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Easy game modes - just for girls?

Borderlands 2: The ‘Girlfriend mode’ controversy

First person shooter Borderlands 2 aims to be ‘bigger, better and more badass’ than its predecessor – but a slip up from developer Gearbox Software suggests it might be ‘more sexist’ too.

In an interview with Eurogamer, the game’s lead developer, John Hemingway, talks about a user-friendly skill tree called Best Friends Forever, which will offer perks such as a decreased need for shooting accuracy.

The only problem? He also calls it the ‘Girlfriend mode’.

He said: "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."

Since the interview appeared, the Twitterverse has been set alight with the controversy. Gearbox has been quick to hit back and say there is no such mode. And certainly, officially, it may not appear with that name in the game.

So does it matter if it’s just a name they gave the mode in-house? Perhaps not if the name didn’t get out.

Hemingway should’ve stopped as soon as he said ‘for the lack of a better term’. Not only do they call it ‘Girlfriend mode,’ but the development team has exacerbated the situation by admitting in the same breath that it can’t find another shorthand phrase to describe the ‘easier’ skill tree.

It’s a real shame, because the ‘girls rubbish at games’ point of view is lazy and incorrect, and it’s going to put off women from playing Borderlands 2. How’s the market going to grow whilst this mindset is so obvious and ingrained? Women who play games end up annoyed, women who don’t just assume that’s why gaming isn’t for them.

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