Monday, October 1, 2012
Several months ago, a Borderlands 2 developer called a new game mode that strives to make the game more accessible 'girlfriend mode'. It wasn't the official name of the mode, just one developer's off-the-cuff remark in the middle of an interview.
When this happened, I reacted angrily on Twitter (as many did), and I tweeted that I would no longer buy Borderlands 2. Considering that yesterday I bought Borderlands 2, perhaps I need to admit that I may have over-reacted.
Casual sexism should, of course, always be called out. Consistent, unthinking reinforcing of gendered power relations (such as the notion that it is 'girlfriends' who will most need this mode, not 'partners') that are most pervasive in society and which need attention drawn to them each and every time. (As always, The Border House went through this superbly).
But perhaps my casual slacktivism was no better, my off-the-cuff boycott no better than some developer's off-the-cuff casual sexism.
Or perhaps I just lack commitment and really like Borderlands, and perhaps that just makes me part of the problem.
Or perhaps I should just think about the things I say online for a few seconds before I say them.
Probably some combination of all of these.
So calling the mode 'girlfriend mode', even unofficially, was a blatant example of casual sexism, subjacating women within videogame culture as second-class citizens. I'm really disappointed that rather than apologise for the poor word choice, Gearbox stubbornly insisted the developer "wasn't a sexist". Whether or not the developer is a 'sexist' is beside the fact that he said something sexist.
But, really, me not playing the game isn't going to change that. And I think I perhaps overreacted to what was casually sexist, berating when perhaps a calmer and more accessible conversation (maybe a 'boyfriend mode' conversation about privilege lolol) could've taken place. At the end of the day, not playing Borderlands 2 isn't going to make our culture any less hostile or uninviting to females, but calling out casual and blatant sexism whenever we see it will.
So I'm not angry I added my voice to the many others who were (and are) pissed off, and I would not at all begrudge any one who still decides not to purchase Borderlands 2 over this. But in this specific instance I've decided to go back on my word to not purchase the game, and it seemed worthy of a blog post before someone digs up the old tweet where I claimed I would not buy it and rubbed it in my face.
So now that that is said and done, I can head back over to Twitter and complain about how Borderlands 2's inventory system is somehow worse than Borderlands.
EDIT: So this post actually sparked a really great Twitter conversation about authorial intent and other things that you can read on Storify, here: http://storify.com/Acccent/authorship-and-interpretation-in-games
Posted by Brendan Keogh at 12:43 AM