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 Eurogamer.net:
“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.