Shocker: Gearbox Triggers Anger Over ‘Girlfriend Mode’ Remark
And shocking no one, many members of the video game community have taken to the Internet to express their displeasure at the sexist connotations of such a remark.
The issue sprung up from a Eurogamer story detailing the mode, in which Lead Designer John Hemingway referred to the “Best Friends Forever” skill tree for the character by the anecdotal name “Girlfriend Mode.” The idea behind the skill tree is to make co-op play easier for players who aren’t well-versed with first-person shooters.
“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,” Hemingway told Eurogamer. “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.”
The tree includes abilities, for example, that give bullets a chance to bounce off surfaces and hit their targets for players who lack aiming acumen.
Given the climate of the video game community recently and the backlash against “casual sexism” pervasive in the industry, it’s hardly surprising that the Internet exploded with controversy over the “girlfriend mode” remark. Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford took to Twitter soon afterward and made the following remarks:
“Borderlands 2 does NOT have a girlfriend mode. Anyone that says otherwise is misinformed or trying to stir up something that isn’t there.
“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.
“It’s not a thing. Just sensationalism. There’s a TBD skill for a future DLC char that is helpful for noob coop buddies. That’s a good idea!
“I’m sure Hemmingway is getting noogied now, but not his fault. A personal anecdote has been twisted and dogpiled on by sensationalists. Fun!”
The backlash against Gearbox for the remarks might be pervasive, but it shouldn’t be at all surprising; it’s certainly not far-fetched that the developer behind Duke Nukem Forever and which held a press event at a strip club might find itself making another misstep of this kind.
But as many have pointed out, casual sexism exists is an everyday part of the gaming industry, and that it is an everyday occurrence is a big part of the problem. If nothing else, developers should be aware enough of the climate of the gaming community to know that the discussion of sexism in gaming has hit a boiling point in the last year. Many gamers are fed up with this sort of attitude, whether it was purposely sexist or not. Despite what Pitchford might think, there’s nobody to blame for saying something stupid other than the person who said it.