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