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13 August 2012

Borderlands has a “girlfriend” mode, because all gamers are straight guys, amirite?

Videogames need to get past these kneejerk assumptions about their target market.

By Helen Lewis

OK, I’m not getting my controllers in a twist over this, but it is worth noting. When describing the sequel to Borderlands, lead designer John Hemingway told Eurogamer about a new character class called the Mechromancer, which makes aiming much less important. It’s designed for when you have a friend over to play, and they’re not very good, and need a bit of help.

Then he opened his mouth again, and inserted his foot:

“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.”

Yeah. Games industry people: it really doesn’t help when you assume that all gamers are straight guys. 

(h/t to @newsmary)

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Update: Randy Pitchford, president of Gearbox Software, is now walking back the comments, saying there is no “girlfriend mode” (the Eurogamer quote was “girlfriend skill tree”). The Guardian’s Mary Hamilton has asked him to clarify what led Hemingway to use the phrase. Will keep you posted.

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Update 2: The whole thing has degenerated into a massive bunfight, so I’m bailing. But it’s worth noting that another journalist says that he was at the same studio visit Eurogamer attended and the phrase “girlfriend mode” was used several times.

Like I said before, this isn’t a SCANDAL or THE WORST THING EVER. Just a thoughtless phrase.