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‘Girlfriend mode?’ You’ve got to be kidding me

August 13, 2012

John Hemingway, what were you thinking?

During an interview with Eurogamer published Monday, Hemingway, the lead designer for developer Gearbox Software’s highly anticipated first-person shooter Borderlands 2, talked a bit about the game’s Mechromancer class. The punk-cyborg female character will be available roughly two months after the main game launches on Sept. 18 for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Hemingway provided some details about one of the Mechromancer’s three skill trees, officially dubbed Best Friends Forever, which is chock full of perks aimed to help out new or unskilled gamers. The thinking is that a less accomplished player can still team up with buddies and enjoy the game.

That’s terrific. I’m all for anything that makes gaming more accessible to people who want to play.

Hemingway, however, goes off the deep end by casually referring to BFF as “girlfriend mode.”

This clipping from Eurogamer’s site perfectly sums up the cringeworthy exchange:

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

One of the first skills available in the BFF tree is called Close Enough. This means your bullets that hit walls or other objects, that is, miss their target, have a chance to ricochet off towards the enemy.

“Can’t aim? That’s not a problem,” Hemingway said.

Say what?!?

Congratulations on belittling an entire gender, Hemingway. BFF mode is a great idea; affixing a default gender to people who “suck at first-person shooters” isn’t.

These comments only help reinforce the increasingly ill-fitting stereotype that men are the only ones playing, or at least excelling, at FPS titles and video games in general.

Hours after the Eurogamer article launched Monday, Gearbox released the following statement on its Twitter account, @GearboxSoftware: “Gaming is divided by skill, not gender. Our goal with Mechromancer is for co-op partners of any skill to have fun together.”

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From → Games, News, Rants

  1. Janet permalink

    Yeah, thanks a lot Gearbox. There’s really no taking it back either. After-the-fact tweets just seem insincere and manipulative.

  2. The shame of it is, I really do like the idea of a skill tree that helps out players who need an extra hand. I think BFF is a great inclusion in the game and helps make an already fun multiplayer experience that much more welcoming.
    As soon as you start attaching the stereotype of unskilled gamers to any group as a whole, however, you’re sending the wrong message. The issue is magnified in this case, specifically, because women already have to wade through oceans of intolerance from fellow gamers.
    Even unintentionally, the people making those games shouldn’t be lending any legitimacy to that mindset.

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