Girlfriend Mode: It’s Time to Put the Pitchforks Away

Girlfriend Mode: It’s Time to Put the Pitchforks Away

As one of many female gamers, it was disheartening to hear that Gearbox was to feature “Girlfriend Mode” in their new title, Borderlands 2. The overtly sexist nickname to the Mechromancer DLC skill tree that provides an easier play for a co-op player caused an eruption of tweets chastising or praising the nickname.

The twitterverse erupted after John Hemingway, lead designer of Borderlands 2, stated the following in an interview with

“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.”

To be honest, my back went up immediately. I was mad. I was shocked that someone would be so blatantly sexist by selecting that name. It infuriated me that this kind of behaviour continues to isolate female gamers. It frustrated me to no end that although the small majority of males are gamers, comments like this makes the gender gap seem astronomical. I was even more appalled at the tweets that followed, praising the nickname for “putting girls in their place”. My pitchfork was ready to go.

Then I took a couple of deep breaths and had a laugh about it.

I was very conflicted, cognitive dissonance if you will. On one hand I was pissed, my gender-equality-senses were tingling. On the other hand it made me chuckle, it was pretty clever. Although the nickname plays off of the stereotype of the nagging girlfriend who wants nothing to do with videogames, it could definitely help bring some more estrogen to the gaming world.

Getting your significant other to game with you can be challenging if there is a large gap between your skills. You either play at the level that you are comfortable with, which is no fun for the boyfriend/girlfriend or you can “go easy on them” which again, is no fun for the boyfriend/girlfriend. The introduction of this mode would be an incredible way to entice your better half by allowing them to play at a level that they are comfortable with, while still providing you with a challenging gaming experience. Calling it the “Girlfriend Mode” is clearly not ideal, however it could make it more appealing to the non-gaming female population.

Randy Pitchford, President of Gearbox, was quick to jump on Twitter and defend John Hemingway as well as debunk the rumour of the “Girlfriend Mode” blaming the sensationalism of a twisted quote. I am very impressed with the way Gearbox has handled this situation and am really looking forward to seeing what the DLC has in store.


  1. Prof_Hockenberry

    It would seem that balance still requires you to start and progress more or less simultaneously, but otherwise it seems an improvement on other co-op leveling mechanics in this regard.

  2. Kellin Bruce

    I feel like this reaction is somewhat unjustified. The mode isn’t called “girl mode”, it’s called “GirlFRIEND mode”. The difference is that one is sexist and demeaning to female gamers, and one is a name that describes what this mode will likely be used for. Not to be a chauvinist, but on more than one occasion, my girlfriend (who also loves games, but isn’t great at them) and I have tried to play a game together, but it’s either too easy for me or too hard (heheh) for her. I personally really wouldn’t have a problem with girlfriend mode. But I’m a man.

    • Prof_Hockenberry

      Presumably the issue is with it not being called “significant other mode”. It implies that the girl is the non-gamer in the pair and therefore is one of the stereotypes we like to avoid, regardless of statistical accuracy.

  3. Abby Ozment

    I think this is a great idea.

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