Monday, October 1, 2012

Stepping Down

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:


Leigh said...

I was (and still am) of the view at the time that this particular event was a storm in a tea-cup, however I admit to having not read much of the discussions about it. Only the attempts by Gearbox to repair the damage, really.

Up to and including that point I actually thought Gearbox needed to go to VideoGames Jail for separate reasons anyway, I feel confident saying 'I was there' - I saw DW's tweet (and then everybody's tweets) and then read the EG story while it was all pretty raw and happening as-it-happened.

It's dangerous in this day and age. Standard and traditional artists and celebrities need only deal with paparazzi historically, nowadays social media can damage everybody involved equally.

How do you find your tweets that far back without great difficulty, honestly?

Brendan Keogh said...

I seriously just googled "Brendan Keogh girlfriend mode". Which, in hindsight, might look pretty weird.

Cha said...

I stuck by my decision not to buy Borderlands 2 on release because of the "girlfriend mode" comments. Not so much that someone made a casually sexist remark, but that on being called out for it they didn't seem to understand why it would even bother anyone.

But yeah, I'm not kidding myself my little boycott really means anything or makes a difference.

I've been thinking about boycotts quite a bit recently and whether they are ever a viable way to cause change. It's pretty much impossible to only ever give my money to companies I approve of 100%, and in most cases I don't think the impact is significant enough.

All the more reason to value critics for making sure issues are discussed.

Brendan Keogh said...


Indeed, it was the way Randy et al reacted to the outcry that was by far the most disappointing part of the whole ordeal. Instead of acknowledging how it was problematic, they stuck to their stubborn, predictable defence of "This man is not a sexist!" as though that mattered. So continuing to not purchase Borderlands 2 based on the apparently pervasive culture of sexist at Gearbox is totally justifiable.

I've had a few interesting discussions about the pros/cons of boycotts on Twitter since I wrote this post. People have made the interesting point that 'voting with your wallet' perhaps just jams demands for equality into the same old capitalist model of profit/loss. Ideally, I guess I don't want devs to stop making sexist comments/design decisions because they don't make money. I want devs to stop making sexist comments/design decisions because they realise it is offensive and perhaps requires some further consideration. THat's why I am glad I got pissed off about Girlfriend Mode with everyone else, because next time someone wants to use the word 'girlfriend' to describe an easy mode, they might remember people got pissed off, think about why they got pissed off, and perhaps reconsider. But if they just don't do it because they need to make money, then deep down that really isn't changing anything.

Then, I guess, there is the need to split the artwork from the artist. Plenty of good art is made by people with terrible opinions, and Borderlands 2 just seems another example of that.

But, again, I can't begrudge anyone who decides to not purchase a game based on the discriminatory cultures it was apparently made in. I totally respect that decision. I just think, for me, I rashly made that claim but, really, I don't think I ever made that decision.

And, yes, indeed re: the need for critics. I'm already seeing a stack of disappointing casual sexism within the game itself, and I will certainly be making a comment on these after I finish the game. Whereas if I boycotted it, all I could talk about would be Girlfriend Mode.

Leigh said...

You know the chief writer is a games critic? His web-series (changed and evolved, though it may now be) savaged a number of games during a time when no other 'name' critics with large audiences did.

He's 'part of the system' now so by all means he can be judged by the same standards anybody else in game dev is. He's no special case.

However like I first said, a person's actions on a medium such as the Internet matter a hell of a lot these days

Leigh said...

Sorry sorry sorry - that should be 'savaged a number of games "for being sexist and or otherwise denigrating to women".

Didn't realise I submitted it without my main point!

Unknown said...

There are the number of people are discussing this topic and this is strange that what they are talking about because everyone is just typing with close eye without any relevancy.

Theresa Delcas said...

My Assignment Services is no. 1 when it comes up to providing AssignmentHelp. We have a team of expert writers who are qualified in every level of econometrics, from basic to advanced econometrics. Some of these tutors are still working in this field, so they are well aware of the latest trends and are able to describe them well. Each assignment that we deliver, undergoes proper editing & proofreading and plagiarism check, so that there are no errors. My Assignment Services will always be there standing tall 24x7. We provide help for a wide range of assignments and styles like, dissertation, report writing, essays, case study, etc. My Assignment Services is ready for Australian students rely on our UK Assignment Help services due to our amazing features like, plagiarism free content, after sales service, error free papers, etc. You don’t have to involve much, as we want you to relax and let our experts do the work for you. My Assignment Services has been serving students from past 11 years now and we have gained good name among students due to our excellent quality of work. My Assignment Services not only help with healthcare, but also other subjects like higher business management, economics, finance, computer science, biology, etc. If you also have any unfinished management assignments, then we are here to provide you the best management assignment help. Our quality is unbeatable and we provide plagiarism free content. No need to worry now, as you can avail our Dissertation Writing Service with amazing discounts and cashbacks. There is no need to panik, as we are here to help. So, order now.

Assignment help Australia said...

Here we are offering online academic support to the students who feel difficult to complete the assigment on time, thus visit assignment help Sydney for quick educational assistance. Also, you can get the support of online assignment help or all assignment help only from the best do my assignment service providers at one-stop destination for assignment needs.

Unique Submission said...

When it comes to your academic dreams and grades we try to give our best by supporting you in completing your college assignments.
Our administrative experts work dedicatedly and passionately to provide top quality essay writing help to the students. Meticulous paper structures,
subject matter relevance, free from grammatical errors are main characteristics that our highly experienced and talented writers endeavor for.
Still drowning in the worry to complete your college assignments?

Assignment helpers Online

NISHA said...

Most of the students are fascinated with opting Law as a career.
A good academic record leads to a good placement also.
Unique Submission law assignment writing help services are here to take off the burden of multiple
assignment writing topics from your shoulders.
Here our law subject expert writers will ensure to get you peerless outcomes with their
law assignments help on the comprehensive writing academic field.

Law assignment writing help

robert0770 said...

I'm truly dazzled about the information you give in your articles. I should state am exceptionally overpowered by your entire story. It is difficult to get such quality data online these days. I anticipate remaining here for quite a while.

Libin John said...

We at Indias Fastest News We try To provide the true side of the news, facts which are happening all over the globe

IFN Website

Libin John said...

If you want to stay updates with the latest technology related news we write different articles which includes Full Comparison | Specifications |Reviews. Do Check The website

For All latest Technology related news

Unknown said...

It is fact that Writing a conclusion is one of the challenging tasks, it becomes more difficult when it comes to sophisticated topic. In such cases you can have some help of the Conclusion Generator Online. You can check the detailed information of the same from here.

William smith said...

Get Statistics Assignment Help Services and Secure Top Grades. My Assignment Help is the best Assignment help and writing service provider offered online by a team of experts. If you want to score excellent grades in statistics assignments & homework then we are the only company you can completely rely on. connect with us today.


Swot stands for strength weakness opportunities and threats. It is the process by which internal strength and weakness of an organization and external opportunities and threats are identified. The structural planning method to evaluate strength weakness opportunities and threats of an organization is known as SWOT ANALYSIS. It can be done for a person, company, place or a venture. It involves the main objective of a business or venture and identification of internal and external elements that are favorable or unfavorable for it. We are at assignment help. Assignment helps under our swot analysis assignment help so that students can complete their assignment on time and score good marks.

john smith said...

Urgent homework help is the best online homework help writing service provider in Australia and provide support to all over the world. You can get the Accounting assignment help . Accounting assignment help from the experts at the best price. Our specialists have a wide range of knowledge on every subject listed on the website. If you need any help regarding Economics Assignment help you are at the right place. We provide you an easy way to complete your assignments and submit it within the deadline at an affordable price.