’ve gotten to a weird point on these kinds of controversies. The company or person can’t just say, “you know, that was a poor choice of words, and I’m sorry I said it, it wasn’t what I meant to imply. I will be more careful in the future.”. There has to be some sort of public flogging where even doing the right thing after the mistake is just further proof of your failings.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Recognizing vast majorities for what they are inherently increases said majority in all cases? I doubt it. Are you implying that if the euphemism “throw like a girl” were not invented women would somehow magically grow the increased muscle mass needed to compete with men in Major League Baseball? Or that if I pretend core gamers aren’t male 90% of the time and have disinterested girlfriends 85% of the time it will go away?

      So silly.

      • ocelotwildly says:

        I would take serious issue with your perception of what things are inherent and what are not. In your example of ‘throwing like a girl’, there are physiological reasons as to why female bodies do not develop such extensive muscles and as such can’t throw so far (although I would suggest that there are also significantly social factors at play that discourage such activities from an early age, leading to lower uptake of sport amongst girls etc etc. Maybe a discussion for another time).

        For gaming, I see no reason at all why it should not be an inherently gender neutral activity, beyond the fact that the initial market was largely male and this has persisted to overshadow the culture as it grows. However, gaming is becoming an astonishingly large chunk of the entertainment market and it is clear that a massive gender divide is present which is perpetuated through the attitudes of both gamers and developers. I don’t expect this to change overnight, but gosh darn it I am going to raise my opinions in suitable forum when the opportunity arises, because it pushes back in an ever so puny way against the tidal wave of butthurt male entitlement that has washed so much gaming before it.

        I therefore put it to you, good sir, that is in fact you who are So Silly! *swishes cape, runs off*

        • revokatt says:

          I’m curious if this is the case. There are obviously differences between men and women outside of just muscle mass – it makes sense for shooters to appeal to men primarily (especially since they’re designed by men, primarily).

          Whether men are inherently more attracted to FPS games (since they simulate fierce competition, “the hunt” of prey, and heavily involve firearms) is an open question, but we shouldn’t dismiss anything outside of the skeletal frame as inherently gender neutral.

          • ocelotwildly says:

            *runs back* I guess the FPS represents the ne plus ultra of the male domination of gaming forms, possibly for reasons you describe. Personally, I would be more likely to settle on the preponderance of lots of lovely big hard squirty GUNS as the factor rather than the vague potential for some form of evolutionary biological difference.

            My point was that there should be no reason why gaming, as a whole, should favour one gender over another. It is, after all, merely interacting with entertainment on a personal computer system and I know of no earthly reason why men should be better suited than women, beyond the lingering effects of earlier uptake.

          • StingingVelvet says:

            This is a nerdy shoot-em-up though, and obviously male-centered in tons and tons of ways. Which is fine. Things can be male-centered. Have you read a Cosmo or Redbook? It’s female-centered up the wazoo and also generalizes men to an extreme.

            This is pure invented controversy. The “my girlfriend sucks at games” experience is extremely common, there is nothing wrong with referencing it.

  10. Premium User Badge

    kororas says:

    Well i found it funny.

    I think it was probably meant as an ‘insider’ joke though.

    Im sure there are still a majority of women who have never even played an FPS but im also sure that gap is getting smaller day by day.

  11. golem09 says:

    i just wrote my second exam in statistical analysis a month ago, got a flat A.

    I don’t know why you assume, that my image of the average is based on my sample. I just showed my sample for an even more extreme result than the average. And don’t pretend that you can’t roughly estimate the average percentage of FPS playing women…

    And if you had take some time to think about the overall message of my post you would have come up with this:

  12. Jason Moyer says:

    Strong enough for a man. Made for a woman.

    • Imska says:

      As a man who knows several women who could kick his ass and then pick their teeth with the leftovers, I’d like to advise that ‘it’ be made stronger.

      • Grygus says:

        This is completely off-topic, but I will point out that if a product made for men were necessarily stronger than a product made for women, then a product made for women could not possibly be strong enough for men. Therefore, the opposite must be the true implication: a product made for women is inherently strong enough for men. The order of the presentation of facts supports this: first we have a fact, then the explanation. The message there is that women need at least as strong a product as men, and possibly stronger. Therefore, your response makes no sense at all.

  13. Unaco says:

    Unfortunate choice of word, or personal anecdote taken out of context (i.e. it’s the mode designed for his girlfriend, or the mode she asked him to make)… I’m willing to accept that explanation. If he’d called it ‘significant other mode’, or ‘non-gaming significant other mode’ there wouldn’t be any problem*. If he was gay, and called it ‘the boyfriend’ mode, would that be a slur on men being crap at games?

    *Well, there would be… something about ‘dumbing down teh game’ or ‘consolising the game’

    • Grygus says:

      Exactly this. Well, I’ll go further: I don’t even see it as an unfortunate choice of words; he made an assumption that is, more often than not, correct! After all, he is talking about one mode in one video game, not games in general. If you want to argue that most Borderlands players are female, you may do that, but you will be wrong. If you want to argue that most males who played Borderlands are gay, you can do that, too, though you will be wrong again (as an aside, I know at least one gay couple who sometimes refer to each other as, “girlfriend,” so I’m not sure how exclusionary the statement is in this regard anyway.) And of course if you want to argue that most Borderlands players have wives and girlfriends who already play Borderlands and/or are/would be good at the game, you’re free to pursue that avenue, but it is statistically unlikely. If you’re not making one of those arguments, you agree that he is generalizing his audience correctly. And generalizing itself is not wrong. He didn’t make any commentary based on that generalization. He didn’t say that all girlfriends needed it. He didn’t say that if you use it, you suck. He implied that most people who used it would be girlfriends. I fail to see how that is a very controversial statement, given the audience.

      I think the community’s willingness to find fault in this area is actually a sign of immaturity. You want games to grow up? Stop worrying about it. Nobody worries more about how adult they are than an eleven-year-old. This insecurity isn’t helping our image.

  14. Kimau says:

    Really nice article with a great angle. Gearbox did the right thing and power to them calling it BFF. Also I LOVE the the idea of this as a fan and a design it looks like a great feature!

    As a female dev I see this junk all the time. It probably was called girlfriend mode by more than a few of the guys in studio and it shouldn’t be cause that’s silly and sexist. Though I’m heartened by the fact this kind of stupid stuff does get called out and people are speaking out. This junk has been happening for years, its just great to see people calling it out.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      I kind of agree. It’s wrong to label someone or use stereotypes. But I think some people say things innocently enough that it’s best to just help them think better, and not berate or belittle them and make it worse.

      Some things I’d like a “boyfriend mode” to help me with. But a “helper mode” or “assistance mode” would be a much better name. Should not not label groups as needing help, but as those who need help as those who need help.

  15. MeestaNob says:

    What a lovely lot of nothing for the thin skinned to get in a huff about.


    I suppose if they’d called it ‘Dad mode’ that would have been fine. Being age-ist really isn’t a big deal, this week at least.

  16. Yachmenev says:

    Internet should learn to take a joke for what it is. :)

    • trjp says:

      Did you hear the one about how Yachmenev’s entire family had their limbs eaten off by opossums?

      It was really funny – everyone just watched and said “No, we’re not helping – it’s just a joke”…

      “It’s only a joke” is the worst possible defence when you’re caught out with views which are 30 years out-of-date and make you look like a twat.

  17. Alec Meer says:

    Comments are being very heavily moderated on this piece, and deletions will brook no discussion. You’re better than this, RPS readership.

    • aliksy says:

      I’m kind of in favor of heavy moderation for this sort of thing. Ars Technica had an article recently about LGBT and gaming, and the comments were a wasteland of “lol it’s just a joke” and “when I use offensive words, I don’t mean them offensively!”

      • Zelos says:

        I too am in favor of censoring those that disagree with me.

        • aliksy says:

          Maybe I just don’t want to read the same tired, repeatedly rebutted “arguments” over and over and over and over and over and over.

          • Zelos says:

            Perhaps you could simply not read them then.
            I’m tired of all the people being offended about something inoffensive, but you won’t see me asking to delete their posts.

          • aliksy says:

            I wish I hadn’t read your post, because I’m pretty sick of “I’m not offended so it’s not offensive”

          • Ergates_Antius says:

            I’m tired of all the people being offended about something inoffensive

            And I’m tired of members of a privileged group declaring what should be and shouldn’t be offensive to members of a non-privileged group.

    • MeestaNob says:

      A bit disappointing that his comment was deleted, seeing as it wasn’t rude, offensive, or full of sweariness.

      I don’t know what other comments he has made in this thread (if there were any), but that one certainly didn’t warrant removal.

    • Meat Circus says:

      Aggressive moderation of these discussions is one big part of the reason RPS comments sections are renowned for being one of the more cogent and thoughtful gaming discussion arenas.

      Have to admit though, I am curious as to what the average moderation rate for one of these shitstorms is, since it invariably causes a sudden influx of bigots and trolls to chance their arms at slipping a nasty comment through the RPS moderat-o-net.

      • Zelos says:

        I assure you, RPS’s comments are known for no such thing and any sort of “aggressive moderation” assures it never will be.

        You want a “cogent and thoughtful discussion”? Try 4chan’s /pol/ board. It’s one of the few places that all viewpoints are represented and respected.

        • LionsPhil says:

          “Respected”? “4chan”?

          • Zelos says:

            Well, yes. The mods don’t delete your post when you disagree with them, and the board is filled with people willing to have a legitimate discussion (though more that aren’t), which is a lot more than you’re going to find in the comments of a video game blog.

        • Meat Circus says:

          4chan is suppurating pustule of insanity, anger, abuse, unpleasantness, sophistry and malice. If that’s your idea of cogent, then we have a very different understanding of what words mean.

          Let’s not forget it was your beloved 4channers that orchestrated that vile campaign of hatred against Women vs Tropes In Video Games. Helps to remember why RPS probably don’t want to be more like 4chan.

        • Kaira- says:

          >all viewpoints are respected

          Yeeaaaaaah, no. Try again.

          Here’s a quick hint: it’s the opposite.

        • CrookedLittleVein says:

          @Zelos; Hark ye traveller! What far-flung, eldritch dimension do ye hail from? Perchance the mirror realm, where hamburgers eat people?

    • Llewyn says:

      Sadly the evidence, on this and many other articles, is that a significant proportion of the RPS readership is actually not better than this at all.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Increasingly so, it seems. Or perhaps I’m just losing patience.

    • Alec Meer says:

      In addition to those that were overtly cretinous, a lot of the initial comments appeared to not pass the ‘have you actually read the article?’ test, or to decide that there was no discussion whatsoever to be had because they said so. And more generally, I’m keen to get RPS commenting back to the higher standard it’s known for. Collateral damage is I suspect inevitable, but should not be taken personally.

      • Unaco says:

        Return of the ‘Report’ button on comments would be greatly appreciated in that.

      • CrookedLittleVein says:

        Provided this does nothing to stifle lively debate or limit the spectrum of (respectable) opinions being shared, I’m all for it. The comments seem to have become . . . slightly more venomous of late. I blame the heat. Or Cameron.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        And more generally, I’m keen to get RPS commenting back to the higher standard it’s known for.

        Well, good luck. It’s pretty depressing how many times I click the block button on comments under articles like these.

        RPS has always been worlds better than, say, Kotaku. So that’s something. But still, the “gaming community” has a long long way to go.

    • Milky1985 says:

      Does anyone actually know how far down the tree this ability is? It sounds like an ulitimate style ability that would be at the bottom of the tree (or a stupidly small chance of it happening until leveled), if so its hardly noob mode (safe to use?) anyway as its gonna take a long time to level to that point.

      Asking here as i don’t know if any RPS guys have played it and can comment.

      Information like this would be nice, unfortantly the pitchforks seem to be out so i doubt they will say anythign for a while :(

      • Xocrates says:

        It’s not one ability, it’s a skill tree.

        • Milky1985 says:

          That is not how skill trees work, they have bonuses and stuff that you can unlock as you go down them, you don’t click it and instantly get all of the bits in it (unless its a very broken game :P).

          If its a bonus for just selecting hte tree then sure, but i imagine there will be other things along the tree that you unlock. This is the information i am after.

          • Xocrates says:

            I’m not sure I follow you.

            It’s a skill tree designed to be noob-friendly, this means it consists of multiple abilities that help the less able players to succeed.

            I would suggest reading the Eurogamer article for more info, but I believe they only describe one of the abilities that gives a chance for missed shots to rebound (presumably more points mean a higher chance)

          • Milky1985 says:

            And that ability is the one i am asking about, is it at the top of the tree, at the bottom , in the middle?

            We do not know ANYTHING else about this skill tree (other than it is meant ot make the game easier) , all we know is one ability from this “lazy mode” tree but i was asking if anyone know where int he tree it was, if its at the top, noob mode makes sense, bottom, then its more a lazy mans mode!

          • Xocrates says:

            The article says it’s one of the first skills.

          • Milky1985 says:


    • afarrell says:

      At some point you may have to do something about the fact that they really aren’t.

  18. AlwaysRight says:

    I’m a massive advocate for gender equality in gaming, I hope one day gaming can be seen as a credible and accepted media in normal society.

    But even I think that this is a load of rubbish, it’s absolutely not offensive because no offense was intended. Infact by him saying ‘girlfriend mode’ I know exactly what it is without any need for further explanation. Is it the best thing he could have possibly said at that given time to please absolutely everyone, no. But a lot of people will have understood what he meant.

    • AlwaysRight says:

      To clarify, what I truly believe he meant is:
      “there are a number of guys out there who want to play games with their girlfriends, but they find the control scheme prohibitively difficult. Therefore we have included a mode that allows people to make the game more inclusive.”

    • Imska says:

      Offense doesn’t have to be intended to be perceived or generated, and saying that he meant no offense does not excuse the fact that he didn’t think about his words before saying something that represented his entire company.

      • Zelos says:

        KFC really needs to think before including black people in their commercials, it’s racist.
        Do you see how ridiculous that is? Do you understand why perceiving offence in something that has none is silly?

        • TwoDaemon says:

          If you offend someone, saying “I didn’t mean to offend you” doesn’t mean that they are no longer offended. There are a number of possible responses to offending someone when you did not intend to.
          1. You can apologise for any offence taken but make it clear that you stand by your statement.
          2. You can apologise for any offence taken and reword it to remove any offence you did not intend.
          3. You can tell everyone who is offended that you don’t really care that they’re offended.

          These are valid responses and I’m not claiming that any one of them is better than the others, although for some of them the people who were offended are in turn allowed to think you’re kind of a jackass. You can’t really usefully tell people that they shouldn’t be offended, though. That doesn’t actually get you anywhere, because whether or not they are offended by a statement is not something you control.

          I don’t think being offended at the idea of people being offended is terribly constructive, though.

      • fyro11 says:

        While initially, it may have represented the entirety of Gearbox, him later clarifying that it was a ‘personal anecdote’ makes it just that. Unless there’s evidence to prove otherwise, I don’t understand what the problem is.

    • wintermute says:

      “I’m a massive advocate for gender equality in gaming, I hope one day gaming can be seen as a credible and accepted media in normal society.”

      “But even I think that this is a load of rubbish…”

      Thank you, AlwaysRight, for speaking on behalf of all women and declaring that, even by your extremely high standards of a male gamer who is a “massive advocate for gender equality”, everything is just a-ok and everyone should just shut the hell up already.

      Clearly, you with your unlimited emapthy male gamer brain knows EXACTLY how those silly wimmens feel.

      • AlwaysRight says:

        If you’re going to come back with an utterly humourless sarcastic comment, dont pick an argument that can be instantly redirected straight back to you.

        “well done wintermute for getting offended for every woman in the world… Etc…etc”

        Edit: just who exactly IS offended by this? Is it just people getting offended ‘on behalf’ of others who they perceive might be offended.

        Edit2: Also it seems weird to be getting ultra sensitive about gender politics when discussing a game with characters like Moxxi in it and where the main thrust of the game is to shoot peoples faces clean off.

  19. Chris D says:

    1. The Skill tree itself sounds fine, it’s a good idea even. Providing a way in to these kind of games for people who don’t play is worthwhile.

    2. Referring to it as “Girlfriend mode”, especially during an interview, is stupid. It perpetuates an attitude which is doing real harm to people, particularly to women but also to anyone who wants to see videogames be taken seriously as a medium.

    3. I’m glad to see them being called on this. The industry has been able to get away with shit like this for too long and change is long overdue.

  20. Gnoupi says:

    For me, a “girlfriend mode” in Borderlands to help the couple fight on the same skill level would include something moving her sniper aim randomly every 2 seconds, and 5 seconds forced reload time.

    That way, MAYBE, I could finally get a kill once I get in shotgun range!

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Nah, just go sniper (to match) or soldier (for rapid fire?). The only way to beat people at their own game is to play a different game. :D

  21. shaydeeadi says:

    I get the impression he meant more ‘girlfriend who never plays games can join in and have fun mode’ more than simply girlfriend mode. Maybe he should said ‘Girlfriend/Dad/Visiting-non-gamer-friend mode’ but it more than likely took up too much air and also typing. I wouldn’t be surprised if that guy never does an interview again.

    But are we all so uptight that we flip out over a good natured and largely harmless comment?

    • RaveTurned says:

      I think it’s pretty clear what he meant. The offensive part is that the developer in question chose a gender-specific term for a feature aimed at low-skill or casual gamers. There are plenty of non-gendered terms he could have used that wouldn’t have conveyed that idea without implying that girls can’t game. If he’d simply referred to it “casual mode” (or by it’s official “BFF” name), no-one would have batted an eyelid.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        Ah, never mind. I thought you said “developers” when you said “developer (the one person)” sorry. :/

      • Zelos says:

        The offensive part about the Olympics is that women get easier objectives, and don’t have to compete with/against men. How dare they insinuate that women are less capable! I demand that in 2016 men and women compete against each other so that it is completely fair.

  22. JackDandy says:

    Making a mountain out of a molehill. How embarrassing.
    I think RPS really has more interesting things to cover than this.

    • Meat Circus says:

      On the contrary, it’s only when we call developers out on this stuff, every time they’re misogynistic, homophobic, or racist, or otherwise bigoted idiots, only then might they start to get the message and think before they speak in the future.

      • Midnightoil says:

        Oh so you mean you want game developers to be afraid of journalists trying to cover their game and soon no game developer will let gaming reporters inside their studios ever again.

        • trjp says:

          No, we want game developers to realise that their ‘fans’ come in all shapes and sizes and that insulting any of them is insulting all of them.

          How hard is that to grasp?

          • Zelos says:

            But they didn’t insult any fans. The phrase clearly refers to non-gamers, who aren’t going to be aware it was ever said or that anyone got their panties in a bunch over it.

          • Xocrates says:

            @Zelos: Problem being that the expression implies that part of the audience are non-gamers.

            And those will be aware it was said.

        • aliksy says:

          You really think that’s more likely than spokespeople laying off the bigoted language?

          Many other industries seem to do okay with journalist exposure and without insulting whole segments of the population.

        • Wisq says:

          Game devs don’t need to be afraid of journalists. They just need to hire devs who think before they open their mouths while talking to said journalists. Or, if they can’t be arsed to hire those kinds of devs, then don’t put their devs in front of journalists at all, and save it for the PR people.

          That said, I do think that the “non-gamer girlfriend who wants to share your hobby but lacks your decades of training” scenario is common enough that this really is making a mountain out of a molehill. If I added a simple GUI to my complex program and called it “grandparents mode”, would that be considered ageism? Would people call me out because some of us have tech-savvy grandparents? Would it raise this much of a fuss?

          Sexism in the games industry is a hot topic right now. I get it. I’m against it, and I think this was a poor choice in words. But, let’s face it, it’s what a lot of people would call it anyway. If the game dev hadn’t called it that, some journo would’ve. If anything, I think we should be celebrating this as a way for couples of uneven skill level (in either direction) to play together, or even to introduce the genre / games in general to their partner or non-gaming friends.

          Worth noting: my sister (much younger than I) may not be too good with games, but she has a boyfriend who had never played a single one until she introduced him to them. She plays Minecraft and is now playing Half-Life 1 (en route to Half-Life 2 et al). So yes, stereotypes are stereotypes and will always have plenty of counter-examples.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Or, if they can’t be arsed to hire those kinds of devs

            …or maybe if they want to hire devs that are good at developing rather than talking to the press (so long as we’re not straw-manning this to the other extreme of supporting toxic personalities).

            But you do realise that what you’re after is only exposing journos to content-free PR puff-pieces? Every time we get an “honest” dev interview, people comment about how much better they are than anything “sanitized”. The risk of this is that sometimes people who are not guarded PR types will take a big ol’ mouthful of foot, because that’s pretty much what a non-sanitized interview is.

            Sure, tell them to stop gnawing on their toes, because it is wrong and that’s important corrective feedback and all, but they don’t need to be crucified for it, nor should this mean excitable devs should be kept locked away from giving previews.

        • wintermute says:

          No. He wants developers to stop being:

          “misogynistic, homophobic, or racist, or otherwise bigoted idiots”

          Did you really not understand his 3 line comment? Or was your cunningly stupid argument real?

      • Imska says:

        Hear hear.

      • Jay says:

        Agreed. Being silent about this kind of thing only helps to perpetuate it.

        • fyro11 says:

          Is that to say that you feel chastising them more than they deserve is the only way to stamp it out? Not saying that’s necessarily wrong, but I do feel that they’re getting more slack than they deserve.

  23. trjp says:

    I don’t think there was any malice intended here – it’s just what happens when people with backwards views are put into a confined space together for a LONG time.

    Out here in the real world, we’re realised that stereotypes are bad and that there’s no need to offend people – it’s just the guys (and it will be all guys) who make these games don’t see daylight all that often (and when they do, immediately start cracking jokes about how they’ll turn to dust or something).

    Someone send them a life manual…

    p.s. one of them is called Randy – this should tell you all you need to know about how we’ve failed as a society…

    • The Godzilla Hunter says:

      Yeah! What have we come to these days, having names that also have other meanings in countries where that name is not commonly used!

      People named Richard should be ashamed of themselves.

      • Zelos says:

        Seriously! Can you believe that most of them have the gall to go by the lewd name “dick”? Why, it’s outright disturbing.

    • Llewyn says:

      Would you like to cram any more stereotypes into your comment boasting that you don’t need to perpetuate stereotypes?

  24. Milky1985 says:

    The “girlfriend mode” thing was probably said in jest during a press briefing when explaining the class, the sort of thing peopel say when they feel at ease with the crowd and are comfortable. That sort of thing that if said to a girlfriend would get a playful punch on the arm or a playful “no sex for a week” or a playful bet you need it more than me. I do not know why it has become a big deal, other than one important factor here :


    I know RPS are linked with them but they are getting increasingly tabloid, with stupid headlines, sensationalism all over the place and quite frankly the worst community know to man (suppose i better add or women because of the subject matter before people starting sharping the pitchforks. This is despite man being in the dictionary as “a member of the species Homo sapiens” but considering all the knee jerks out there already better be careful) if you read the comments (and of course, they have the sony defence force shwoing themselves through the karma scores, but theres fight club rules about them)

    Seems to work well, bet they have loads of page views, but they need to stop this crap, making me regret buying my eurogamer expo pass cause it supports these idiots.

    One thing tho, they are not saying how far down the tree the skill is, i bet its right the way at the bottom so you have to work to get it? Of course we don’t know this because reporting interesting thigns like this is beyond them :(

    At least you at RPS did better than the rest of the idiots out there and actually posted facts. Like the important one that ITS NOT CALLED THAT IN GAME.

    Oh , another co-op mode has been refered to as “girlfriend mode” in the media – link to – quick timeline check, no big deal about it there anyway, why is it only a deal now when someone makes an off the cuff remark to a eurogamer source? Or are girls allowed to say it but not guys?

    Sounds a bit sexist to me :P

    • trjp says:

      Context sometimes matters, but the problem here isn’t sexism per-se, it’s the crassness of basically coming out and saying

      “We know everyone who buys our games is male – we’re even going to riff on that – we don’t care about that – if any women do play our games we’re happy to insult them, even”

      and that makes them look like dicks…

      • Milky1985 says:

        Thats not what they said however, that might be your interpretation of it but in my mind that says more about how you think than them. The phrase has been used before (as you could see via my link), it seems to be used effectivly to mean “someone who wouldn’t normally play the game”, maybe its not fully PC but if you cut out all the things that are not PC that you can say then no-one would say anything.

        The guy also apparently said “for a lack of a better term” before he mentioned “girlfriend mode” , kinda important that, shows that he knows its not the best way of descibing it simply, but can’t think of another one.

        • Imska says:

          >The guy also apparently said “for a lack of a better term” before he mentioned “girlfriend mode” , kinda important that, shows that he knows its not the best way of descibing it simply, but can’t think of another one.

          Then he should bloody well think a bit harder, now, shouldn’t he? It’s his and his mate’s goddamn baby he’s talking about here, not some weekend project.

        • aliksy says:

          “but if you cut out all the things that are not PC that you can say then no-one would say anything.”

          That’s not true. That’s a stupid thing to say.

          • Milky1985 says:

            Well yeah true if you take it 100% literally then yes its not true, but if you cut out all the non PC thigns peopel say to each other there would be a lot less said, for the simple reason that lots of friends will use non pc jokes about each other, too each other. Yeah its a context thing but PC isn’t about context its about content.

    • Moni says:

      Did some quick Googling and it seems like ‘Girlfriend Mode’ is a sort of cultural term that sprung up with Mario Galaxy and Death Spank.

      I think the difference in this case is that a developer said it. I guess we expect more from them. Celebrity effect maybe.

    • Unaco says:

      That Deathspank review, which uses the term ‘girlfriend mode’, was written by Kristine Steimer. Without any reaction… so maybe it’s OK for a woman to use it?

      As Moni says… this term seems to have been used for a while now, as an alternative for ‘Asymmterical Coop’, for quite a while now.

      link to

      • aldo_14 says:

        Probably it is ok, yes. Much like certain racist terms can be seen as acceptable when used by the minority they refer to.

  25. RandomEsa says:

    //Welp the original post got deleted.

    Same experience here. I’ve never met a female gamer that is really good in a particular game apart from dota and CS but those are the only 2 exceptions, even in games like WoW ( MMO’s in general) / any mainstream FPS and actually never heard of a female who plays strategy games. Might just be my social awkwardness though.

    Maybe the gearbox representative wanted to sound “You know guys who have girlfriends who just want to play with you but can’t because games are too hard! Well we have a solution with this…”

    • trjp says:

      How long will it take you to realise that your personal experience is worth jack shit in the scale of things??

      How long before you realise that it’s not just “insulting women” – it’s insulting pretty much everyone who plays games by assuming they’re

      A – male
      B – misogynists
      C – happy to be A and B

      • RandomEsa says:

        How is this insulting women? I’m sorry but I cant see the big picture. I’m sure even some users here have a girlfriend or had one or even a boyfriend ( to be politically correct) that wasn’t least bit interested in games and you had him/her have a go with it. Surely it didn’t go well and seemed like a monkey trying to operate heavy machinery.

        Sure if he had called it “women” mode everyone would be right to call gearbox and him out on that. It just seems a silly comment thrown out in observant manner and journalist desperate for a story wanted to have some attention on it.

        // Shit rps is broken

        • Eddy9000 says:

          why say “to be politically correct” when you could just say “to be correct”?

      • Jay says:

        The most depressing part of this is how many comments seem happy to reinforce those assumptions.

        Edit: that was a reply to trjp a few posts up.

      • aircool says:

        It’s not insulting to anyone who happens to have an ounce of maturity about them.

    • RiseandShock says:

      Well clearly you don’t look too much into the strategy world, there are all female pro-gamer teams in Starcraft 2.

      • yutt says:

        And what percentage of teams are those? We’re talking about statistics here, not exceptional anecdotes to make us feel good.

      • trjp says:

        For the 1,000,000th time – women don’t have to prove they’re equal – it’s not a competition or a scientific test – we don’t need evidence of anything.

        No crappy anecdotes or personal experiences of “a women who was good at games” are required . As human beings we assume everyone is equal and attempt not to discriminate or offend anyone on the basis of the sex, race or whatever pretty much all the time – most of us, that is.

        • Matt-R says:

          Bah, Reply fail.

          Girlfriend mode or similar terms aren’t new or is it sexist it has a pretty specific meaning i.e. significant other that doesn’t take part in an activity that you do in this case specifically gaming related.

          Jeez, I just don’t even.

        • Milky1985 says:

          I agree everyone is equal.

          I however have a question, if the roles were full reversed here, female creative director “boyfriend mode”, what effect would that be having now, would we have the pitchforks out and the twitter hate?

          I know theres historical reasons why this argument is gonig to be blown out of the water, that fact that women have really only been equal for a short time historically, with stuff like the vote only being there for about 100 years, so theres a lot of stuff riding around that. Which might actually explain why feels are like they are, the male guilt knowing that this has happened in the past, the male fear that they are basically not gonig to be needed in teh future (both genetically and otherwise) and the female urge to prove themselves all compiund to make stuff liek this.

          However while we get reactions like this to the girlfriend comment we cannot push for that equality unless we would get the same reaction to the boyfriend scenario i mentioend, and i don’t think we would :(

          [EDIT] THis was meant to be a reply, but i guess the heavy moderation kicked out the comment it was replying to, or i clicked the wrong button.

          • CrookedLittleVein says:

            To be fair, I’d be quite happy for Dragon Age, Fallout 3 or The Sims to have a Boyfriend Mode. It would save me countless headaches.

            Edit: On an unrelated note, why do I always see so many unfamiliar faces whenever sexism comes up?

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            I thought I’d enumerate a few more of the advantages I have as a male gamer, based on some of the comments in the thread. This is always a fun exercise (and I have some space to fill due to the comment threads being fucked).

            As a male gamer:

            * People will likely never wonder if I have a position in a guild because I sent nude pics to the guild master (they will likely assume it is due to my innate skill, or possibly because we are friends).

            * They will not ponder if I have a certain piece of rare gear because my e-BF gave it to me.

            * If I was a pro gamer, people would never wonder if I was put on the team simply because I look cute, or for an advertising stunt.

            * I can freely talk over voice chat in a game like TF2 or DOTA2 without wondering if I will be harassed by adolescent boys due to my gender.

            * I can comment in a thread like this and people will assume offhand that I am the gender I am, and I can be confident that I will be taken more seriously than a woman saying the exact same thing, because it is not in my nature as a man to be hysterical or emotional or overly sensitive. (Worst case I’d be labeled as too politically correct, which is just another way to say I’m shrewd and calculating)

            * If I enjoy FPS games (which are sort of ridiculous and troubling as an idea, what with the shooting thousands of mans for no reason), it is assumed to be natural and given a pass, since I’m a man and I’ve evolved to hunt and kill and be aggressive (and those aren’t socially reinforced behaviors, no sir).

            The list could go on and on and on.

          • Berzee says:

            @Brise Bonbons: Not disputing that having a higher starting faction score with total strangers on the internet to whom you have divulged your gender, is a kind of advantage. But since I am not the kind of person who ever gets involved with e-guilds, e-clans, or other such scourges — these advantages are so marginal that I would gladly trade all of them for a hat in TF2, or a bag of jalapeno chips.

          • Eddy9000 says:

            Interesting question you raise there.

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            EDIT: Replies are fucked up, this is in response to Milky1985 2 posts above me.
            I appreciate that you’re asking a serious question and seem keen to have a real conversation about the matter. As such, I feel badly for coming across as dismissive, but I’m going to say something that might seem so: Equality in a real world scenario is going to look very different than equality in an abstract thought experiment. As a man, consider the advantages I have even today:

            * I will likely earn more than an equally credentialed woman by default.
            * In a professional setting people are likely to look to me for an authoritative statement or expert opinion before a female colleague. Especially if I happened to work with computers or in hard science.
            * This extends to everyday things. If my wife and I go to buy an appliance, they address me. If we are looking at a car or go to a mechanic, they address me. Bank, insurance, any “important” choice, people likely address me first.
            * As a gamer, I know that most games are made solely with my “male interests” (whatever those are) taken into account, and in media as a whole I will be able to see images of sexy men and women which are almost always going to be catered to male interests and desires. Even ads for women’s products feature naked women.
            * As a gamer, people will inherently accept that I like games and shooting digital mans without much question at this point. A female core gamer is still seen as enough of an oddity to raise eyebrows.

            So to answer your question: As long as I have all these (and an endless list of other) privileges, there is no need for “boyfriend mode” to be equally problematic, because I as a man already have a huge suit of cultural armor that protects me from such nonsense. Obviously there are more serious sexist attitudes that I do think hurt men – i.e. that men should only like “manly” activities, the idea that men are sex-positive and women are passive or lacking sexual desire, leading to the destructive paradigm where men don’t feel that women can be sexually interested in them and must be “pursued” and conquered – but you in order to even the field for women in today’s world, there are going to have to be some things implemented that might seem “unfair” to men in the short term.

          • Milky1985 says:

            Hopefully this reply works :P think the RPS reply system breaks after 6 or so pages, or maybe all hte deleted comments broke it !

            [EDIT] It didn’t 2 comments below the one i wanted to reply to so it works out

            Yep, i agree with all that you said, i wish we could live in a world of full equals but i highly doubt it will happen in the next 5 lifetimes even :(

            Just have to acept the small steps we do take i guess!

            [EDIT] From a computing standpoint RPS, are we all “replying” to a deleted post or something and that is what is breaking the reply system here at the end of the thread?

          • Stellar Duck says:

            That tends to be the case when posts get scattered like this.

            Edit: and it happened to me as well. This one was for Milky just above me.

          • Aatch says:

            To be fair on the gamer points. The game I’m most looking forward to is currently Darksiders II, which titles a ripplingly muscular demi-god fighting the undead, demons and angels. There have been (as far as I know) no sexually-driven marketing materials for this game.

            Another game I’m looking forward to is the next Halo, where almost everybody is either an alien or armored up the wazoo. The closest we have to sexual marketing is Cortana, who is a hologram and hardly actually appears.

            Thinking about it, a lot of games are moving away from explicit sexual imagery. Especially the ‘decent’ ones. Japanese games are definitely the worst for it, but ‘western’ games seem to focus more on characters. While they might be still aimed at a male audience, they at least aren’t hostile to female audiences. And some very good games are perfectly fine for asexual enjoyment, Journey is a good example, pretty much all the Civ games (my girlfriend is probably more violent in Civ than me, it kinda scares me lol[not an anecdote, just an amusing aside]), more fantasy-styled games like Jamestown and more abstract games like BIT TRIP RUNNER.

            The issue is that the big AAA over-the-top shooters are all male-focussed. However, I have a weird thing where I frequently get genders confused online. It isn’t always male->female either. The head of combat on the Darksiders II game posts on the forum and I still think that he is a she internally. There are no mannerisms, no tells to make me think that, I just thought that he was a she. I do it all the time, and it isn’t concious. I know it’s somewhat irrelevant, but I thought I might share something that shows that at least somebody doesn’t always think in stereotypes. (Note, this doesn’t mean I don’t fall into other, similar traps, just not this one).

        • newprince says:

          “As human beings we assume everyone is equal and attempt not to discriminate or offend anyone on the basis of the sex, race or whatever pretty much all the time – most of us, that is.”

          Hold on a second. Yes, human beings are assumed to have equal worth as a human being, no matter what. But when it comes to a job, skills, past decisions, and intellectual aptitude, we are certainly not all assumed to be equal. We simply take gender, creed, and physical disability out of the equation when making those assessments. Is it not totally possible that a female can just happen to be terrible at games? Saying she’s bad at games is not necessarily a sexist remark: it’s a factual judgment based on evidence. If someone said I was bad at knitting, I wouldn’t get all in a huff because that’s sexist, I would merely chuckle and agree.

          I realize you were trying to make a general point about this situation, but your platitude falls apart when we go beyond the rather obvious “everyone is equal” bit. I wouldn’t hire someone off the street to be a nuclear physicist because, hey, everyone is equal.

      • RandomEsa says:

        Oh yeah I forgot about stacraft all together. I admit that Scarlett is a very competive player in the scene. But I doubt she even represents even the 1% of the pro starcraft 2 players.

        • abraxas says:

          Well this was supposed to be a reply but have the hard, cold facts anyway:

          Scarlett used to be a man, just fyi. Not trying to be a dick or anything but probably not the greatest example of “successful girl gamer”. Scarlett was already very good at SC2 when She was a He.

          • jrodman says:

            Not to leap down your throat, but it’s generally much better policy to hew to the self-identification terms of trans* people, rather than describe it a swap. It implies a bit of a “choice to swap”, as well as a lack of acceptance of an internal identity.

            Of course, maybe Scarlett using this self description; “I used to be a man”. I couldn’t say.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      I know smart women / women as good as or much better than men in various genres, be it console or PC.

      In general: Just because the numbers are different, assuming there aren’t girls that can kick your ass from here to Friday in just about anything one cares to try oneself at is a bit shortsighted (and a lack of imagination in regards to women now growing up surrounded by modern media, too).

  26. trjp says:

    Mistaking misogyny, bigotry or just just plain “shut in mentality” for ‘humour’ is massively massively dumb.

    • Zelos says:

      I’d suggest that you are “massively massively dumb” for not realize the phrase is sex-neutral and simply refers to someone who does not play games.

      You do not advance your goals when you display such ignorance, only hinder them. Try being less outraged and maybe think before you post.

      • RaveTurned says:

        Wait, what? The phrase “girlfriend mode” is gender neutral?

        You did spot the word “girl” in there, right?

  27. waaaaaaaals says:

    It’s an effective name, it conjures up the image that a lot of us are all too familiar with of having a girlfriend who, at the best of times, can’t hit anything when playing an FPS.

    Sexual equality goes both ways but if it had been called “boyfriend mode” none of the people crying foul would have paid it any attention at all.

    • RaveTurned says:

      It’s a skill tree based around allowing low-skill gamers to join in and have fun, that’s then been needlessly attached to a gender-specific name on the stereotypical (sexist) assumption that women can’t game as well as men. The “boyfriend mode” analogy is clearly ridiculous – using that term for this feature would have been a complete non-sequitur, because there is no corresponding stereotype of men being bad at games.

      Given that it’s about gamer skill, there’s no reason to bring gender into it at all.

      • Zelos says:

        It’s not about skill or the stereotype you mentioned at all, the phrase simply refers to anyone who doesn’t play games.

        Though it is connected to a certain stereotype, one that gamers often find girls who don’t play games. I don’t know if that’s really a stereotype or just a fact though, given that men vastly outnumber women in non-casual and non-MMO games.

  28. derbefrier says:

    so i guess saying something like “its just a joke, lighten up!” is crossing the line? I certainty didn’t say anything bad this is a little stupid. maybe you just shouldn’t have posted the article if you don’t want to listen to those that disagree with you

    • trjp says:

      Saying “it’s just a joke” as a defence to ANYTHING is so far over the line it’s untrue.

      Seriously – it never, ever stops people being offended by something you said – ever – “it’s just a joke” is an expression which never EVER works.

      • derbefrier says:

        well those people need to lighten up and grow a sense of humor. Comedians make a living off of it yet no one seems to care. so please explain to me why this hypocritical stance? why is it socially acceptable for comedians to do it but not for some random guy? where is this imaginary line that says whats okay and whats not? I don’t see people getting all outraged when some comedian makes a joke about how his wife sucks a driving, but some random dude makes a joke about how girlfriends are bad at games and its the end of the world? lets be realistic here, people just like being offended because they like to complain. making a joke from observation does not make you sexist, saying something like “all women are bad at games because they are dumb” would be sexist. but cracking a joke at how traditionally girlfriends are not very good at games is harmless. We all know women that play games regularly are just as good, hell we had a girl on our team on CoD that would kick most peoples asses. sometimes a joke is just a joke, and people need to chill out.

        • Jay says:

          “I don’t see people getting all outraged when some comedian makes a joke about how his wife sucks at driving”

          I take it you haven’t seen much comedy lately? Since, like, the early ’80s? Most of them have moved past that kind of thing. And when they do make a joke that’s seen to cross a line, they almost always get called out on it.

          This is a good thing. People should feel free to say what they like, but that doesn’t give them a ‘get out of trouble free’ card for the repercussions. Freedom of speech goes both ways.

          • D3xter says:

            “People should feel free to say what they like, except when I don’t like what they say” xD

          • Jay says:

            No, it’s more “people should feel free to say what they like, but they should be prepared to defend why they said it”.

          • Kaira- says:

            People are free to say what they want. Likewise, I’m free to call them out on it. If they can’t deal with it, it’s their problem.

          • derbefrier says:

            apparently you’ve never watched an episode of Tosh.0 or watched any of his standup. or countless other modern comedians that make jokes about how emotional women can be and all the other generalizations about women, either you don’t watch much comedy or your being purposely dishonest in order to try and prove a point which helps no one. Ever see the media and its liberals constantly defends people like Bill Maher who say much worse things than this guy did but gets a pass because hes a comedian and after all its just a joke he doesn’t really believe the stuff he says, right? right?

            Please if your going to be offended at least do it with some consistency and apply the same standards you do to everyone, not just ones you disagree with or when its convenient.

  29. motorwrists says:

    In TF2 I know at least four regular lady players who would effortlessly own the average TF2 player.
    This move just reinforces stereotypes, reflects badly on Gearbox and may put the fairer sex of playing.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      Isn’t the ‘fairer sex’ a sexist term?

      Which is my issue with all of this: at this point I have absolutely no clue what constitutes sexism and it’s pushing me towards simply abandoning discussing it as it’s too much of a hassle to think through the many layers of interpretations and viewpoints to make some sort of an argument. I simply can’t figure out when I’m sexist or not.

      Also, fucking female TF2 players are a menace. They routinely wipe the floor with me. And don’t get me started on L4D.

      • Milky1985 says:

        Yep it is a sexist term, can be used both positivly and negativly but still a sexist term. Problem is how PC do you go, all the way, just let a coupel of positive comments through, or full no gender differences to be mentioned at all.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          I think that’s my problem. I feel like we need to invent a new language to discuss these issues because as long as we don’t it’ll be all too easy for anyone to muddle up the discourse in case someone uses a term that is not neutral because said term is ingrained in the language one way or the other.

          I think there are some extremely important discussions to be had but I’ll bow out as the discourse is too savage and accusations is flying from all sides.

  30. Hezzy88 says:

    Uhhh generally women don’t tend to play video games and it’s scientifically proven that their hand and eye co-ordination skills are inferior to men’s

    • Kaira- says:

      Scientifically proven? Ooh, this gonna be good, gimme a sec, I’ll get some popcorn.

      Now, what are your sources for this claim? Don’t leave me hanging here.

      • Milky1985 says:

        Not sure you can say inferior or anything, you can say that the brain behaves differently with hand eye stuff between guys and girls.

        link to

        Ther are apparently a bunch of studies that say that due to upbringing guys have better hand/eye in general, but I say apparently because most of the search links are to yahoo answers and where peopel are answering but not giving links and references.

        I did find however something here – link to looks like from the US medical resarch people that deos say that women have slower reaction to the finger tapping test, but faster reactions in a different type of test. Not sure how accurate or unbiased it is however, and no clue what the tests are not being a science person :P

      • Unaco says:

        It’s an old one, and it does focus on children, but THIS does show a difference in motor proficiency for both gender and race…

        “Gross motor proficiency of 111 children of a suburban school system and 69 from an urban elementary school was evaluated. African-American children were significantly faster and more agile than the white children; scores for African-American boys were significantly higher than those for all girls, and scores in strength for white boys were significantly higher than those for all girls. White boys had significantly higher scores on hand-eye coordination than all other children but no significant difference on balance among groups was noted.”

        (Emphasis mine)

        There might be some conflation with race involved, and it is from a certain subset of the population, and it doesn’t deal with any possible causes of this… is it a nature or nurture thing? So, it is weak evidence, but evidence none the less.

        There is also, definite evidence (if you trust imaging studies, which I’m not sure I do) that male and female hand-eye coordination and the neural circuitry and activity involved in it are different. There’s this study that, although not specifically testing for performance differences found none, but did find differences in the actual brain goings on.

        link to

        From a quick look at some of the literature on the topic, there does appear to be some evidence for gender differences in performance, but nothing absolutely definitive. In addition, the causes of these differences… that is, is it down to an actual/genetic difference or a learned difference (male play improves performance while female play doesn’t)… is unclear.

        • Milky1985 says:

          Judging by how we are normally on the opposites sides of the argument i find it odd that we are backing up eachs others points :P

          When will things go back to normal!

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Hey, anybody who uses a Patty Hearst avatar can’t be all that bad.

  31. Caiman says:

    A spectacular example of a non-story turned into one by people who look to be offended whenever possible. Common sense, I miss thee.

    • yutt says:

      Is this a British thing? I don’t get it. This is a complete non-issue to me, as an American, and I think Americans in general. Even women wouldn’t be offended by this. The RPS writers and their associates seem collectively obsessed and react viciously to opposing opinions.

      • trjp says:

        What you think is an issue and what is an issue are different – you get that don’t you.

        It’s going to have to be spelled-out for the hard-of-thinking here – what they’re doing is

        a – reinforcing the stereotype of the male gamer as nerd and geek – something we’re trying SO hard to dissipate
        b – insulting female gamers
        c – saying “Yo Brah” to misgynists everywhere

        and so on.

        It’s not offending women – it’s offending anyone who’s views aren’t still based on the 70s…

        • Alexrose says:

          How is it enforcing a stereotype that most gamers are nerds if it’s implying you have a girlfriend who has no clue how to play video games? I’d say you’re more likely to be a nerd if you sit and play video games as a passtime with your girlfriend who happens to own at games than a person who just ropes his regular girlfriend who has no idea about games into trying out a casual mode.

          Most gamers are male, and most females wouldn’t know where to start with playing FPS. That’s not to say “women can’t play FPS” at ALL, that’s just saying that most females don’t take any interest in it, and that’s something that’s clearly true. Surely you can see that it’s not mysogynistic or chauvinistic to say:

          “Since most gamers are male and most females don’t play FPS, the majority of people playing the game will be male, and the majority of those who have girlfriends will have ones who don’t know how to play FPS”.

          It’s a fair logical and statistical assumption! It’s not saying “Girls are all crap at FPS” at all! Have you never had a girlfriend who was clueless about video games? It’s not saying “girl mode”, it’s saying “girlfriend mode” – the average girlfriend who wouldn’t know where to begin playing Borderlands 2, not because she is stupid or anything, but because she probably hasn’t taken an interest in playing at all, like most people wouldn’t (as most of the population aren’t gamers) and specifically most women wouldn’t (as most of the gamer population are male).

          I really can’t see how this is a problem.

          • Skabooga says:

            It is a problem because it contributes to a hostile environment towards women who would like to engage in this type of activity. If any imbalance in numbers engaged in this activity does exist, I’d posit that it is more likely due to this hostile environment than any inherent difference in skill or interest between genders.

        • Zelos says:

          What the dev said? Not an issue.
          The ignorance in your post? THAT’S an issue.

          Not only does gearbox make no assumption or implication or indication that their fanbase is “nerdy”, but they clearly don’t insult female gamers in the least. The phrase he used refers to people who don’t play games and is gender neutral the same way “man made” or “bro” is. Does the source refer to a specific sex? Absolutely. Does it retain any of that meaning? No.

          • Hematite says:

            I know this is wrong, but I have to ask: Was there some trauma in your past that makes you think ‘girlfriend’ isn’t a gender-specific word?

      • MD says:

        “What you think is an issue and what is an issue are different – you get that don’t you.”

        And yet thanks to your absolute confidence in your own judgment, you have repeatedly made condescending posts implying that those who disagree with you are hateful and/or moronic.

        “a – reinforcing the stereotype of the male gamer as nerd and geek – something we’re trying SO hard to dissipate”

        You’ll have to explain this to me, because I’m evidently an idiot. On the face of it, this doesn’t ring true at all. The stereotypical ‘nerd or geek’ would either not have a girlfriend, or have a ‘nerdy/geeky’ girlfriend.

        “b – insulting female gamers”

        This also doesn’t seem nearly as obvious to me as to you. Lacking experience in FPS gaming is not a bad or degrading thing. Using what is most likely a broadly accurate stereotype (the easy mode is designed largely for people who might not buy the game themselves, but could be induced to play by a friend; many of these friends will be partners; among the heterosexual majority, the inexperienced FPS player will most often be the female) in a throwaway, shorthand description with no ill-will behind it is not necessarily offensive, given that the attribute in question is not actually a negative one. (If anything, our society tends to look down on the person who spends enough time playing shooting games to be good at them, rather than the reverse.) You don’t have to be an idiot or a sexist to hold that opinion.

        I’m totally open to being told that this is in fact offensive, because the “women-as-non-gamers” stereotype is in fact more of a big deal than I realise, to the point of making this sort of thing genuinely hurtful in itself, and/or likely to have a damaging effect on public opinion. But I’m not open to being harangued and insulted for failing to immediately accept your argument. (Which, and I admit that I might easily have missed a more detailed post somewhere in this giganto-thread, from what I have seen boils down to basically telling everyone that it’s really obvious and they’re probably a sexist idiot for not seeing it.)

  32. MadTinkerer says:

    They should have nicknamed it “Mom mode” instead. Mom is quite good at games. They’re all match-3 variants, tetris, Bookworm Adventures, etc. In the past she has tried to play Goldeneye and Smash Bros with us, but even cranking down the difficulty for her was a bit too much.

    This mode sounds like it would be perfect.

  33. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Games Press at large: “this is a story because I demand a story”.

    In reality it’s just a Texan talking plainly about his game, good job next time he wont get to & the games press will have succeeded in turning everything any developer anywhere says into “Announcing: The sequel/reboot to our last successful/cult classic game will be out in November”

  34. Kid_A says:

    There comes a point where we have to look at intent (this is a mode designed for your significant other/platonic friend who doesn’t play many FPS games) instead of just wildly jumping to “everyone at Gearbox is a misogynist twat”. This is that point.

    • Vandelay says:

      So why didn’t he just call it non-gamer mode? The fact that this was the term he immediately went to is what is telling here.

      Should there be a massive shit storm over this? No. There are much more important targets in the gaming world, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be called out on it and told that it is not the kind of attitude we want from those that make our games.

      • Unaco says:

        Because ‘girlfriend mode’ has been used for several years now, prominent female games journalists included, as an alias for asymmetrical coop mode.

        link to

        • RobF says:

          Phew, that’s alright then. As long as we’ve used it for a while, it must be fine.

          Awww wait…

          • Unaco says:

            I didn’t say it was fine to use it… I tried to provide an explanation as to WHY it sprung to his mind. Because it’s the term that has been used for quite a while now.

            I kind of see it as similar to, say, something like “Twat” as an insult. A term for female genitalia used by people as an insult… why? Is female genitalia somehow negative? Why should being likened to female genitalia be an insult? What sort of people use “Twat” as an insult? Do they denigrate female genitalia when they use it? What are your thoughts on use of “Twat” as a derogatory term, Rob “War Twat” Fearon?

            Is “Twat” really OK to use?

          • HisMastersVoice says:

            No one seems to have any issues with “dick”. Except perhaps the person that was called one…

          • Milky1985 says:

            I’ve got a small problem with “dick”, but thats a more personal matter.

          • RobF says:

            Yes, because calling a game War Twat that features yellow diggers, aliens and the sound of Bruce Forsyth is entirely comparable with calling a person a twat and also entirely comparable with calling a game mode designed to entice the people who aren’t as skilled at games “Girlfriend mode”.

            Entirely. You’re not reaching at all there, love.

            It’s about context, man.

          • Milky1985 says:

            Yes it is about context, and you missed the context and are focusing on what was said

            What he said was basically “This is a way where poeple who arn’t as good can come in and play , “for lack of a better term” (this was actualyl said, rest is me paraphrasing”) a girlfriend mode”

            Beside the fact that girlfriend mode has been used in relation to deathspank and Mario already to mean a second player, in those cases a different type of player as it was a helper but still in a similar vein.

            Again i can see why peopel could be offended but its all being taken OUT of context which is making it worse.

          • Unaco says:

            “It’s about context, man.”

            And the guy using the term ‘girlfriend mode’ isn’t about context? It’s OK when it’s yourself using gendered insults because your ‘context’ is to be considered… but when a dev gives an offhand, flippant name, already established and used by the industry, regardless of ‘context’ it’s not OK.

            You’re not a hypocrite at all, are you ‘love’?

          • RobF says:

            Unaco, if you’re going to try and be smart, please be a bit smarter.

            I’m absolutely considering the context in which “girlfriend mode” is used. I’m absolutely taking that into account.

            And it’s indefensible bullshit from an industry rife with this sort of trash. So rife that it doesn’t even see how it could be considered offensive. And it has people queuing up to defend it or minimise it. That’s a whole lot of bullshit right there.

            If you want to also call bullshit on me having a game called “War Twat”, fine. Go right ahead. It won’t make the context in which “girlfriend mode” is being used any less insulting. It won’t make me having a game called “War Twat” any more relevant to the discussion or any less of a deflection. But if it makes you feel like you’re winning or whatever it is you’re attempting to do, go for it. I’m absolutely cool with that.

            But if you really can’t see the difference in context and intent between the two, maybe it’s time to stop shouting into comments sections and defending this bullshit and start listening to people, eh? Maybe we’ll get somewhere closer to game development not being a pighole that way.

          • Unaco says:

            I’m not saying it’s OK to use the term… I’ve said in a number of comments that it’s an unfortunate term, but one that has been established and used (by both male and female commenters in the gaming community) and so, in the context of the interview where he was grasping for a term, he used it, and clarified that he didn’t think it was a good term for the feature or whatever.

            That’s where this interaction started… you thought I was saying it’s OK to use the term. I pointed out it wasn’t. I pointed out that, similarly, you use a term considered offensive to women, without meaning any offense (I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on that one)… just like this guy used the term, without meaning any offense.

            BTW, you could do your part towards achieving an industry that isn’t a pighole by not using gendered insults in the titles of your games. It’s indefensible bullshit from an industry rife with this sort of trash… so rife that you appear to be blind to the insulting and denigrating nature of the term to women and others with vaginas.

            Edit: In case you really are blind as to why twat denigrates women, if you’re turning a female body part into a slur to insult someone, the implication is necessarily that twats are bad, nasty, less than, something that a person wouldn’t want to be or be associated with. That’s how insults work.

          • RobF says:

            You should really stop trying to throw this back at me, man. You’re doing an awful job of it and it’s very silly.

            I know full well how offensive a term “twat” is when it’s used as an insult. I use it in the title of my game being fully aware that it’s an offensive term when it’s used as an insult. I also know why it’s offensive.

            I am also fundamentally aware of the difference in context between using the word “twat” as a non sequitur in a game title, a game where the title has absolutely no relation to the content also and using the term “girlfriend mode” to refer to a mode that implies women simply aren’t very good at games. Something which does have an absolute connection between the term and the mode in question.

            So when you’re quite finished being silly…

          • Unaco says:

            You should really stop trying to wiggle out of this, man. You’re just burying yourself deeper, claiming all of these things that don’t apply to John Hemmingway, but do apply to yourself and vice versa… it’s just digging yourself a hole of hypocrisy.


            ” using the term “girlfriend mode” to refer to a mode that implies women simply aren’t very good at games.

            That’s one interpretation of it… that I’d disagree with. He isn’t implying ALL WOMEN simply aren’t very good at games. Girlfriend != All women.

            It was an unfortunate term that is used by the community, and should probably be changed. But to take it as a terrible insult to all women is stretching it somewhat. Just like taking your use of the word “twat” as an insult to all women is a stretch… I was being facetious to start, pointing out that your own use of ‘twat’ is comparable to this, and it could be blown up to being a massive insult against all women and those who possess vaginas. But now you seem to be getting awful defensive…

            When you’ve finished being a hypocrite… do what you want, I don’t really care. I think I’ve said all I want to on the subject.

            In short, you should be willing to take it, if you’re gonna hand it out. Your use of twat can be interpreted to be just as bad and offensive, if not worse than John Hemmingway’s use of ‘girlfriend mode’. But, you twist things to attack him, and to defend yourself. That’s not decent or honest.

          • NathanH says:

            Edit: It appears Unaco got in first…

            Calling a feature designed to help play between gamers and non-gamers “girlfriend mode” isn’t, however, making any statement about the abilities of female gamers, though. Because the girlfriend in question is not a gamer. And people who are not gamers are not good at games.

            The potential offensiveness of the term comes from the implication that the most common manifestation of a gamer playing with a non-gamer is a gamer playing a game with their non-gamer girlfriend. That could be claimed to be sexist. But not because it’s saying that girls can’t play games, because it really isn’t saying that at all.

          • RobF says:

            Oh, Unaco. I’m not wriggling out of anything, love. I’m responding directly to your increasingly spurious claims whilst scratching my head (and laughing a little bit) as to what you’re hoping to achieve or what exactly your point is here.

            I believe that Hemingway’s statement, regardless of how many people using this statement prior, is not OK.

            So, either you agree that it’s not OK in which case, I’m *really* baffled as to what you’re hoping to achieve or you believe that it is OK in which case, I’m *really* baffled as to why you’d describe it as “an unfortunate statement”. Or you don’t really care and you’re just arguing for some other reason, in which case, I’m still really baffled as to what that’s supposed to achieve.

            Either way, it’s still very silly.

          • Unaco says:

            Silly… yes. We can agree on that. So why did you start this in the first place? It was you who responded to one of my comments, got my meaning completely wrong and, I would say run but that implies more competence than you actually have here… stumbled, yes, you got my meaning wrong and stumbled and fumbled along with it, purely to start some sort of argument, or to rile me. I also notice that people have said way, way worse things in this thread than I, yet my comment is the ONLY one you engaged with (and still managed to get my meaning wrong). Why would that be? And you keep calling me love… could you be any more patronising and condescending? Really?

          • RobF says:

            I engaged with this comment because it’s the second time in the thread you’ve posted the same link. And your comments after my post and in other areas of this thread don’t portray a picture of someone who entirely understands why it offends people so or entirely why it’s not OK.

            You place such a focus on pedantry ( “!=all women” ) or shifting the focus ( “it still implies that all gamers are heterosexual males, and their partners are going to be bad at games” ) and finally attempting to turn the argument around onto me suggests that perhaps, I haven’t quite misunderstood you or your point at all. Rather, you have misunderstood the point at hand.

            Here’s a quick primer: link to or you can just read the RPS article above, right?

            You acknowledge that it’s an “unfortunate term” yet your reasons for seeing it as unfortunate are, erm, interesting to say the least. That you feel the need to repeatedly query, nitpick and question the point, appears to betray a complete lack of truly understanding or empathising with the issue and as to how and why this attitude is a cancer on the game industry.

            I believe you wholeheartedly when you say you believe it shouldn’t be used, I believe you when you say you think it’s an unfortunate term. I don’t believe, from your comments, that you know why it’s more than that. Or rather, are willing to accept that for many, many people it’s more than that and that’s how these things come to explode as they do.

            I honestly believe that if you did understand that, you wouldn’t have attempted to be quite so fast in trying to scream “hypocrisy” at me as if that’d somehow have any sort of relevance. Because if you did understand, you’d be able to tell the difference in the intent and the meaning of the two things you’re trying to draw comparisons with. Or maybe you do, but I’d like to hope it’s the other.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Rob, just stop man. Unaco called you out on your attempts to justify the use of the term “War Twat” (which you did very poorly IMO), and now you’re using the old wall-o-text defense in an effort to make that justification sound reasonable. Twat is still going to be offensive to some people no matter what the context is, so what’s the point of continuing to make yourself look even more foolish?

          • RobF says:

            Yeah, yeah, I get it. I got caught* with a game called War Twat in my portfolio so my comments about Hemingway are therefore hypocritical and can be ignored or something.

            Did you miss the bit where I acknowledged that “twat” is offensive and I know why it’s offensive or something? The bit where I chose to call something “twat” knowing it was offensive. Or that War Twat itself is like, the least offensive thing on the planet. Or did you just miss the bit where it has no bearing whatsoever on Hemingway’s statements anyway?

            Well done though, you caught me bang to rights!

            *I say caught because it’s been on display to the public on a number of occasions and has been covered on this site and others in the past so hardly caught but whatever.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            You’re still making excuses for your incoherent logic, and those excuses still suck.

          • RobF says:

            I’m not making excuses for a single thing, man.

  35. ix says:

    Can we not use the term sexism. Chauvinism also means nationalism and I get really confused when Alec mentions how he’s had to delete all those patriotic comments.

    Anyway, maybe he meant *his* girlfriend? (No, of course not, it was a dumb and mildly sexist statement from a studio known for encouraging such an atmosphere. What else is there really to say about this?)

  36. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Amazingly the real scandal, that they’re developing paid dlc concurrently with the game, has been completely lost.

    • Gothnak says:

      I’m sure if they weren’t releasing it as DLC then they wouldn’t expect to get the profit from selling it as DLC and then they wouldn’t be able to employ the people working on it and then it wouldn’t exist.

      So, yes, DLC pays for itself, giving extra stuff away for free doesn’t.

    • Xocrates says:

      Due to console certification period and box production, it’s a fair assumption the game has gone gold by now, and they appear to still be pretty early on the character development.

      Whatever work is still required for the main game should be minimal by this point, I see no issue in starting the transition to DLC production.

  37. zebramatt says:

    I am led to believe, by a Tweeter claiming to be a member of the press who attended the studio on the same occasion, that Hemmingway was the only person during the entire visit who referred used the phrases “girlfriend skill tree” and “girlfriend mode”.

    Although I am perfectly willing to entertain the possibility that it is a commonly-used term in the studio and he was the only one with the brass or lack of brains to say it in front of the press; I am equally if not more willing to postulate that there is, in fact, ‘one in every office’.

  38. groovychainsaw says:

    I personally find the fact that this ‘accessible’ mode is being locked off to only be available to pre-orders bizarre. Bit odd when it’s supposed to help broaden who can play the game?

    Also, I can see how the (mostly male?) developers would/could have nicknamed it as above. That doesn’t make it right and it would be nice to see more maturity from the industry (plus, my missus is better at borderlands 1 than I am, she’s min-maxed her siren ridiculously well, so boyfriend mode would be more appropriate…)

    • says:

      Yes, this. Having an entire class locked behind the pre-order gate is kind of baffling.

      • LionsPhil says:

        How utterly bizzare.

      • Xocrates says:

        Hum… the class is FREE for pre-orders, not locked behind a “pre-order gate”, it should be available at the same time for everyone.

        The bizarre part is that the noob-friendly class it won’t be available at launch (ETA seems to be about 2 months after release)

        • HisMastersVoice says:

          That’s because the game went gold a while ago and the content won’t be ready for release day. It’s really a post launch DLC, unlike what Bioware did with ME3.

          • Xocrates says:

            Don’t misunderstand me, I’m fully aware it’s a post launch DLC, my point is why they didn’t think of making one of the launch classes the noob-friendly one.

  39. says:

    My wife is terrible at shooters, so I’m not really seeing the big deal. She’d probably even laugh, but that’s because she has a sense of humor and isn’t constantly looking for offense.

    There’s more outrage over this than about bimbo female protagonists or helpless Princess Peaches. I’m going to have to agree with that guy who said that people like being offended.

  40. D3xter says:

    Oh no! Look, it’s like kind of a big deal over here!

    Funny thing is, all this knee-jerking over Batman: AC, Tomb Raider and now Borderlands 2 is just making me more likely to buy them. (earlier, at a higher price at that) Still gotta get Duke Nukem at some point, but all the knee-jerking in the world wouldn’t have saved that one (out of entirely different reasons).

    • Jay says:

      He doesn’t play by anybody’s rules. Except those marketed to pander specifically to him.

      • Anabasis says:

        I’m a rebel, and I express my revolt against PC Death World through the products I buy and by situating my identity squarely within parameters established by crass marketing schemes!

  41. fish99 says:

    Wow, what a total non story. Plus it’s factual anyway, it just doesn’t happen to be PC.

  42. zebramatt says:

    Also, a meta-comment, if you will: It’s remarkable how many people have replied to this, an article clearly explaining the situation with no room for ambiguity, with a comment which demonstrates that they still believe the skill tree is ACTUALLY called a “girlfriend mode”.

  43. Gothnak says:

    If i had been in one of my previous non-gamer relationships (My current partner is as much a gamer as i am) and Eastenders had had a ‘Boyfriend mode’ with a Turn Based Strategy game in the top quarter of the screen, you wouldn’t have seen me complaining. Obviously there are some gents who watch Eastenders though and they might have been annoyed. :)

  44. Snids says:

    Incredible amounts of tedium being trotted out in these comments.
    Do people honestly not realise that the following arguments have been heard before?

    1. It’s just a joke.

    2. No-one would complain if it was called “boyfriend mode”

    3. Anecdotal “my girlfriend doesn’t mind”

    4. I don’t believe it is sexist so therefore it isn’t sexist.

    5. The person quoted didn’t intend it to be sexist so it can’t be sexist.

    6. “My girlfriend is really good at games”. Missing the point quite hard there.

    I’m sure there are other boring arguments that I look forward to being bored by. Nice tweet from Helen Lewis who says essentially why can’t people just accept he said something thoughtless instead of attacking back and rabidly defending their viewpoint?

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Agreed. And I believe this is the message Alec’s post is trying to convey.
      A good article whose comments section is helpfully proving its point.

    • Zelos says:

      How about “the quote refers to people who don’t play games and is thus not only not offensive, but statistically accurate when referring to FPSs”

      • Hematite says:

        Yeah, and I’m so glad there are food stamps to help out black people.

  45. Cold Steel says:

    Don’t know what to think of this game yet, number one was pretty boring actually – but so were military shooter xy and tacticool sim xz.

  46. AbyssUK says:

    How is this worse than calling a film a chick flick ? as that seems to be socially acceptable.. I think eeven the mighty Times has called films chick flicks… I don’t get it does it have to rhyme or something to be ok ?

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      The difference is that the term “chick flick” doesn’t imply that women are bad at watching movies. That’s pretty obvious isn’t it?

      • AbyssUK says:

        but it does imply men won’t like it because it has deep emotions and feelings in it, which us men just simply don’t understand…because we are all Bro’s or something..

      • Zelos says:

        Neither does “girlfriend mode” so I don’t see your point. It implies that people who don’t play video games are bad at them, and also that male gamers often have girlfriends that don’t play video games, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either of those statements.

        Of course, if it weren’t offensive then there would be fewer page views and less ad revenue, which we can’t have.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        I agree that “chick flick” is very mildly offensive, as is any descriptor of genre that supposes one gender will appreciate the described more than another. VERY mildly.

        “Girlfriend mode” is slightly more offensive because it implies a lack of ability on the part of women, and because it is notoriously difficult for women to ‘break into’ the world of gaming because of the unusually male-centric attitudes often found therein, and while the mode it describes is attempting to right that wrong, the phrase itself is poorly judged and would most likely exacerbate it. SLIGHTLY.

        Neither are that bad, but it’s interesting to debate the difference, to a certain extent. Right?

        EDIT: Now that I read that back, I think the correct answer is most likely “no”.

        • NathanH says:

          It doesn’t really imply anything of the sort about women gamers, because it’s quite clearly talking about non-gamers, and the gaming ability of non-gamers is, of course, fairly low. It’s also suggesting that the most common manifestation of a gamer playing a game with a non-hamer is a gamer wanting to play a game with their non-gamer girlfriend. This could be sexist. It might on the other hand be accurate. I’m not sure.

          But it’s definitely not saying anything about the gaming abilities of women in general. You have to be working hard to draw that interpretation.

  47. Wednesday says:

    Claims about videogaming prowess are not important. “Misogynistic” is, loosely “hatred of women”. Many things are misogynistic. This is not.

    • Anabasis says:

      This is exactly the sort of semantic hair-splitting I’ve come to expect from people on a certain side of this whole issue. You are aware that misogyny has a broader connotation than someone explicitly saying “I hate women!” right? And even then I suspect you know damn well that people who use the term in this thread and elsewhere are employing a broader definition than the more narrow one you forward and that you just want to quibble about definition to avoid talking about the actual topic.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        If you look up word misogyny in various dictionaries, you’ll find that the most commonly used definition is something akin to “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women”. The term “girlfriend mode”, at least to sensible minds, does not have connotations of hatred, dislike, or mistrust. What we’re looking at here is a term that is sexist at the worst and utterly harmless at the least.

        You know what’s misogynistic? Ted Bundy. Clitorectomies. The Bible. Limited voting rights. Tribal warfare. Forced marriage.

        This whole subject needs a fair amount of context. That context certainly isn’t being applied by those overly offended by the term “girlfriend mode”.

        • Anabasis says:

          I’m reluctant to keep going down this road because one of my points was that squabbling over the dictionary definition of the term misogyny is pointless and distracting when I think it’s pretty easy to understand from context how people are using the term, but let’s go a bit further down the rabbit hole and argue that phrases like “girlfriend mode” are part of a broader and persistent misogynistic discourse in “gamer culture.”

          As evidenced by comments in this thread and elsewhere gamer culture largely defines itself in opposition to casual game players (“people who play Facebook games/the Sims/whatever aren’t gamers, we’re REAL gamers!”). One of the most visible signs of this “casuals vs true gamers” dichotomy is the use of “noob” and its variants as a standard insult in gamer culture. Part of this conception, again evidenced by comments in this very thread (accompanied by some truly baffling and creepy nonsense about women’s allegedly inferior hand-eye coordination), is that true gamerdom is a predominately male domain, with the frequent implication that women aren’t equal participants in gamer culture (regardless of the number’s game). Other people in the thread have pointed out more eloquently than I that women playing games are frequently subjected to a sort of credibility-checking that men aren’t such as the assumption that a woman got her raid spot/piece of gear because she’s somebody’s girlfriend etc. The conclusion I draw from this is that women are largely assigned an inferior status within the gamer community and all too frequently treated as interlopers, and I think misogyny is a perfectly valid term for this sort of condescension and suspicion.

          More to the point the fact that Hemmingway referred to the Mechromancer being friendly to casual players as “girlfriend mode” rather than “casual mode” or “newbie mode” seems to spring from a similar conception that the boyfriend (in this fictional relationship) is the assumed default gamer and his girlfriend is external to his gamerhood, and thereby relegated to a lower status in a culture that assigns worth based on skill in very gendered terms. Again, being a “casual” is probably the most definite sign of not belonging in true gamerdom to the extent that misguided but well-intentioned people apparently feel compelled to point out that “my friend/girlfriend/wife can totally kick your ass at games” (and as Trjp quite aptly points out in another comment women don’t need to prove their equality, and such anecdotes are unnecessary). Ultimately while Hemmingway may not have used the term to intentionally say something like “we call it girlfriend mode because girls are dumb and bad at games, right fellas?,” he used a phrase that is part of this broader idea that women don’t belong in gamer culture and are treated as less than equal participants therein. I think that misogynist is an appropriate appellative for that whole complex, even if the participants aren’t literally killing women because they hate them. Fundamentally while the examples you cite are some of the starkest examples of misogyny around (although I’m not sure what you mean by “tribal warfare”) that doesn’t mean the term isn’t appropriate for things less graphic and explicit than someone killing/assaulting women because he hates them.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            I won’t go through your response and dissect it point by point; I do happen to agree with you on many of them, and I do agree that gamers tend to have a very antiquated view of women. However, none of what you wrote convinces me that using “misogyny” as a catch-all descriptive is appropriate for the type of behavior exhibited by so many male gamers towards female gamers (and females in general). What you’re decrying is sexism, pure and simple, and it should be described as such.

            Grouping sociopolitical ignorance (sexism) with willful hatred (misogyny) is doing a disservice to this particular debate.

        • Tasloi says:


          You’d be surprised at how people can use spin, speculation & assumptions to make even the smallest statement fit into a certain term.

  48. CrookedLittleVein says:

    The words “teacup” and “storm” and “massively overblown” come to mind.

  49. zebramatt says:

    Finally, for folks really struggling with the concept of why it was an ill choice of words:

    I am not very good at Borderlands. I’m fine with that and, if I were to buy the sequel, simply would not have the time or motivation to become significantly better. Therefore a positive handicap makes sense for me. This game has one – the BFF skill tree – with a rather humorous moniker. Marvelous!

    However, had it been called the “Girlfriend skill tree” then I, as a man, would wonder at the inference about me. I’m not good at Borderlands, so I’m someone’s girlfriend? Immediately I’m thinking (a) why is my sex and sexuality even at question here; and (b) what’re you saying about how bad it is in your eyes to be someone’s girlfriend, when it comes to Borderlands aptitude?? I’d feel like I was back at school, being insulted for something that’s not even particularly insulting.

    Clearly it’s a very silly turn of phrase.

  50. Wednesday says:

    Might I also point out alot of what John says on Rum Doings are way, way up on the “possible offense” scale. Far past this.

    Not a criticism of John, just a point.