Today, details were unveiled about a “Best Friends Forever” skill tree in Borderlands 2. It’s basically the skill for a new class, the Mechromancer, that is dumbed down a bit for newcomers to the game. And while that’s alright and dandy (and a great way to introduce casual gamers to the franchise), how the lead designer John Hemingway actually described the whole thing? Not really OK.
“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,” Hemingway said.
In response to the uproar on Twitter that is currently going on, Randy Pitchford, President of Gearbox Software, has retaliated by tweeting 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.”
OK, so “girlfriend mode” isn’t an official title used in the game and for that I’m grateful. But Hemingway was still pretty dumb to let a description like that out of his mouth, even if it is a term used in-house and wasn’t going to be a part of the actual finished product. It implies that women and incompetence in gaming go hand in hand, which in this day and age, we should all know isn’t true. It just further perpetuates the stereotypes that can’t seem to disappear. Do I think Hemingway is some sexist pig? No. But a better choice of words could’ve been used. Instead, he’s alienating any girl gamer that was a fan of Borderlands (and from what I see on Twitter, plenty of guys as well).
Chances are, his publicist is writing up some apology for him to come out with at some point, sooner rather than later. But come on. A grown man and a media professional should have the intelligence to realize, “Gee, if I call this easiest, broken down skill tree/mode in a game ‘girlfriend mode’, you think anyone would mind?”
Like my mother always said, think before you speak.
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