Gearbox Denies Calling Borderlands 2 ‘Best Friends Forever’ Skill Tree ‘Girlfriend Mode’ Internally

While having a super casual mode for your game is a great idea, what you call it in private can sometimes seep out and cause you a headache if you are not careful. That is exactly what is happening to Gearbox Software this morning after a Eurogamer report called a new super easy skill tree in Borderlands 2 "Girlfriend Mode." The offense comes from the inference that "girlfriends" are somehow not very good at games (or not very bright) and need a special skill tree to help them along. Gearbox is basically being accused of using a misogynist term to describe the mode.

The trouble started in a Eurogamer interview with Borderlands 2 lead developer John Hemingway, who outlined an additional character scheduled for release 60 days after the main game. This character will introduce a user-friendly skill tree called "Best Friends Forever" that includes perks such as a decreased need for shooting accuracy. But the problem is that, according to Eurogamer, Gearbox has been calling it "Girlfriend Mode" internally.

"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."

While Eurogamer did not comment on this in the interview, other media outlets picked up on the comment and criticized the whole idea of a mode designed for girlfriends and loved ones who aren't very good at first-person shooters.

Gearbox founder Randy Pitchford took to Twitter to defend his studio and to deny that the term "Girlfriend Mode" was ever used by anyone at the studio.

"Borderlands 2 does NOT have a girlfriend mode," said Pitchford. "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."

Later, the author of the Eurogamer piece questioned Pitchford's claims on Twitter, saying that the use of the term 'Girlfriend Mode' was not an isolated incident.

"@DuvalMagic completely reject the accusation of sensationalism," wrote Wesley Yin-Poole. "It is a direct quote from the lead designer who said it to a roomful of us. that's how it was referenced by Gearbox staff a number of times two weeks ago during the studio visit. The quotes are accurate."

Source: MCV

Editor's note, this art is the character "Ellie" from Borderlands 2, and not representative of the new easy skill tree.

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  1. 0
    Farseli says:

    So wait…this goes DOESN'T have a girlfriend mode? Huh..that bites. Last shooter I played with a girlfriend she ended up killing me more then the enemies did because she couldn't aim around me…

    Of course, they could have countered and said, "Every mode is girlfriend mode. Girlfriends are welcome in all the modes of this game." But no, they said it. This game does not have a girlfriend mode. So take your girlfriends elsewhere.

  2. 0
    MechaTama31 says:

    Dear mountain-out-of-molehillers,

    Stop telling other people what they should think is a big deal.  Responses like that are what make people roll their eyes and tune you out.  Especially given how often you try to whip up a furor over something trivial.

    Getting so bent out of shape over every little offhand comment says something about how hypersensitive you are, and how keen to play the misogyny card.  It sounds reasonable to you, but it's always a little thing, and then another little thing, and another little thing, always railing about how insensitive and sexist gamers are, and about how disagreeing with you about the seriousness of a given issue simply "proves your point".

    If you don't want to play Gearbox games because of this, then fine, just leave it at that.  Don't pretend that everyone else has your paper-thin skin, and because you are butthurt about it, they should be too.  Getting in a snit and excoriating people over every little thing ends up just being one more little thing, another thing that makes you look like an extremist killjoy.

    Threads like this make it harder and harder to support feminists.

  3. 0
    Neeneko says:

    Dear derailers.

    Stop telling other people what they should think is a big deal.  Respones like that ARE why it can be a big deal.  Esp given how pissed so many of you get whenever the mainstream media makes an unfair gamer comment.

    Internal names and offhanded comments say something about the culture within the company and what they think of women.  It sounds like a little thing, but it is always a little thing, and then another little thing, and another little thing, then comments saying you should just have a sense of humor or it shouldn't matter or how getting upset 'proves the original point'.

    If you don't understand or can not relate, then fine, just leave it at that.  Don't pretend you can see from other people's perspectives and because you don't care they shouldn't either.  Getting defensive and dehumanizing to protect your ignorance ends up just being one more little thing, another thing that 'ruins your fun' if someone points it out.

    Threads like this make it harder and harder to defend 'gamers' and 'gamer culture'

  4. 0
    Neeneko says:

    Wouldn't that fall under 'reporting and public backlash'?

    Yes, they are a private company, and yes people should vote with their wallets.  But that does not mean we should burry it or try to pretend it isn't there.   Some people are going to be pissed about it, and given how mysogonistic many development teams have a history of being, they have good reason…

  5. 0
    Phlopsy says:

    So what?  They can call it "stupid bitch" mode for all anyone should care.  They're a private company selling a product, they're not running for public office.  They're under no obligation to the masses to be polite.  Don't buy their product if you don't like their attitude. 

  6. 0
    MechaTama31 says:

    Because an offhand, tongue in cheek, internal nickname for a game mode is toooootaly the same thing as making an official statement as a company that all women suck at games.  Jesus people, lighten up.  This kind of shit is why so many people who would otherwise agree with feminists find them so obnoxious.

  7. 0
    Longjocks says:

    Oh dear… terrible comparison. Babies are not cognisant. They require nurturing and guidance by their very nature. A woman, just for the virtue of being a woman, does not. Baby Mode is a perfectly good descriptor.

    I'm no champion for feminism, and my sense of humour certainly is broad and depraved, so I get the joke and take it on that level. But I can admit it's an indicator of the misogynist gaming culture when this gender specific term is coined where the gender neutral Baby Mode would be better, at the very least on a professional level.

  8. 0
    Mrxknown_JG says:

    Um…have you not played any of Treyarch's Call of Duty titles?

    Their Call of Duty: World at War and sequel had a Zombie mode with Nazis. Heck the game had Nazis in the game and it wasn't that far off.

    The problem isn't the time period, but how Gearbox is denieding the truth and mkaing it a big deal.

    My girlfriend is more of a gamer than I am, to assume otherwise by Gearbox is wrong. Yes it was an internal name, but that just continues to feed the underlying macho-male culture in the gaming world.

  9. 0
    Left4Dead says:

    Wolfenstein 3D, the first real 3D shooter of mass popularity (yes, I'm aware it wasn't the first 3D shooter), had a "baby" mode complete with main character in a baby bonnet and pacifier.  Goo goo, gaga, mama.

    No one complained then.  Why is this any worse?  It isn't.  Plus Borderlands isn't exactly a "politically correct" game – whatever that really means.  Wolfenstein 3D had Nazis, which would be considered to be much, much worse if the game were made today.  OMG – Nazis and baby mode!  How horrible and inconsiderate!  /sarcasm

    -- Left4Dead --

  10. 0
    NyuRena says:

    My girlfriend will likely use it, so in my case it's accurate for all of the implied reasons.. She'll be the first to admit that she likes video games, but often sucks at them..

    I'm glad to hear of this mode. cool

  11. 0
    Davvolun says:

    What's funny is that this wouldn't be a big deal if they owned up to it, admitted it was a mistake to use that term, even internally, and if it were used as a chance to learn a little bit about how language can marginalize a group of people. I mean, we all know what is really trying to be communicated, which was actually elaborated on in the rest of the article, and that there was no harm intended. So admit you made a mistake, and we can all move on. Instead, they're denying it and now it is a big deal.

  12. 0
    Samster says:

    Language has meaning, influences social attitudes, and can be representative of problematic patterns – such as the continued marginalisation of female gamers and the auto-assumption that all gamers are straight males. Another recent example was the panel about gaming and dealing with work and family life at the same time at PAX, which included 'Wife Aggro' in its title, until it was protested and changed.

    So while individual incidents might not be a 'big deal' (a particularly vague term to define – what's a big deal in video games?), it's the insidious persistence of this language use that becomes a problem, and serves to reinforce the idea that women and family are obstacles to gaming, incapable of being good at games, and that female gamers are never included in the target audience.

  13. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    Dear people making a big deal out of something that's not a big deal,

    You're being obnoxious.


    Dear Randy Pitchford,

    If Gearbox referred to it as "Girlfriend Mode," own up to it.  It's really okay.


    Best regards,

    Andrew Eisen

  14. 0
    CodeMonkey76 says:

    "Girlfriend" mode

    "My wife sucks at games" mode

    "Little brother" mode

    "N00b" mode


    Who the hell cares what it's called?  It's a good idea.  


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