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Opinion:  Borderlands 2 's 'Girlfriend Mode' and casual sexism
Opinion: Borderlands 2's 'Girlfriend Mode' and casual sexism Exclusive
August 14, 2012 | By Brandon Sheffield

August 14, 2012 | By Brandon Sheffield
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    229 comments
More: Art, Business/Marketing, Exclusive



Game Developer magazine EIC Brandon Sheffield examines the internet fury over a Borderlands 2 skill tree, unofficially dubbed "girlfriend mode." Is this an example of "casual sexism" in the game industry?

It all started with a visit from Eurogamer to Gearbox's Dallas studio, to check out what was new in the upcoming sandbox shooter Borderlands 2. There was discussion of a new female character class, currently called the Mechromancer.

Based on that interview, pundits around the internet have gotten up in arms about lead designer John Hemingway's assertion that one of the Mechromancer's skill trees, officially titled "Best Friends Forever," is a "girlfriend mode."

Here's the original quote, from Eurogamer. "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. 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."

The mode is meant to allow those who aren't so great at the game a leg up, and a chance to support and help a better player, which is a great idea in general. But the problem people have is with his terminology. For example, David Wildgoose of PC Powerplay wrote, "The term 'girlfriend mode' says 'Hey, you're a girl so you must be terrible at playing games, so here's how we're going to help you.'"

Kotaku's Stephen Totilo found the term lacking, and adds that it's pointless to gender-specify this mode. He writes; "Here's another angle to consider here: the phrase 'girlfriend mode' is unnecessary because someone - people at Nintendo - already came up with a better term: 'co-star mode.' Co-Star mode was introduced in 2007's Super Mario Galaxy with the intention of letting a second player assist the first."

Others have gotten up in arms in the opposing direction, saying this backlash is political correctness gone wild. IGN's Colin Moriarty says, "Many people are tired of knee-jerk reactions that attempt to take people's words and spin them into something offensive when they were meant innocuously. And they're especially sick of being subjected to the vocal whims of a few people that feel like they need to be there to protect someone or something that never requested their help in the first place."

He later adds, "any rational person already knows that the mention of 'girlfriend mode' doesn't make a person sexist."

Gearbox president Randy Pitchford responded on Twitter, indicating that it was a personal anecdote, adding, "'boyfriend mode' or 'girlfriend mode' is an idea that suggests that a gamer's [significant other] isn't as hardcore as the gamer him/herself," and "It's not a thing. Just sensationalism. There's a TBD skill for a future DLC [character] that is helpful for noob co-op buddies. That's a good idea!"

Casual Sexism

I do believe that the mode is a good idea, and I also believe that Hemingway didn't mean any offense to women. Still, simply saying something is not sexist doesn't make it not sexist.

I've addressed this problem before, but the issue I find worrisome is that "girlfriend mode" made it into Hemingway's lexicon at all. It's not an official mode name, but it rolled off the tongue so easily. Developers don't head into press meetups completely unprepared - he must have thought of this term before. It was said without malice, but also without really thinking about what it might mean to some people. It was unconscious.

Let's break down the statement, keeping mind the idea that one of the most important things about it is that it was said offhand. First, it says that the character has a cute design, which should indicate girls want to play it. Second, by calling it "girlfriend mode," even casually, it says the game is most likely going to be played by heterosexual males, shutting out female core players from his thought process. (As I mentioned on Twitter, even the statement was meant to include hardcore female players, they don't all have girlfriends.)

It also implies that that male's girlfriend will likely not be as good at playing games as the male, because that is what the mode is designed for, and he mentioned it's for people who "suck at it."

Then there's the "for lack of a better term" part of this statement. As Totilo pointed out, there is a better term already. Lastly, let's consider again that this was said casually, without malice, and without thought that it could be construed negatively. Hemingway may not have been aware of it, but "girlfriend mode" makes a very specific statement, not about Borderlands 2, not about Gearbox, nor even particularly about Hemingway himself. It says something about our continuing growing pains as an industry. After all, how likely would Hemingway have been to call it a "boyfriend mode?"

Hemingway, while I'm sure a perfectly lovely gentleman, is unconsciously perpetuating the casual sexism that has permeated traditional game development. People simply don't think about women that much in the triple-A game industry, and when they do, it's often as an afterthought, as we see here.

The Digital Women's Movement

The backlash against articles about sexism toward women keeps getting stronger, as people get more frustrated with the increasing cries of inequality in articles like this one I've just written. Why is this issue looming so large these days, you might wonder? And why are people getting so upset when these missteps are pointed out? I believe it's simply growing pains.

Women represent 42 percent of the game market as of 2011, according to the ESA. These women are finding a voice, and realizing how many games are made today that don't keep them in mind. It's fine to make a game for a specific audience, but if part of a large audience feels they aren't being represented - or worse, feels they're represented improperly, you will hear about it.

Any time a group finds themselves to be on newly-equal footing in a space, be it film criticism, game media, or voting, there will be some dissent as that group asserts their right to be there, and those who previously dominated find that they no longer dominate quite so much. This is where the reactions of Moriarty and others come from, I believe.

He says that simply calling it "girlfriend mode" doesn't necessarily make anyone a sexist, but I'm afraid it does in this context. It is certainly not overt sexism, like the classic "shut up and make me a sandwich" line. No, this is an insidious sort of sexism that has simply permeated game development culture. It's all the more dangerous because the perpetrator will most likely not realize it him/herself unless it's pointed out. We all profile people sometimes. It's easier to put people into categories when we think of them, especially when designing a product for the masses. These profiles can come across in our language, as it has with Hemingway.

Women are not a small minority or an afterthought in games anymore, they're nearly half the market. But they're not even close to half the people making games - women are about 10 percent of the industry according to the 2011 Salary Survey in Game Developer magazine. There are simply going to be growing pains as we males, who are used to saying what we please in the industry, continue to realize that we have a large, growing contingent of intelligent people buying our products who are not male - people we should be treating as potential customers.

Again, I'm sure that Hemingway didn't mean to offend anyone. But I do hope he realizes that he has, in fact. Issues like these tend to get swept under the table, which is why I'm glad it's being spoken about. These are good things to think about in a consumer-facing industry, even if you disagree with my conclusion.

Pitchford says that the anger surrounding "girlfriend mode" is "just sensationalism." But Hemingway actually said something rather sensational, and that should be acknowledged. To tweet that it's "boyfriend mode" or "girlfriend mode," as he did, is a bit revisionist. He didn't say "boyfriend mode," he said "girlfriend mode," and those statements are loaded in very different ways.

Our industry is still young, and developers don't always think through every part of every statement. Journalists, likewise, aren't always perfectly equipped to deal with these issues when they come up. To subvert a Frank Zappa quote, "Game journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read." We make games, not speeches. But in a growing and increasingly public industry, we have to start thinking more about the meaning of our words. I'm not calling for developers to micro-analyze everything they say, but it's simple enough to think "this game could be for everyone," isn't it?

Eventually, with enough blowups like these, we may eventually not need to have them as often. There is something of a digital women's movement happening in games, as more voices cry for better representation in our favorite medium. People who think we're making mountains of molehills haven't seen how moles can tear up your yard. That is to say, sometimes there's something deeper behind something that initially appears innocuous. At the very least, this discussion assures that no game worth its salt will ever have something called a "girlfriend mode."


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Comments


Bryson Whiteman
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Give me a break! I'm starting to find this more as trolling than journalism. Just let them make their game!

This article came to mind... http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/175039/Opinion_When_talking_to
_the_press_too_early_can_hurt_you.php

Since there can be internet furor over any comment these days, it seems like developers may be better off not talking to press at all. Or keeping the conversations strictly PR.

Fernando Fernandes
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Can't agree more with you. Plus women suck at gaming period. (There are exceptions). So what? This isn't sexism. It's a fact.

Haters gonna hate my comment and I don't care. :P

Frank Cifaldi
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[Citation needed]

Lars Doucet
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@Fernando: well at least the last statement was accurate

Kris Graft
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Bryson,

Speaking of trolling, did you realize that the Gamasutra article you link has nothing to do with the chilling effect debate you're referring to? That article provides insight about marketing small indie games, and the _timing_ of talking to the press...

Elisabeth Beinke-Schwartz
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@Fernando I seriously hope you are joking or are trolling. After all, this is Gamasutra, not Kotaku.

Leonardo Ferreira
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Hey Fernando, thanks for your comment; now people perceive with clarity what sexism is.

Jacob Germany
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It's 2012. We're talking about a medium a short few decades old. Maybe we could behave as it we made it past the 19th century, yeah?

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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Fernando apparently has some mindblowing citations he's about to drop on us, otherwise he needs to learn what facts are.

Anthony Boterf
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@Fernando I know a LOT of girl gamers , my wife being one of them, that totally PWN! There is really not a game I've found so far, that my wife isn't better at. MMORPG, RTS, fighting games ( and their like)... about the only thing I beat her on is racing! As for FPS...forget it! She prefers not to play FPS for one reason: she knows what real guns feel like (top rifle team honors IN THE DISTRICT in high school ROTC...still holds the record 8 years later).

SO, are there 'exceptions' to your crass statement? NO! Your statement is wrong, as there are proportionately as many girl gamers that will kick your tail at almost any genre, as there are guys. TBH, I'd much rather have a team of female players with me in almost any game, than a group of males of your ilk.

Kevin Matthews
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In my opinion, the problem more often than not really is with the people who interpret it so grossly out of context. Maybe you should examine your own values and morals before you cast aspersions on what you think someone else's intentions were.

Nou Phabmixay
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Okay, I did, and I still think "girlfriend mode" is sexist and the context seemed simple enough.

Some guy unintentionally said that girls suck at games. Instead of a simple "Whoops, my bad" some dude decided to say it's not sexist and that this is just sensationalist. Then a bunch of people defended it. And then some dude said hey, I should examine my own values and got five likes.

E McNeill
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>Maybe you should examine your own values and morals before you cast aspersions on what you think someone else's intentions were.

"I also believe that Hemingway didn't mean any offense to women"
"It was said without malice"
"Again, I'm sure that Hemingway didn't mean to offend anyone"

Did you even read this article?

Chris Oates
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Nou,

"Some guy unintentionally said that girls suck at games" -- Not in the least. What he said, at worst, was "girlfriends of gamers suck at games." It was not "girl mode" but "girlFRIEND mode"

Going further, it is a logically unsustainable position that a mode designed for "girlfriends who are bad at games" indicates that ALL "girls" or "girlfreinds" MUST play this mode and not the normal mode, or even that ONLY "girls" or "girlfriends" SHOULD play that mode.

Nou Phabmixay
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Chris,

If you're trying to say that he didn't intend to make a sexist statement. I agree. If you're saying it doesn't sound sexist, it does sound sexist.

I'm not even angry at the fellow for choosing his words poorly. I'm angry at people dismissing, derailing, or defending the situation. Or in your case, getting as literal with words as possible.

A simple "Whoops, my bad" would have been a better situation. It might not have helped but in the last month of misogynists the last thing that should have happened is not apologizing.

Chris Oates
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If the offense does not exist in the intent of the speaker (as most would agree) nor in the actual meaning of the word or phrase (which I pointed out) then it exists solely in the mind of the listener. That seems like a good definition of "overreacting" to me, and not something the speaker should have to apologize for.

"I'm sorry that you read a meaning in my words which I neither intended nore which actually exists in the words themselves. I'm sorry that you are so obsessed with finding fault in what people say that you've started tilting at windmills. What a sad life you must lead, and I am truly sorry for you." is what he should say (if he actually wanted to offend people)

Chris Oates
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In other words, while the word "niggardly" may SOUND racist, it isn't.

Mike Rentas
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He should have called it "little brother mode".

Jacob Germany
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Still assuming a kind of young demographic, and I would hope we've moved past the era where we target games with 17 year olds as the oldest players.

Given the average age of players is somewhere in the late 20's to mid 30's, "child mode" would make more sense. But would still be offensive to anyone who wanted/needed it as an adult.

"Costar mode" is rather perfect. Even has less of a condescension than, say, "sidekick mode".

Thane Armbruster
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"Co-star mode" is terrible so the original statement "for lack of a better term" is correct. why is "co-star mode" terrible? because unlike Super Mario Galaxy, Borderlands is predominantly a Co-Op game. It is even advertised on this basis (see GameStop ad). thus, the whole game can be considered to be in "co-star mode" making it redundant and meaningless.

thus this entire article, while good intentioned, is actually trying to make something from what amounts to nothing

David Pierre
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As a younger brother who has had to live in the shadow of the elder for years, I find that offensive.


(This is not a serious statement)

Lars Doucet
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"Casual" discrimination presents a tough dilemma because coming out against it with guns blazing can often appear like a disproportionate response, at which point you lose the moral high ground *in the eyes of the audience* you're trying to reach.

(I'm specifically not taking a position here, just talking through the dilemma)

Here's an example from my own life, tangentially related to this debate. I have tourette's syndrome, and whenever the ugly underbelly of gamer culture starts mouthing off in comment threads like this one, someone (often games journalists themselves) decries the "tourette's afflicted" masses spewing venom and bile.

Do I become "that guy" and accuse them of discrimination, and let them know that involuntary cursing (coprolalia) actually only occurs in < 10% of tourette's patients, and actually is subtly different than what you see sensationalised on TV? Or do I pick my battles and just let it slide because it wasn't specifically meant to insult me?

Lars Doucet
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"I've seen the argument made that no one complained about co-star mode getting called "girlfriend mode", therefore no one should complain about this."

Thanks Joe. Glad to know I'm a troll. Also thanks for putting words in my mouth.

Lars Doucet
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"The only viable strategy seems to be speak up every time because if you don't, people assume you approve of it."

Sure, speaking up matters. I'm not saying don't speak up. I'm talking about - do you speak up with maximum force and assume the worst possible intentions?

Being right is the first step, but the rhetoric you choose matters or you convince nobody and you're perceived as shrill and thus ignored (something I have a LOT of personal experience with).

Also, the existence of horrible people who say absolutely horribly abusive things (the internet's sexist underbelly in this case) does NOT mean I don't have the right to say "let's be civil." It's not my intention for that to come across as "concern trolling."

Lars Doucet
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-deleted I give up-

Lars Doucet
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Now you *are* assuming the worst possible motives, Joe. Nobody needs my permission or opinion for anything, I was just interested in having a discussion, and hoping perhaps some women would weigh in, perhaps disagreeing with me, etc. You know, talk.

I bowed out of the debate because I also have narcolepsy and if my heart rate goes over a certain rate I have a cataplectic attack.

You win. You have won the debate. I left because I am quite literally physically unable to continue. This doesn't mean I "can't be assed."

Matt Robb
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I'll pick up Lars's banner. He was simply stating that an overreaction can have a detrimental effect on one's argument. When an individual or group has a hyper-reaction to an event, they tend to be ignored.

For example...wait, no, nevermind. Every metaphor I could think of seemed destined to be followed with a "so you're likening X to Y, how dare you" overreaction. =P

Icarus Mortis
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Excellently put. Key I think, in both the article and your comment, is thinking through things carefully and objectively.

Regarding disproportionate response, the generic use of 'he' is often derided as sexist; in the past this has only served to push me from the debate. I felt strange when D&D 3.5 constantly referred to the player as 'she,' though I appreciate why it was done. But you never hear such arguments made when referring to cows, the feminine for cattle, or dogs, the masculine for hound.

In this case however, I'm inclined to agree. Though I'm sure Hemingway meant no ill, he unconsciously associated one gender as being inclined to weakness. If it discomforts me the other way, which it does, why should this not?

The same should also hold for your own example however, especially where "someone ... already came up with a better term," like 'diatribe.' Though, much like 'growing pains,' I wonder if some of this is just down to understanding? In which case some grace and education would help. I would hate, in ignorance, to say something hurtful or offensive to someone, only to be immediately labelled as some sort of misanthrope. To return to tourettes, I recently had to correct someone on just the point you raised, and I think they appreciated me for it.

Whilst it's easy to take sides, I think the article's point is simply that we should think about such things.

Toby Grierson
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The spillover from other sectors and debates (some having nothing to do with feminism) means that everyone is hypersensitive about thought police and word police.

I understand your concern (Lars) but a dude basically said women suck at games, and women gamers are not happy about it. There's nothing really wrong with that picture.

A lot of people are acting in good faith to not be sexist and don't always realize when they accidentally regurgitate something amiss. Being careful about the topic is a great way to go.
But I think this article is a good example of it. It takes care to not accuse the man of acting in bad faith while saying that, yes it is totally sexist and we should, like, think about it or something.

I've had some bad first hand experiences with sexism in the game industry. In fact one is ongoing that is terrible and frankly -hilarious- that I'd love to talk about, but I shouldn't right now and in fact I'm writing under a pen name.

Somebody does need to be getting at least a bit angry, lest we be pushovers.

BTW, I totally get what you mean about the health. I get very ill from minor stress (heart) and shouldn't be doing this at all, but, fuckit I'm bored.

Ardney Carter
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@ Toby "I understand your concern (Lars) but a dude basically said women suck at games"

Holy cow man , he totally did NOT say that! The quote is "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."(emphasis mine)

He starts by admiting he's going to be a bit imprecise and then tries to make his point by citing a scenario that he felt would be common enough to make his point understood (likely because it was a personal experience). The very next sentence uses the gender neutral "someone" and specifies that what's being spoken of is the FPS genre. How in the world can people skew that to mean "all women everywhere are bad at all video games all the time for now and unto eternity" ?

"BTW, I totally get what you mean about the health. I get very ill from minor stress (heart) and shouldn't be doing this at all, but, fuckit I'm bored. "

Yes and yes. It's sad =\

Toby Grierson
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lol okay. Girlfriend mode could have a few interpretations.

Wyatt Epp
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I wonder: did it actually "roll off the tongue so easily" or was he put on the spot to explain it and all the awkward audible pauses and stumbling were just omitted? In no way does this change the correctness of what you've written here, but I'm rather curious just how firm this association is in Hemingway's lexicon.

Brandon Sheffield
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Hmm, yes, I'm curious as well. Maybe I'll ask the author of the original piece.

Jeff Beaudoin
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@Joe Wreschnig
Best Friends Forever is gender-coded? Or are you referring to some other name I didn't see?

Johnathon Tieman
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@brandon sheffield:
Wait, let me get this straight - in your article you say that Hemingway's statement "rolled off the tongue so easily", and yet you don't even know whether or not it is true?

Michael Rooney
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@Joe: It's in a female character's skill tree. Why would it not be gender coded to the sex of the character?

Jeff Beaudoin
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@Joe
As Michael said, it is a skill tree for a female character. I guess I was assuming you meant gender-coded in a negative way. I guess that point was just unrelated to the discussion at hand?

Matt Robb
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I'm sorry, but this is really just digging for more crap to fling.

"The term 'girlfriend mode' says 'Hey, you're a girl so you must be terrible at playing games, so here's how we're going to help you.'"

Bullshit. It's referring to the situation where a person in a couple that, believe it or not, is more often a male, sits down to play a game. The other member of said couple that, believe it or not, is more often female, sits down and wants to try to play too, but has nowhere near the experience in the given game or genre. It's referring to the girlfriend who is only playing because she's the girlfriend of the person playing. I expect in those situations where the female in a heterosexual couple is a gamer, the male typically also is, and so the term doesn't apply. Female-gamer-male-non-gamer couples are probably one of the rarest demographic groups in existence.

I know that gender participation in gaming is evening out. I know that it's possible that, in a few decades, the idea of "girlfriend mode" may make no sense. But I also know that gender participation in any given activity is rarely balanced, whether due to social pressures or biological tendencies or both.

Having a problem with a little tongue-in-cheek humor over a slang term for a mode in a video game that has actual basis in reality is reaching. This kind of reaction works *against* the movement against sexism in games and the gaming community by making people look overly touchy and therefore unreasonable.

Tom Baird
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I don't like that quote (and the parallel he is trying to draw) either.

It's not called 'Girl Mode' and in no way implies anything about girls in general.

FPS's are currently a male-targeted and male-dominated market. The state of the rest of the Industry does not change that.

Hemingway makes a tongue in cheek comment about FPS' and girlfriends, and people are getting up in arms about women and games. His comment has been completely ripped out of context and is being applied to a completely different situation.

It would be the equivalent of someone making a comment about women body builders being smaller than men, and then having people get angry because women are more than capable athletes. They are trying to defend against an issue that has little to nothing to do with the original comment.

Tom Baird
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The context is the 2-player mode of a male-targeted FPS (which is itself a male-dominated genre). He doesn't talk about games, and he doesn't talk about women. He talks about girlfriends playing coop of a male-targeted FPS.

Odds are, if a hetero couple owns the game, the guy was the one who bought it. This is not sexist, this is simply under current demographics, and the genres own demographic targeting. Odds are also strong that he has played more FPS games, for longer.

We can take a random sampling of couples who play FPS' in coop mode, and I guarantee you he is much more right than wrong (there are always exceptions). He NEVER says girls are worse at games, or even implies it. The implication with context is "When a hetero couple plays a coop male-targeted FPS, odds are the woman is not the dominant player" and nothing more.

Women play tons of games, and are dominant at multiple genres, and in no way does 'girlfriend mode' of a very specific FPS game conflict or argue against that statement.

Simas Oliveira
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What you said is all true. My girlfriend can't play for her life. Most girlfriends and wives don't give a damn about games. But what I don't get is, if you know it's generalization, you know a percentage of players, however small, will be offended, why not just do the right thing and stop with such remarks?

I'm quite tired of these discussions, we straight males are probably 99% of the Borderlands players base. I don't find his comment offensive, it resonates strongly with my own experience, it rings true to me, but I know there are someone out there who might feel ostracized by this. Why not avoid that? Just be polite to the 1%.

Tom Baird
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Targeting a specific audience is not sexist.
Go to a department store, and you'll notice make up is targeted at women.
Trucks often target men, and Vans often target women as their primary demographics.
The Sims is strongly female targeted.

None of these things stop the other sex from using those products, but the creator of those products knew who was going to be predominantly interested and marketed towards their desires. Nobody says women can't like male-targeted items, and vice versa, but it would be ignorant to think that some (I'd even argue most) products aren't targeted at a specific sex. And this is not sexist.

Trying to lie, and pretend that both sexes are equally interested in all products, or trying to create a product that is wholly equal to both sexes is ludicrous, and you would need to be pretty far removed from buying or marketing anything, ever, to think otherwise.

Tom Baird
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Wait....
Maybeline has a slogan "Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Maybeline"

This is obviously female targeted (hence 'she'). Do you consider that sexism?

What about the fact that in the majority of van commercials a women is driving, but in the majority of truck ads, it's a man.

Men and Women as a general demographic have different strengths/weaknesses/interests. Some are genetic, and some are socially ingrained. Neither sex is inferior, and implying such is sexist, but merely acknowledging those differences and communicating to others using that knowledge has NOTHING to do with sexism.

Your definition of sexism seems to be very far off from the traditional definition, and seems closer to forced ignorance than anything remotely beneficial.

I will repeat, targeting a specific demographic is not sexist. Targeting children with sugary cheerios is not ageist, and neither is marketing osteoporosis medication to seniors, targeting sun tan lotion to fair skinned people is not racist, and targeting make up to women is not sexist (nor is it discriminatory to target goth men with make up either).

And more on topic, targeting a gory, comic-styled FPS towards men is not sexist.

Matt Robb
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Not everything related to gender is sexist, just as not everything related to race is racist. If a certain population that happens to correlate with skin color is at greater risk for X health condition, is it racist to focus on that population when discussing that issue? Is it sexist to focus on women when discussing breast cancer even though men can have breast cancer as well, even if it is much less common?

The term "girlfriend mode" isn't targeted at women in general. It's targetted at the situation I described above. Just because the situation described does involve certain genders, does not make it sexist. Just because he referred to it as "girlfriend mode" doesn't mean it's the only use for the feature, hence why its not the official name. It's simply the situation that came to mind, and it's not an uncommon one.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Michael Rooney
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@"I will repeat, targeting a specific demographic is not sexist. Targeting children with sugary cheerios is not ageist, and neither is marketing osteoporosis medication to seniors, targeting sun tan lotion to fair skinned people is not racist, and targeting make up to women is not sexist (nor is it discriminatory to target goth men with make up either)."

Thank you.

Matt Robb
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@Dan, not at all. I'm implying that people who aren't gamers are often in relationships with people who are, and that the game in question is rather heavily aimed at males as the primary audience, and more often that not, people are in (romantic) relationships with people of the opposite sex.

If the marketing studies done to determine the likely audience is weighted towards males, then the term "girlfriend mode" for something that allows a non-experienced individual to take part in the game makes sense.

Point being, the term is not aimed at females. Since it's describing a feature for non-experienced players to play with experienced players, the term is aimed at the girlfriends of gamers who are not themselves gamers.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Matt Robb
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Sorry, let me rephrase. =P

You can go with "not aimed females in general". I kinda figured that was obvious when placing alongside the rest of what I said. The phrase was aimed at the specific subset of females who are not themselves gamers but who may try the game with someone who is.

As an aside, can we try going with the possible meaning that lines up with the rest of the words in a comment rather than nitpicking?

Matt Boudreaux
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"I'm not calling for developers to micro-analyze everything they say..."

I fear that's exactly what this sort of media attention is going to cause. Don't get me wrong, I think the term was ill conceived (even as an internal off the cuff name), but I worry things like this are going to set a bad precedence where fear of massive negative media attention leads to a clamp down of who can speak to the press and an army of lawyers/PR folks sanitizing any statements coming from anyone within the company.

Pretty soon we'll be saying a lot while not saying much at all... oh my God, we'll be politicians!

Mitchell Fujino
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I wish people would let themselves make mistakes. The thing that bothers me most about this is that he instantly goes defensive "oh hey, that wasn't sexism, I totally meant this other thing that I didn't actually say instead."

If he just said "Y'know what guys, the language I used was exclusionary, and that was wrong. Let's call it co-op mode from now on instead. Sorry." then I would be applauding.
For a parallel, see Jason Alexander's epic apology that got more (good) press than his original mistake.

Maybe my standards are too high, but I don't expect people to be perfect, I just expect them to _want to be better_. We can always do better.

Moses Wolfenstein
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This is exactly the thing right here. If Hemingway had just apologized for a poorly chosen phrase rather than Pitchford running cover for the team, this conversation would not be happening at the level it is. There'd be no reason for this article to have been written today.

Elisabeth Beinke-Schwartz
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Exactly! I don't necessarily believe someone is sexist if they say 1 sexist thing (only if they keep saying sexist things). If they toughen up and take responsibility and apologize, people would not have been so upset. But the fact that they are acting like nothing was wrong is even worse than the initial wrong statement.

Example: the Oatmeal once made a comment that was unintentionally offensive to female gamers. When confronted, he apologized (as it was unintentional). After that, everyone gained more respect for him.

Brandon Sheffield
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Mitchell, I really appreciate that you wrote this, because this was one of the salient but unwritten points of my article toward the end. It's very gratifying to know that people can actually pick up on this stuff sometimes.

Really, if he had gotten to say "I messed up, I'll do better!" he would be applauded, and this discussion would be very different.

Javier Arevalo
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How about the journo apologizes for hijacking what should have been a very nice feature on the game with such a trolling headline? Hemingway made a honest mistake in treating a conversation with the journo as if it was a casual friendly chat, but the malice is clearly with Eurogamer ignoring any ethics and going for the click count.

Dan Johnson
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Reading this was massively refreshing after skimming the IGN piece yesterday. Casual sexism might not be as bad as overt, aggressive sexism, but it's still a problem that must be addressed.

Jeff Beaudoin
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@Mike
Portraying sexism is not espousing sexism.

Eric Stover
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This sounds like people are blowing it way out of proportion! I really doubt Hemingway meant it in an any sort of "girls suck at gaming" jab everyone seems to sound it out as. I'm a male gamer and I've had plenty of girlfriends who wanted to play video games with me but were no good at them. Sometimes it's because they never played a video game in their life, sometimes it's because they hadn't played that one game as much as me.

Girl gamers may be growing in numbers but that doesn't mean there there aren't plenty of guys who have had more girlfriends who don't know much about games than that do. The man made an offhanded remark, and yeah, maybe they did think of the term ahead of time, but they probably had a very common scene in mind. Hemingway didn't call it "boyfriend mode" because how many times has a girl had trouble getting her boyfriend to play a game with her? (I'm sure it happens but not nearly as common as the other way around)

Luke Rymarz
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If I was talking to another dude and I needed to explain the game mode in question, "girlfriend mode" is what I would say, too. It's instantly understandable for the two people having the conversation. It's in context, yes, but if you put up the PR shield then you lose the really great rapport Gearbox has with gamers.

By the way, "co-star mode" implies equality of the two parties, and is NOT a better term.

Matt Robb
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Supporting actor? Nope, gender bias. Supporting act-person?

David Wagg
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Sidekick mode?

Matt Robb
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Then they'd get a copyright infringement suit from City of Heroes.

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Brandon Sheffield
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Wouldn't you want to imply equality even if the point is to let the "co-star" help the star? Implying equality makes the person doing the supporting feel much better about what they're doing, which is why Nintendo intelligently called it this.

Jacob Germany
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@Luke Are you familiar at all with television? Because "co-star" does not imply equality at all.

The tradition is "Starring..." with 1-3 of the main stars, though it can be more, and "Co-starring..." with some of the tertiary actors/characters.

Danny Bernal
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Geez, why not call it incompetent mode... oh wait that would insult another "group of people"...

Nou Phabmixay
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At least people are using their real names while being sexist. Though I suppose that makes it awkward at the office.

Nou Phabmixay
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I tried to come up with a proper response but I don't really know what to say. Listening to people is good. Not getting offended, probably not. I can think of some offensive things that offends me and is a bit scared that you'll disagree.

I don't know if I want to have thick skin for this. I've seen people give that advice for some horrific stuff to disarm them. So I don't like this kind of advice.

I don't know if that was coherent because I'm really mixed about your message.

Chuck Bartholomew
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What I don't understand about this whole debate is "casual sexism". If its casual, why does anybody care? The idea, from what i can glean from comments around the internet, is that an action or statement that is not made with care carries as much weight as one that is deliberate. I also glean from the internet that the parties involved are "women" and "males" which is interesting to me because "male" is a gender and a "woman" is a person. Now THAT is some casually sexist food for thought. Of course, its okay to be counter-sexist, right? After all, men are the oppressors and women are the victims. Wait, that characterization has been construed as sexist before too - its one of those pervasive bad tropes in video games. I guess there is just no pleasing some people.

In this specific case, the phrase "girlfriend mode" was probably thought up by a guy with a girlfriend who is less skilled at first person shooters. The mode itself is intended to INCLUDE lesser skilled players, not exclude women. And if we look past the off-the-cuff name and find what the skill tree is actually called after some thought was put into it, it is called "Best Friends Forever".

Can we please step back for a moment from assuming every casual action taken reveals something about a person's character and acknowledge that every knee-jerk reaction reveals something about the mindset of the audience? If you are looking for sexism, you will find it everywhere. You will even find it in yourself, more than likely. And you will find both men and women as the targets and the perpetrators of such acts. So since "casual sexism" is everywhere, does it matter? Is it not more important to cry "sexism" when it is overt and intentional?

Matt Robb
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Sadly, "Best Friends Forever" would probably still be seen as having gender bias. The whole "BFF" term is primarily used by females. Apparently you can't win unless everything is 100% androgynous.

Javier Arevalo
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"Primarily used by females"? I'm offended by your implication that I, as a male, am somehow less capable of having a Best Friend Forever.

Jacob Germany
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@Chuck As is usual, just replace all references to sexism and women in your post with racism and blacks. You might just see why casual sexism is a problem.

"In this specific case, the phrase "black mode" was probably thought up by a guy with a black friend who is less skilled at first person shooters. The mode itself is intended to INCLUDE lesser skilled players, not exclude blacks."

In that instance, who could be upset by such a casual remark, amirite? I mean, it was an accident, and not deliberate, amirite?

Javier Arevalo
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Jacob, you can't just substitute new words but keep the old context where the new words do not fit. If you really want to compare, use an appropriate context. For example, an NBA jam type of game has a noob mode, and the designer goes and says "It's a sort of 'white men can't jump' type of mode." Is that racist?

Jacob Germany
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@Javier The context is the same.

And, if they called it "White boy mode" or "White friend tech tree", yeah, that'd be racist. Pretty blatantly racist, actually.

If they called it "White men can't jump", it'd reference the movie. Which wouldn't make any sense, since the title is referencing the racism inherent in the titular concept, and how it wasn't true in the movie. Did you watch the movie?

Michael Rooney
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@Jacob: Did you see the movie? The white guy makes one allie oop at the end of the movie, but previous to that is unable to dunk for the whole movie and is made fun of a fair number of times for being white and therefore sucking at basketball, regardless of how true it is.

Jacob Germany
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@Michael

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Men_Can't_Jump

It had been a long time since I saw it, so I thought maybe you were right. I looked it up, and saw in about the first sentence of the synopsis that, no, I was right all along. The movie is about racist stereotypes. So naming a "You need a lot of help" mode after White Men Can't Jump would still not make any sense. Really, if a developer said that in that circumstance, it would be a rather delicious layer of irony.

And, this is all beside the point that it'd still be racist. And the original "girlfriend tech tree" remark was still sexist.

Michael Rooney
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@Jacob: It's obviously about racist stereotypes. The problem is that the majority of the movie is about racist stereotypes being true.

Jacob Germany
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@Michael The movie is about a white hustler who uses stereotypes to hustle black players. Where in that do you see a connection to a game mode wherein players receive help?

it's a moot point, regardless, though. The point was that a mode that helped players in a basketball game that referenced "being white" would be blatantly racist. A perfect parallel to a mode being referenced to being female as sexist.

My hopes were that showing how racist "black mode" or "white mode" would be in such a situation would paint a more obvious picture as to why "girlfriend tech tree" is offensive. Unfortunately, even such a blatantly racist parallel (which was a perfect parallel, by the way) seems to escape at least a couple of people. Which probably means our industry is in more dire straits than I thought.

Pieterjan Spoelders
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What's wrong with you people? If you're seriously offended by something like "girlfriend mode" then I have some bad news for you...

Jacob Germany
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What? What's the bad news?

Is it that your casual acceptance and normalization of sexism scares away women so you don't have a girlfriend to share "girlfriend mode" with? Zing!

Ardney Carter
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The question I'd like answered that I don't see addressed anywhere here is this: Does said developer have a girlfriend who isn't very good at FPS?

Did anyone stop to think that maybe, just maybe, he was attempting to convey a concept by relating something that was familiar to him as opposed to insulting an entire gender? But I guess 'developer uses life experience to convey concept' doesn't make for enough controversy.

Jacob Germany
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Did anyone stop to think that maybe, just maybe, he has an hispanic friend who wasn't very good at FPSs? Maybe that's why he called it "Mexican mode"?

Oh, wait, no, that would be pretty blatantly racist...

Ardney Carter
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In an alternate universe where a significant enough portion of the FPS genre demographic have Mexican friends who aren't proficient in FPS then that comparison could probably be used if the dev thought it was relateable enough to get his point across.

Heh, I'd be down for more games with a "Mexican mode". That could be pretty hilarious.

Jacob Germany
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And in that alternative universe, such a name would still be horribly racist.

Un-cited statistics vaguely supporting sexism doesn't mean it's not sexist.

Michael Rooney
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Well he could have a girlfriend. Unless slavery is allowed, he can't really have a Mexican.

Laura Stewart
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Sure, Hemingway's comment was sexist, but it's a slap-on-the-wrist moment. Pointing out someone needs to expand his mind a bit doesn't mean he can't improve.

Beyond the fact that casually excluding 51% of the population isn't going to help AAA games with those sales. FPS is a skill level/type that has to be learned, and if you keep telling teenage girl gamers you aren't making games for them, you're never going to begin to close that gap (as an industry).

Hemingway's sexism is the sort that usually cures itself through recognition. Which is not the same thing as saying he needs to face penalty or censure. And for the record, saying a term isn't sexist *because you would use it* does not make it *not sexist.*

Girls can certainly get into killing people in graphic ways... but saying you've got a "training wheels for girls" mode is a really bad pick-up line.

Matt Robb
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Except he isn't excluding 51% of the population. It's called "girlfriend mode", not "girl mode". If you get right down to it, he's actually including a subset of the population that otherwise may not be, by including those girls who aren't gamers but might just give it a try with their significant other if there's a mode where the barrier for entry is lower.

If you think it out further, he could be helping the anti-sexist crowd by providing a gateway for more females to get into the FPS genre, thereby changing the demographics which could then change the marketing and people's attitudes.

Mike Weldon
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Matt, I thought it out further and you're right. He isn't saying all girls are bad at games, only the ones who date other gamers. Thanks for clearing that up.

Laura Stewart
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@ Matt Robb: Yeah, no. "Girlfriend mode" is more sexist than "girl mode," yet both are sexist as singling out a specific new group of players as needing special help specifically because of their gender. "Girlfriend" is worse as it assigns value exclusively via a perceived, actual or intended sexual relationship.

And also no, this won't help expand the FPS market to more girls. How many boys got into FPS because their first game treated them like a baby? Girls are drawn into the market via out reach like Fable or Fallout's penalty free gender options.

If Hemingway had said something like this to me in a casual setting, it rates maybe a rude gesture and a suggestion he try calling it "earnest recruit." But it sure is interesting how many XYs out there need girl gamers to smile and giggle like it was a complement.

Matt Robb
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I would say it's less that they need help because of their gender and more they could use help because of their circumstance. Did it need to say girlfriend specifically? No, and that's why it doesn't in the game. Is it common for a gamer guy to have a non-gamer girlfriend who decides to try out a game with their boyfriend just to be involved with his interest? Yes. Are games of this kind more commonly played by males? Demographic studies say yes.

Will it expand the female audience? Possibly. I've had multiple female friends become gamers simply because they wanted to try a game with me. I'm not sure I've ever been a reason another male became a gamer.

It's good that you're vigilant when keeping an eye out for sexism and willing to call people out on it. I just feel that in this case your vigilance has caused you to turn a comment describing a circumstance into a comment describing a gender.

My interpretation is that by saying "girlfriend" instead of "girl", he was specifically not referring to girls who play games because it's their thing, and rather people who may try the game because their significant other is playing it, and defaulted to girlfriend both because the person would be a female in his personal circumstance, but also because the person would typically be a female.

If he had called it "girl mode" I'd be up in arms with you.

Bob Johnson
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It isn't sexist.

There is no discrimination here.

2k said that guys can play the girlfriend mode too. The game won't know if you are a boy or a girl.

Laura Stewart
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@ Matt Robb: Going back to the article, this debate is not about a term in the game, but a character class and why it was created, and how it was meant to be marketed to increase the number of girls as game customers. And the usage of girlfriend is as a sterotype, for a targeted *subsection* of inexperienced FPS players, and not as a term representing a sampling of that population.

Besides being basic Women's Studies 101, it's bad Marketing 101. You aren't targeting a potential repeat customer, anymore than putting a pink set of weights in a gym makes a girl sign up for a membership... and keep going once the boyfriend is toast. Non-gamer girlfriends aren't going to wander into Gamestop and pick up a copy on their own and they won't find it acceptable as a birthday present.

Take Magic: the Gathering, which doesn't have girlfriend this or that, but does have amateur, pauper, draft and sealed. Girlfriends, even dragged to events, don't buy product. Girl gamers buy product, and no one suggests there needs to be a version of the rules that are easy enough for us to figure out how to play.

Eva Roberts
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Have to agree because it it just as easy to say
Easy Mode
Normal Mode
Hard Mode

It was a bad choice of someone trying to clever, but it's not

Michael Rooney
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@"Take Magic: the Gathering, which doesn't have girlfriend this or that, but does have amateur, pauper, draft and sealed. Girlfriends, even dragged to events, don't buy product. Girl gamers buy product, and no one suggests there needs to be a version of the rules that are easy enough for us to figure out how to play."

Are you saying that girl gamers can't be girlfriends? :(

Rick Kolesar
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18 male comments, 2 female comments, story written by a male. So no surprise we are only getting one perspective into this story.

Women just want to play game with everyone else. They aren't asking for special treatment or special rules. But as everyone here knows, they are treated like trash and are "second class citizens" in the game industry. So when a little comment like "girlfriend mode" slips out, of course it's going to cause a ruckus. If there was a game mode called "Bro Mode" no one would care because the majority can make fun of itself. A man created "Bro Mode" to poke fun at himself and his friends. So when a man coins "girlfriend mode", it becomes insulting.

If a women made a game with a "Bro Mode" where you yell at your screen and it automatically shoots everyone in the head for you while you fist bump your friend on the couch to launch a nuke, men would be pissed.

Sidenote: the game mode in question sounds great for people who aren't hardcore gamers or who haven't played a lot of Borderlands.

Rick Kolesar
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updated: 20 male, 4 female

Ardney Carter
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Ok, I gotta ask...How are you getting your numbers? Some of the names here could be either or D:

Matt Robb
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Actually, men would probably find that amusing.

Rick Kolesar
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I did a quick count. Might not be 100% accurate, but I'm sure it's close.

Ardney Carter
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Ah, ok. I thought maybe there was some meta-data about our posts that was available that I didn't know how to get to. xD

Chuck Bartholomew
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But if you called it "Bro Mode" instead of dissing the skills of female gamers, you're excluding them entirely. There's no way to win.

Kate Craig
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I know the reason I tend to avoid posting heavily in a thread like this is that it's exhausting trying to clarify certain points - points that have been reasonably gone over many times in past discussions.

After seeing so many of the same arguments against more inclusive language or content, eventually I just want to stick to my corner Twitter, where it's assumed women play and make games.

Matt Robb
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We're not going to get the perspective of the people referenced by the comment. The non-gamer girlfriend that the comment refers to will never be found on Gamasutra.

Ramon Carroll
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Actually, Rick, most men would chuckle at such a game mode (Bro Mode), because they would get the joke. In addition, if I was to show my wife the name of this game mode (girlfriend mode), she would immediately chuckle, because she would get the joke.

I understand the intentions of those who are vehemently speaking out against this whole thing, but I can't shake the feeling that the intensity of this outcry is disproportionate to the severity of the offense.

Rick Kolesar
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Yes, "Bro Mode" is funny because I wrote it and I'm making fun of myself.

Honestly, this "girlfriend mode" isn't that sexist of a comment. I've seen way more sexist stuff in a lot of games that no one ever brings up. But following the Tomb Raider "rape" story and the attack on Anita Sarkeesian, I would be sick and tired of everything if I was a female gamer.

So something is going on if we're all here talking about it. Times are changing and I think the majority of the game industry want to grow up. But we're not... not even close. So little things like this sparks conversations that we shouldn't be having. A more mature industry could have looked at this comment and wrote it off as a slip of the tongue.

This is why we can't have nice things.

Ramon Carroll
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@ Rick

Sure, I won't argue that there is a problem. And we should speak out whenever that problem rears its ugly head. However, we should also be willing to speak out when someone is being wrongly accused. The comment was NOT sexist. It was a joke based upon a stereotype (while there are always exceptions to stereotypes, they wouldn't exist if there wasn't any truth to them). This is being blown way out of proportion.

Whenever a real issue of sexism and discrimination in the game industry comes up, I'm always happy to jump in and fight the good fight, but this one is not it. The more we do stuff like this, then the less we will be heard when a real issue comes up, because we will be looked upon as just a bunch of hypersensitive cranks. What worries me is that we are continuously trying to subject our OWN industry to the level of political correctness that no other form of media is subjected to. If such a joke was made on an episode of Friends, most of us, (including women) would have laughed it off. If an alternate "Bro Mode" was made, which makes fun of guys, then most dudes would have chuckled at it, because its a joke.

Sexism and gender discrimination is alive and rampant, even in our industry. But these are strong terms and shouldn't be flung around so lightly.

Michael Rooney
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Well said Ramon. I think you've hit my emotions despite me not being able to accurately convey them.

One thing I really hate is that every time something like this pops up it places people as either sexists or feminists and doesn't get across that there is a wide gradient of opinions on how far is too far. There are plenty of tragic things about inequality of sexes; does thinking that "girlfriend mode" is not one of them make someone a sexist?

John Mooney
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I think many people are missing what the comment is implying.

John Hemmingway makes a generalization about a demographic that is supported through current standards. Look at the audience in question. Most players playing Borderlands 2 are going to be men between the ages of 15-30. Of that audience, their 'girlfriends' are likely to be unfamiliar and less experienced playing sandbox shooters.

It is not a sexist comment against women. It is a generalization about a population of 'girlfriends' as being less experienced at first-person shooters. As @Chuck mentions, the mere fact this is included suggests thinking beyond the immediate audience of teenage male.

This comment does not discount that 'girlfriends' may be more skilled than boyfriends, and it does not suggest that women are inherently worse at playing video games. It is stereotyping a demographic(both men and women for that matter), but when things are generalized the finer details are washed out by trends.

"Girlfriend Mode" was designed with the intention of attracting the probably less-experienced 'girlfriends' of the primary audience. Suggesting it as sexist would hold any generalization as prejudiced, which is an obvious flaw. The moral is that understanding generalizations and the implications both from a speaker and listener perspective is crucial.

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John Mooney
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@Dan how is that any different from saying that 'people who live in Florida' are less experienced at snowboarding than people who live in Colorado?

The only difference is people who live in Florida generally don't snowboard, especially compared to those who live in Colorado. There's no prejudice there, just generalization. I hope Floridians aren't offended.

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John Mooney
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@Dan
I'm not sure I follow sir (and thank you for your comments). The topography of Florida is irrelevant. For whatever reason, people in Florida generally don't snowboard. And for whatever reason, girlfriends generally don't play fps'. Sure you can debate why girlfriends don't play fps games, but as for this post it's irrelevant. The fact is, they generally don't, whether through the societal construct, genetics, or just plain interests. Generalizing the fact that most girlfriends don't play fps games isn't sexism.

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John Mooney
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@Dan,

Yes, I do understand the relation of climate/topography to snowboarding. I just assumed I didn't have to explain it.

Nothing is preventing people in Florida from snowboarding. There's probably excellent snowboarders in Florida. Maybe from a previous lived location or their weekend trips to Colorado. In general however, you would expect to find more-experienced snow boarders in Colorado. And you would expect to find less-experienced girlfriends than boyfriends when it comes to playing fps games. When your target audience is men between 15-30 and you think of them spending time with their girlfriends, the jump isn't a difficult one.

What my point is that the reasoning behind why things are the way they are doesn't matter. No one truly believes that having a vagina means you play video games worse, especially John Hemmingway. And that is my entire point. Girlfriends generally don't play fps games. I personally believe it's because most girlfriends have other interests. But the reason as to why they don't doesn't matter in relevancy to Hemmingway's point. He isn't arguing that the vagina is preventing girlfriends from being successful at FPS games (sexism). He is only making an observation that girlfriends generally don't play as often as men. It's an innocent and true observation.

Whether you believe that girlfriends should want to play more videogames because society is holding them back has no relevance to John's comment. In fact, it seems some would be more offended that you have prescribed society as having so much control over their lives as to take away their free will. I know if someone thought society controlled my actions so diligently, I would be offended.

Andrew Wallace
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The most depressing thing about this issue is the huge us vs them mentality that seems to be completely endemic. The vast majority of people are in one of two camps: the "Everything is sexist!" camp, and the "Nothing is sexist!" camp. This article is one of the few examples of someone being reasonable about it, acknowledging that the comment was casual sexism but also noticing that he meant nothing by it.

If people were less concerned with winning arguments and more concerned with being better people we would be a lot further along as a race by now.

Johnathon Tieman
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Close. The article started with that, and if the writer had finished before the "Casual Sexism" section, you'd be correct. However, the author then goes on to pretend he knows what goes on in the head of Hemingway ("he must have thought of it before") and proceeds to draw the unsupported conclusion that this one act is somehow indicative of widespread sexism in the industry. It isn't - it is anecdotal information (and by the author's own admission, minor information at best).

Michael Stevens
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It would be sexist if it was a difficulty setting.
It would probably be sexist if the mechromancer was the only female class.
It might be sexist if it was actually called that in-game, or not preceded by "for lack of a better term".

Those of us not trying to find something to be offended by will understand that the operative part of the word is "-friend" and not "-girl".
"Girlfriend" is not a heterosexual-exclusive term, as your article (carelessly) implies, and is actually a relatively inclusive term (some women will refer to their female friends as "girlfriends" in a way that men don't use the term "boyfriend",again not ruling out that the primary player is female).

if that's too semantic for you (and fair enough, even if it is awholly semantic issue) then ignore it. The main thrust of his words and the design is towards inclusion. At absolute worst he's saying "We think women would like this, even if this isn't usually their thing. Please share it with them."

Daniel Miller
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Y'know, as much as gamers and game studios always talk about how they're filled with the best and brightest, there are some BEYOND stupid people involved in this industry.
Just legendary in their obliviousness.
Seriously, I've been working in it for a few years now and I've met so many people that are incredibly adept at one thing and are just unmitigatedly clueless at nearly everything else.

This, to me, is another prime example of how someone thought they were being clever and wound up being incredibly offensive.
Of course, they're going to patch it up with "it's just a game, why's everybody taking it so seriously".
A LOT of people are saying we're taking it too seriously, but I suggest that they change the hardest mode in the game to the "I-don't-ever-get-fucking-laid" mode and see how the players handle it then.
Gamers don't ever get laid because they're nerds.
It's "just a fact although there are exceptions".

Eric Geer
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"unofficially dubbed 'girlfriend mode.' "

Where's the issue??...it's unofficial...

Anywho..in the general population this could probably be considered the proper term for this mode....but BFF mode is cool too. My wife will probably use this mode when she plays--she doesn't understand all the stats etc...probably doesn't care either.

Ardney Carter
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Interestingly enough, if I'm parsing the article correctly, "girlfriend mode" is someone else's characterization of the dev's remarks.

The actual dev remark noted in the paragraph immediately below is "girlfriend skill tree".

A minor distinction perhaps but being accurate won't hurt anything.

[edit] changed 1st sentence for accuracy. Pots and kettles and all that :)

Eric Geer
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Either way---'girlfriend mode' and 'girlfriend skill tree'

Both unofficial---one more unofficial than the other.

Why is everyone up in arms, when it is actually called something else entirely?

Ardney Carter
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We're on the same page as far as that goes, believe me.

But I do think accuracy of statement merits consideration in the resulting discussion since from a structural standpoint a skill tree is not an entirely separate game mode but a portion of the main experience. They are not (as I understand it) making a separate area for people to play in but are integrating a style of play into the main body of the work, one that is hopefully more inviting for people unfamiliar with the genre.

I think the issue would be an entirely different beast if what was planned was actually a different game mode. The fact that it isn't and yet the quotes being bandied about by people making an issue of it could give the impression that it is says something in and of itself (IMO).

Eric Geer
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Touche'---I agree.

The actual game play isn't being dumbed down. The attention to the skill tree IS being dumbed down.

David Fried
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I'm pretty sure that he has a girlfriend who probably doesn't play games as much as him. With her in mind, that's what came out of his mouth. This is not a broad sweeping declaration of sexism, it's just what he personally associated it with.

The "mode" is BFF. That's their official (so far) name for it. There's no real controversy here, except maybe between him and his girlfriend who may be angry if she believes she is good at games. However, she probably isn't given what he said.

It won't be long now before any interactions between game studios and press are handled by super sensitive PR people who know nothing of the internal game development other than safe for public buzz words and taglines ready to be printed on the box.

Stop making shit storms out of personal pronouns.

Mark Kilborn
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I'm going to make one comment on the matter, then I'm going to leave it at that.

I worked on the first Borderlands. I've worked with John Hemingway. He is the furthest I've ever seen from a sexist person.

There are a lot of younger guys working at Gearbox, so I would not at all be surprised if this term was being batted around the office in some way, but this doesn't match my memory of him. My best guess is that he heard it around the office and, on the spot, said it because it hadn't been named.

I am NOT attempting to say that sexism doesn't exist in this industry. It does. I'm just saying Hemingway is a guy worthy of the benefit of the doubt. I've met lots of devs whose sexism wouldn't surprise me, but Hemingway is not one of them. He's a good guy, and I don't want to see him demonized in this.

Adam Bishop
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I think it's worth pointing out that making a sexist remark doesn't make a person sexist. I have no reason to assume Hemingway is a bad guy, or that he treates women poorly, or anything like that. I've said my fair share of dumb things in my time and I'd like to think that I'm still a pretty good person. But that doesn't change the fact that this particular remark does have sexist undertones and is symptomatic of some troubling views about women that are common among many gamers and I think it's fair to point that out.

Brandon Sheffield
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I don't want him to be demonized either, that's why I tried to make this article not really about *him* so much as an institutional problem. I do hope that came across. As another comment said above, this is really a "wrist slap" moment, not a career-defining moment - but it's something as an industry we should pay attention to.

James Drallos
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Brandon, you're one of my favorite authors here on gamasutra so I hope this isn't taken the wrong way, but if the article was meant more as a means to shine a light on an institutional problem you probably could have avoided mentioning him by name 10 times. To me, doing so really does make it seem more like the article is chastising one man instead of an industry.

Ines Beldi
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@John Mooney:
"This comment does not discount that 'girlfriends' may be more skilled than boyfriends"
Actually, it does! That's the whole point! it's not called "less skilled at FPS people mode" is it?

As a general reply to the thread: I do feel offended. I'm not that good at FPS, true. And I think I would appreciate this game mode for Borderlands (never played it though!). However, it does feel like the developers assumed that I would be less skilled than my boyfriend ONLY because i'm the girlfriend. It doesn't make sense. I'm less skilled only because I have less experience.

The fact that many girlfriends might benefit from this mode doesn't make it right. It's just as offending for the less skilled player as calling it "noob mode". NOW, I'm sure Hemingway didn't mean it, and making sure that less skilled players can play along is still a great thing to add to any game design!

Chuck Bartholomew
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"...it does feel like the developers assumed that I would be less skilled than my boyfriend ONLY because i'm the girlfriend."

...except you're not the girlfriend of a dev a Gearbox, are you? You're someone else. They didn't name it "mode for every girlfriend in the world" They didn't even NAME it "girlfriend mode" - its a skill tree called "Best Friends forever", because the term "girlfriend mode" was never intended for the public.

John Mooney
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@Ines

Thank you for your response.

You somewhat hit the point on the head however. You're less skilled only because you have less experience. As a number of people have mentioned, it's not called "Girl-Only" mode. I don't think that saying girlfriends in general have less experience than their boyfriends is an insulting statement, but it very well might be. I believe that is what his statement was implying.

I guess it's a matter of interpretation. I interpreted it as 'girlfriends in general' might need some extra help due to their lack of experience, and I believe that is what was intended. However, if it's interpreted as "All girlfriends' need some extra help due to their lack of experience, then it's offensive and sexist. And in that case, it would discount that some girlfriends may be more skilled than boyfriends.

Leonardo Ferreira
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OH COME ON!

This just surpassed the Scribblenauts-Sambo controversy in my personal list of Moronic Pseudocontroversies. Can't you people see that every time we have a kerfuffle over something stupid like this it makes harder to highlight the true important stuff?

The way things are going, one of these days Gamasutra is probably going to change its name because it offends praticants of hinduism or something.

Ramon Carroll
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This is exactly what Lars was trying to say earlier. I think we as a community need to work on choosing our battles a little better if we intend on being heard when the issue being raised really matters. Something this minor just doesn't seem to be worth all of the energy that is being thrown at it right now.

Kale Menges
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LMFAO@this entire thread. Anybody say anything about her prosthetic arm? Maybe that's some kind of a poke at amputees or something? And what about the fact you spend the entire game going around gleefully killing midgets (and not the politically correct "little people")? I tell you, you guys feel free to keep stirring up the controversy and Gearbox will continue to thank you for the free marketing and sales boost. Keep up the good work, everyone.

Also, I've personally known Jon Hemingway for nearly 18 years now, a great friend and stand-up guy. This entire article is borderlining on slander and character defamation. THAT is a criminal act and I vote that this entire article and thread be removed immediately. This is not journalism. It's tabloid parody.

Adam Bishop
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I'm curious what specifically in the piece you see as slander? I just went back and re-read the article and I don't see anything that I would count as a personal attack or a claim about Hemingway's character. Only a small portion of the piece even makes mention of Hemingway.

Adam Bishop
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One thing I take issue with here is the repeated assertion that people are "trying to find things to be offended about". No one does this, ever. No one says to themself "I'm going to go read some stuff and then invent some reason to rage at strangers on the Internet!" If I (or anyone else) expresses concern with an issue of sex or race or sexual orientation or whatever it's because we've thought about it calmly and rationally and come to the conclusion that the behaviour is problematic. Anyone who wants to disagree with that assertion is, of course, well within their rights to do so. But let's at least agree that, aside from trolls, no one on any side is just trying to start arguments. I would like to think that we can disagree with each other without essentially accusing the other side of being full of idiots.

Eric Geer
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"I would like to think that we can disagree with each other without essentially accusing the other side of being full of idiots."

In the grand scheme, we are all idiots.

Ardney Carter
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"One thing I take issue with here is the repeated assertion that people are "trying to find things to be offended about".

Sorry, but I have to disagree. I have met people who go out of their way to be offended. And no, I don't mean "met" on the internet I mean in person. The reasons vary. For one (a former friend of mine) it was more of an OCD issue. For others though, it's a way to identify the self by consantly having an 'enemy' to have to be on guard against and attack.

Is everyone like this? Of course not. But such personalities do exist and denying that is simply inaccurate.

[User Banned]
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Michael Rooney
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New-b mode doesn't imply that you are cooperating with anyone. Most people would probably assume it was just an easier difficulty.

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Matt Robb
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How about calling it "Best Friends Forever" so that it keeps in line with the type of humor and pop culture references that go with the writing in the game.

Oh wait, it is.

"Girlfriend mode" isn't the only phrase that fits, it's the phrasing he happened to use in an interview that more than likely describes how he saw it likely being used.

sean lindskog
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There is sometimes a fine line between discrimination/sexism and hyper-sensitivity. In my book, this one falls on the side of hyper-sensitivity.

There are obvious differences between cultures, genders, and sometimes even races. For example, it's certainly not anti-feminist to have different shoe sizes for women and men. You're simply acknowledging that women tend to, on average, have smaller feet. Neither would I be insulted if someone were to observe that Kenyans tend to be better, on average, at long distance running than many other races (including my own).

For FPS video games, it's both well known, and can easily be backed up by sales demographics that men play these games much more often than women. I think the term "girlfriend mode" is a humorous nudge at this trend. As a dude, I wouldn't be offended if say some magazine devoted to a largely female audience had a "boyfriend page" with articles on hotrods and ultimate fighting. I'd think it was funny.

There's no doubt there are harmful kinds of discrimination - stuff that impacts a person's ability to get a job, or applies insulting and hurtful labels to people. I don't think taste in video games applies.

Nicholas Capozzoli
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I'm just not seeing much sexism here. Certainly not enough to warrant any moral crusading, considering that it was an off-the-cuff remark.

I feel like the term "girlfriend mode" is getting conflated with "girl mode". While the latter is clearly disparaging to the gender (and therefor sexist), the former seems more like it's referencing a specific situation: guys with girlfriends who don't play. It's a common enough situation that his meaning is easily understood by most, methinks.

There's an error of omission, to be sure. It doesn't address the flip side of the coin, female gamers with apathetic boyfriends. But is that omission 'sexist'? I'm not so sure. Sounds to me more like he was speaking to an experience, one that's common, and thats probably occurred for him personally too.

But I can definitely say that the responses to the statement have really embellished things.

Jason milligan
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This is really weak. There are *far* more important, legitimate acts and examples of sexism in the industry than an offhand comment about a skill tree that has its official name tagged as Best Friends Forever which has no gender connotation in it at all. It's little more than left over jargon from a (I'd like to hope) fast fading era of gaming and the game industry. Was it a little brash? Sure. Does it justify crucifying the comment? Not in any way.

I would argue that a) the plethora of women I know that are serious about gaming would laugh it off without a second thought unlike the Lara Croft scene of recent times and b) anyone that actually takes a real amount of offense at this, both male and female, needs a serious self esteem check. Not every comment in life will be tailored to your liking, skill, experience, or what have you. To expect such is to welcome disappointment and being stressed more often than not. In other words, pick and choose your fights lest you diminish the validity of real problems.

I've had my rear soundly thrashed by women in games of all genres, and while they were annoyed and angry at things like the weird Lara Croft scene (like any thinking being would be), they are the same women who see comments like this, laugh, and proceed to flex their gaming muscle in ways that prove it wrong. Maybe we should focus on real issues instead of, like Moriarty pointed out, knee jerking over the smallest, insignificant slight. Then again, it's campaign season and it seems like everyone is extra sensitive to even the smallest pinch.

And the industry is still young? Is roughly 40 years (give or take) not old yet? At what point does it finally reach 'old enough'? That's about enough for 2 generations of people. I'm happy we're making strides to be more open to the general public but this sort of sensational backlash over the smallest things has more negative than positive effect. Leonardo is right. What if, like in Smite's case, the name of the site heavily offended those of a certain religion? How fast would people rage out in defense or offense of it?

Arthur De Martino
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I'm probably going to grab some flack for what I'm about to say but FPS games were, for the longest time, a male dominated field with very few females at it. Putting an effort to attract females (As in drawning a cute character instead of a generic bald spacemarine boy/spacemarine girl) isn't an issue. Really guys, it isn't.

The problem comes from the nomenclature he selected to name such mode. It has a unfornate implication.
Do we really need to make a fuss out of it? Despite such mishap Borderlands 1 and 2 are probably one of the better FPSs to you to introduce to a female audience. Colorful graphics, collection and a fun plot make it perfect for players who aren't normally into FPSs at all.

Then again this is conjecture, I have no charts to prove my point that FPSs have a small female player base, if I was making a game like that I'd probably research, see the need to include girls, try to research things that are popular on said audience, put them there to compliment the experience while trying to be unique about, creating and tweaking said elements and probably use them in a market push. And I'd try to make it as natural as possible instead of labeling "Girlfriend mode" because I feel that concept and name idiotic. More idiotic than sexist in fact.

Jonathan Jennings
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Right off the bat without reading what girlfriend mode is but assuming i know what it means, I don't se it as a sexist thing at all. I love my girlfriend, if she wanted to play borderlands with me I know for a fact at the start she wouldn't be able to hang or i'd have to slow the pace down considerably for us to progress together . girlfriend mode may have been more accurately described as " tour guide " mode or " baby sitter mode" but essentially i think the connotation is making it so that the most casual denominator can enjoy the experience as well .

I do understand why female gamers could be offended but not why they would be, GIRL MODE is vastly different from girlfriend mode the connotation is vastly different one says all females would be terrible at the game and this mode is geared towards her but this is more of a way to make the experience enjoyabl for those we love but are less skilled . just a big overreaction in my opinion

Michael Rooney
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Am I the only one that thinks constantly bitching about sexism is more damaging to females than the original comments themselves? The minority of females who paint this picture of a women who is inflamed by the smallest infraction damage the perception of females as a whole much more than "girlfriend mode" ever would, and this extends to other recent debates (see Tomb Raider).

If you don't want to be viewed separately, then stop separating yourself and embrace the things about your demographic that make you different negatively and positively, regardless of how accurate they are. If you can't laugh at yourself life's going to be pretty fucking miserable.

Being honest "girlfriend mode" is a term we'd all immediately know the definition of where "boyfriend mode" or "significant other mode" would have us all thinking, "dafuck is he talking about?" It's just as likely he named it that because it's socially relevant not because he's in any way sexist.

Fred Zeleny
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You might not be the only one, but you're still wrong. Being a concern troll about it doesn't help you or women at all, either.

Sexism is a problem in this industry, from the huge things like Duke Nukem to the casual things like this. The longer we try to pretend it isn't or rail against it whenever it's pointed out, the worse it'll be for our business and the more we'll sideline an entire generation of potential players.

Michael Rooney
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@"You might not be the only one, but you're still wrong. Being a concern troll about it doesn't help you or women at all, either.

Sexism is a problem in this industry, from the huge things like Duke Nukem to the casual things like this. The longer we try to pretend it isn't or rail against it whenever it's pointed out, the worse it'll be for our business and the more we'll sideline an entire generation of potential players."

I'm not trolling anything. I'm just tired of hearing people bitch every time anything is mentioned about women in video games because they (not women, the people who complain) are too sensitive.

Having to walk around on pins and needles for fear of being berated if you say something wrong is censorship by intimidation, and it makes me think less of the intimidators not better of the group they are trying to protect. I don't respect bullies even if they have the best intentions.

[User Banned]
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Paul Marzagalli
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I like Brandon's conclusion: if we keep forming up the lynch mob, eventually we won't have to worry about hanging anyone anymore because there won't be anyone left to hang. And I use "lynch mob" pointedly because Hemingway didn't say anything that warranted the kind of response that he and Gearbox received. This is nothing more than politics at its most typical. I'm sorry for the grief the Gearbox people have had to put up with over this.

Hemingway's name was dragged through the mud in the name of advancing an agenda, which is what makes it so pernicious. Sheffield's attempts to not outright attack Hemingway ring as hollow as his attempts to say "I'm not really calling for censorship" in his piece on "Tentacle Bento". In this case, he's promulgating this attack by using it to promote his view of how the industry should be.

It's despairing to me how many people are eager to round themselves up on social media for these ad hominem attacks. I'm especially leery of a press that wants to position themselves as the moral arbiters of what is acceptable in the industry, particularly because there is nothing moral or ethical about their approach to this subject so far. All I see is an embrace of certain social theory and fierce promotion of it, to the exclusion of other points of view. That doesn't make their opinions wrong, but it sure as hell doesn't make them right, either. It's all vaguely Orwellian, and I'm not really interested in indulging anyone's two minutes of hate.

Paul Marzagalli
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If I've trivialized racist violence, it's because I've had to ante up the trivialization in order to comment on this ridiculous agenda-pushing non-story.

And that's all the troll-feeding I will be doing for today.

Matt Robb
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I see a person criticizing the reaction to a statement as being over the top. In no way does it defend or promote the initial statement.

Edit: As an aside, he's right in the sense that the current path could easily lead to no one actually speaking officially without a PR company sitting in the middle. If even the most casual and inadvertantly-offensive comments can get you and your company trashed by entire movements, why would you ever do an interview?

Gern Blanston
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I like you equate 'opposing opinion' with 'agenda'. How very Fox News of you.

Paul Marzagalli
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Gern, this thing went "Fox News" the moment the first article about this was written.

Fred Zeleny
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This is a real shame, because it could have been a perfect teachable moment. When a game developer says something that's not meant with malice, but which is still undeniably sexist, and has it pointed out that this is kind of a sexist attitude to have, there are two directions it can go:

1) The game dev can apologize for the unthinking statement, choose a better term, and learn a little something about casual sexism and its prevalence in the industry. The offended parties would most likely be happy to see progress, and everyone could go on their way happy that the industry got a little better.

or

2) The game dev and their higher-ups can get defensive, deny any sort of sexism in the statement, and give the insulted parties even more justifiable reasons to be insulted. Then parts of the game community, perhaps defensive themselves about the sexism in their hobby, rise up to be angry at those who were originally insulted, and the industry gets just a little bit worse for every female in it.

It's really a shame to see so many comments on a respectable board like Gamasutra choosing to embrace the second path.

Ramon Carroll
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False dichotomy.

David Rodriguez
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If in some way we see an "EA and Taliban" moment with this games "girlfriend" mode where they go in and re-name this mode because of politics, it will truly be a new low for the game industry. Appreciate the humor/content or play another game but don't get in the way of the development! let's move on..

Jacob Germany
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1. Not called girlfriend mode.

2. Not about Borderlands content, or playing that or another game.

3. It pays to read.

David Rodriguez
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@ Jacob Germany

1. Girlfriend mode CLEARLY mentioned (hell read the title of the article)
2. This entire topic was started because of a Borderlands 2 content interview! (gamasutra dumped this sexism turd into it)
3. It pays even better to give actual feed back.

I'm making a contradictory point of having another EA/Taliban style mess with Medal of honor because the way people are yapping, that's what might happen and I'd hate to see that. This sexism nonsense is taken completely out of context and has nothing to do with the actual game dev (just like the EA/Taliban mess) so I'm not even gonna remark on it (Yah it's 75% of the articles content if that's what your pouting about).Agree or Disagree, please give constructive feedback.

Jacob Germany
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Girlfriend mode was a reference by a journalist to a description called "girlfriend tech tree" which wasn't in the game. Therefore, there's nothing to change.

The sexism "nonsense" has to do with the industry at large. Nothing to do with Borderlands, specifically. So "play another game" is an attempt to misdirect, at worst, and you not reading at best.

How is that not constructive?

Bob Johnson
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It isn't sexist.

There is no discrimination here.

2k said that guys can play the girlfriend mode too. The game won't know if you are a boy or a girl.

Fred Zeleny
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Wrong. It's making several assumptions based on gender, specifically that the player using "girlfriend mode" is:

1) the "real" player's girlfriend (which itself assumes the player is probably a heterosexual male),
2) that she's only playing it because her boyfriend is playing,
3) that she's picking the "cutest character they've ever designed" (presumably because she's female and thus likes cute things), and
4) not good at games (again, with the assumption that this is because she's female).

The statement itself is sexist. That doesn't mean that Hemingway is an avowed sexist or anything, but it points to a casual level of sexism in the industry. Especially since the reporter clarified that it was a term they heard used repeatedly by many of the developers during their interview (https://twitter.com/wyp100/status/234981941097684992).

And moreso, the way that nearly every male commenter on this article defensively jumps to claim there's no sexism in a clearly sexist statement shows that the problem isn't limited to just the developers.

Javier Arevalo
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Your implication that someone who has a girlfriend is probably an heterosexual male is deeply homophobic. I hope you are ashamed of yourself and your assumptions.

Fred Zeleny
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There's a reason I said "assumes the player is PROBABLY a heterosexual male."

But good try, Javier.

Jacob Germany
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@Javier The idea that Hemingway meant "girlfriend tech tree" referencing girlfriends of female gamers is a bit of a stretch, don't you think? I think we can all, safely and soundly, assume he was referencing girlfriends of heterosexual guy gamers.

In other words, you're trying to conflate the original sexist comment with its inherent heterosexism with a comment that acknowledges that heterosexism. They aren't the same.

Bob Johnson
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@Fred

By your same logic, you do realize guys are being told they can't play this gf mode. You should be sticking up for them as well.

And please don't ever pee in a boys bathroom. That's sexist. The label is saying that men can't be behave themselves and be neat and clean in a women's bathroom. So they have to have their own special bathroom.

Cry me a river.

I hope you if get married that you don't buy your woman a diamond ring. Sexist!!!!!!!!!

Get her a $1000 gold band instead.

@Javier

lol

Javier Arevalo
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Fred, Jacob, I don't get why you get to assume anything or use relative terms like 'probably' without consequence, but Hemingway is sexist if he does. His assumptions are pretty simple, and match with the actual, real world statistics that most people around the games industry (including designers and journalists, the two people having that conversation) would easily agree on:

- B2 target market is heavily skewed towards young / adult experienced male gamers.
- A significant fraction of male gamers have girlfriends that are notably less invested and experienced in gaming, particularly in games targeted at experienced male gamers.
- Playing a game with little experience in the mechanics, interfaces and conventions of the genre increases the difficulty curve, the time needed to be proficient with the game, and the pace at which you can progress.
- Playing a coop game with a partner that is significantly less skilled in the game can be frustrating for either partner.

I don't see how a non-absolute, tongue in cheek, quickly thought, casual remark, and very explicitly qualified as such by Hemingway, based on these assumptions and perceptions, can be considered sexist or offensive.

If you can point at any studies that suggest assumptions 1 and 2 do not correlate with real demographics in their context (Borderlands 2 or the overall FPS genre), then you may have a point.

Jacob Germany
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@Javier You question the assumption that the remark was made with heterosexual guys and their girlfriends in mind, while then going on to argue how that's exactly what was meant. Nice.

And statistics are irrelevant. The point isn't that there are some of whom the phrase "girlfriend tech tree" would apply. The point is the sad state of the industry where the first or primary term a prominent developer thinks to use is based on gender, instead of calling it a "your kid wants to play with you" mode, or "co-star mode", or anything else.

For that matter, why is it "girlfriend mode" and not "wife mode"? Because the image of the game player is still stuck on young college and teenage heterosexual males. The fact is that statistics don't support this concept, so even if you want to try to use them to defend the statement, you can't. It's an archaic stereotype that predicated this statement, not any sincere appeal to gamers. It was thoughtless, sexist, and harmful to this industry.

Javier Arevalo
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Jacob,

my first post was sarcastic. Sorry I didn't make that clear enough. Anyway, my view is that it's not offensive, it's a tongue in cheek comment describing a representative segment of the game's target market.

Why now wife mode? Because the game is aimed at a comparatively younger segment who are more likely to have girlfriends than wives. Note I say "segment", not "entirety". Among the game's players there will be plenty of boys, girls, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives and I hope a few grandparents too.

Why not "kid mode"? Because it's a freaking violent game and I wouldn't let my son play it until he's well past the "kid" stage. Frankly, I find it disturbing how many people are offended at the imaginary 'harmful sexism' in this mess while happily suggest that Borderlands is appropriate for kids. Less political correctness police and more thoughtful parenting would make this world both much more intellectually rich and much more healthy.

Jacob Germany
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I agree, then, that it's a tongue-in-cheek statement along with being slightly offensive. My problem, as many others', isn't with the original statement necessarily but the frame of mind that was its foundation.

Is Borderlands 2 aimed at a younger segment? I think that's still feeding into stereotypes. While the above link of statistics (in the original article) is inclusive in types of games relating to the survey, the average age of gamers was still around 37. And adult women still numbered 3 times the number of teen males. Certainly, some of that can be explained away, but the reality is that gamer demographics are changing rapidly, and feeding into old stereotypes isn't helping anyone.

As for whether it's appropriate for children, that's an issue on a per-parent basis. If memory serves, Borderlands wasn't all that graphic of violence. It was mainly just lots of shooting and explosions. Maybe someone feels it's fine for a 6 year old, while another thinks it's not appropriate unless you're 14. Regardless, the mode will help a kid no matter what. My point wasn't that it should've been called "kid mode" as much as the frame of mind isn't "Gamers have children" or "Gamers are adult males", even. It's that "Gamers are young, unmarried males."

(Just to assert my opinion, I don't think any assumptions should be made of gamers, as being adults, children, male or female. I'm just throwing out examples of theoretically different perspectives)

Keith Patch
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Seems like a lot of speculation about what he meant... maybe he was just drawing upon current/past experience with a girlfriend having difficulty with a game. It's still speculation, but I don't see why his comment is immediately sexist (casual or intentional).

This is the sort of thing that just keeps developers from communicating with the public... everything is under scrutiny and nobody likes having to walk on eggshells just for a discussion.

James Drallos
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I have a honest question of context for those who are bothered by the term "girlfriend-mode". If the first time "girlfriend-mode" had been mentioned it had been prefaced with something like (and this is purely hypothetical) "We were talking about a possible new skill tree and one guy suggested we add a tree that would make it more fun for his girlfriend, who isn't as skilled at FPS's, to enjoy the game with him. We all thought that was a great idea and so around the office we call this skill tree 'girlfriend-mode'.", would you still have the same issues? I'm genuinely curious because, as others have commented, to me "girlfriend-mode" describes a very particular situation. One that I am personally familiar with and if it's used in an unofficial capacity I don't know that it's fair to give it any more significance.

Joshua Darlington
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GFE

Zach Grant
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1st world problems.

"I find worrisome is that "girlfriend mode" made it into Hemingway's lexicon at all. It's not an official mode name, but it rolled off the tongue so easily."

If you can't see why it's in his lexicon you either don't play games, don't date, or somehow managed to beat all odds and date only gamers. A large percentage of male gamers have significant others who don't play FPS games.

"Women represent 42 percent of the game market as of 2011, according to the ESA."

This is a cherry picked statistic that has absolutely nothing to do with this issue, that you've thrown in to support your argument of sexism. I'm fairly certain the Gearbox people know which gender plays their games (my company does) and I'll bet my years salary Borderlands is nowhere near 42% played by females.

I think a little comedy is more in store here than outrage:

George Carlin: When it comes to changing the language, I think they make some good points. Because we do think in language. And so the quality of our thoughts and ideas can only be as good as the quality of our language. So maybe some of this patriarchal shit ought to go away. I think "spokesman" ought to be "spokesperson." I think "chairman" ought to be "chairperson." I think "mankind" ought to be "humankind." But they take it too far, they take themselves too seriously, they exaggerate. They want me to call that thing in the street a "personhole cover." I think that's taking it a little bit too far!

What would you call a ladies' man, a "person's person"? That would make a he-man an "it-person." Little kids would be afraid of the "boogie-person." They'd look up in the sky and see the "person in the moon." Guys would say "come back here and fight like a person," and we'd all sing "For It's a Jolly Good Person," that's the kind of thing you would hear on "Late Night with David Letterperson"! You know what I mean?

Gern Blanston
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"What would you call a ladies' man, a 'person's person'?"

No, because a 'ladies' man' is a man that appeals to a broad range of females. This discussion has nothing to do with something being wrong in calling a man a man or a woman a woman.

'Girlfriend Mode' would be fine if in fact all girlfriends were terrible at gaming. But the fact of the matter is that they're not, and assuming that you suck based on your sex is sexist. And recognizing what's sexist is where the problem lies, and why this discussion (which you call 'outrage') exists.

Evan Combs
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This is not sexist.

In order for it to be sexist it has to display dislike or devaluation of a sex, not display a common social occurrence.

Call me when there is actual sexism and I will back you 100% until then get this kind of shit out of here. It is inappropriate for a news site of any kind to display these kind of articles, and for those who post these articles to not have the proper understanding the words they use. Just because something has a gender specification does no make it sexist. Just like not every time a cop beats a black person is it because the cop is racist, sometimes it is just because the person was resisting arrest when the cop was perfectly within his right to arrest the guy.

Stop diminishing the effect when sexism actually happens, and start living in reality where not ever generalization is displaying hatred or devaluation.

Maria Jayne
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"In order for it to be sexist it has to display dislike or devaluation of a sex"

Implying that the girlfriend mode tree has a "you don't need to hit your target, close enough is good enough" talent choice, implies girls can't aim properly in the game. That is a devaluation of a sex in this regard.

It's a poor choice of words, that's all. The intent is to get more people playing the game who perhaps would not due to it's difficulty. I don't have a problem with that.

Ardney Carter
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"Implying that the girlfriend mode tree has a "you don't need to hit your target, close enough is good enough" implies girls can't aim properly in the game. That is a devaluation of a sex in this regard."

If it that was what the skill tree was actually called (it isn't) and if it was said in a vacuum (it wasn't) then I could see that viewpoint. But when in the very next sentence after the one people are making a fuss over he clarifies that the person in question is 'someone...[that] suck[s] at first-person shooters' presumably because they have little to no experience with the genre I cannot possibly get behind that interpretation of his remarks.

Evan Combs
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Maria it is called satire. It is a reference to a common social occurrence. Not a reference to how good girlfriends (it isn't even reference the whole gender) are at games. Context is key.

It is like when a Christian says saying cuss words is a sin, when no such thing is ever even implied in the Bible. The truth is the sin is when you say something that is intended to be harmful to another person. The context of the word is what makes it a sin, not the word itself.

But like with most things these days no one cares about context, only about their out of context sound bites which can make the most straight line man seem like the worst person to ever live just because of some words taken out of context.

You would think in a field of entertainment and creativity you would have people who would better understand this concept. Everything we make as game developers is about context. If you don't understand the importance of context you aren't going to be able to create a game that others find fun to play. The continuity in all aspects of the game from art, to story, to gameplay is going to be all out of whack and unplayable. Context is everything.

This is life though, where miscommunication happens 100% of the time every time.

Andy Moore
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>> Stop diminishing the effect when sexism actually happens

This argument sounds a whole lot like "it couldn't be rape because she was too drunk to say no."

>> In order for it to be sexist it has to display dislike or devaluation of a sex, not display a common social occurrence.

What if the common social occurrence is the systemic devaluation of women via offhand sexist remarks?

I totally think this whole issue (not just the offending quote, but the surrounding controversy) very much devalues women. Just take a look at the first two comments on this article.

The fact that women are upset by this should be enough; who are you to say that they have no right to be upset? Isn't that sexist in and of itself?

Gern Blanston
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"The term “girlfriend mode” doesn’t say “Hey, maybe you don’t like this type of game, so here’s a way you might like to try.” The term “girlfriend mode” says “Hey, you’re a girl so you must be terrible at playing games, so here’s how we’re going to help you."'

-David Wildgoose, PC Powerplay

--------------------

This is a quote that says things better than anyone else has on the issue. And I think the most interesting argument being made is that John Hemingway isn't sexist just because he said something sexist. Well I suppose that a person who says something immature can't be considered an immature individual. And someone who cheats on their wife couldn't possibly be considered a cheater. And someone who tells a lie simply isn't a liar. Someone who murders isn't a murderer.

With that argument, we can not be held accountable for what we do and say. What we say and do therefore does not reflect who we are. "I'm not the person that just said that"... "I'm not the person that just did that"...

If we do not call ourselves out for our mistakes, and allow others to do so as well, we will never grow up. And if we never grow up, we will perpetually be saying and doing things that hurt others and hold others back. That's the point of this whole discussion. Help each other grow by pointing out our wrongdoings. And if you're not sure if something is wrong, then do some more critical thinking. In this case, ask a female how that statement makes her feel. Ask many females. If it's wrong to have a discussion about these kinds of statements, we're all just going to be a bunch of big naive kids thinking that nothing is wrong.

Zach Grant
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This quote deals with absolutes, which makes it a poor quote to latch onto in this situation. The quote is only accurate if 100% of the time the female is equal to or better to males at Borderlands. In real life, X% of the time a male will be playing Borderlands, and his girlfriend could use the help of "girlfriend mode" as a way to enjoy the game.

That X% of the time, David Wildgoose's quote will be incorrect. 100-X% of the time his quote will be correct. If X approaches 100 it would be a pretty accurate generalization.

Gern Blanston
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Josh-

Actually, 'Girlfriend Mode' is the only thing that deals with absolutes. By using that title, one must assume that 100% of girlfriends (females) are no good at the game. That's why this discussion exists. The idea behind your argument is nonexistent.

Zach Grant
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David's quote says absolutely "Hey, you’re a girl so you must be terrible at playing games, so here’s how we’re going to help you."

If the most common usage of "girlfriend mode" is “Hey, maybe you don’t like this type of game, so here’s a way you might like to try.”, then the mode becomes a generalization.

Gern Blanston
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His quote is saying "in other words...". So if you're saying that he's talking in absolutes, then the mode he's referring to functions the same way, as well. Which doesn't change the fact that the mode is sexist, and by attempting to confuse the subject with your argument you're avoiding the actual issue.

So let's forget about that quote. Let's assume that David's quote was stupid and invalid. Moving on, what about anything else I wrote about? Are you defending the mode as something that's not sexist? I've failed to see at all what your true feelings are on the subject.

I mean, we can sit here and talk about how effective/ineffective someone else's argument is on the matter, but it'll never actually move the discussion any further.

Justin Sawchuk
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Gaming used to be made for nerds, then it got bigger and they started dumbing it down for the jocks. Now they are making it more mainstream for the women. Well okay I mean it might suck in some respects but more people, means more money which equals bigger and better (well bigger anyway) games.

Eva Roberts
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Agreed. I have to wonder if I developed a game and made my hardest mode "boyfriend never gets of the couch and doesn't have a job" mode, how much offense there would be. One cause I know it's not true, I have many friends that are gamers and successful. I think that is where we "as women" get offendend. The guy probably only ment his GF, but to have a mode nicknames that does say something about what he thinks, and what other gamers think. At the end of the day it's going to come back to money. And if females are spending more money on games than their male couterparts then gentlement expect a change. This could have all been avoided by KISS (keep it simple stupid). Easy, normal, hard. No need for noobs or any of that other stuff, because it makes us seem elitist when we are not, anybody who buys the game can play it and should enjoy it. Well hell, now that I've really ranted I hope they make a better Tomb Raider too.

Bob Johnson
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@eva

Guys would just laugh if you developed that mode.

Because it is funny. Because we know people like that.

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Eva Roberts
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Bob, I agree until you say that to someones face. LOL. It's happened to me, he did not take that well. I did beat him in Madden 2006, (the last time I played that franchise btw).

Ramon Carroll
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Yeah, that's the problem, Eva. Most guys would laugh at it, because they would get the joke.

Bob Johnson
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@Eva

I guess the truth hurts. lol.

Justin Sawchuk
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If we can get a better Tomb Raider game but it means laura has to lose her big boobs is it worth it.

Jonah Wallschlaeger
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Am I the only one on here who thought that was funny? I have a girlfriend, I told her this, she thought it was funny.

It's a joke. I mean, really people. Political correctness rears its ugly head again.

Do people think that a studio who makes a game like Borderlands or Duke Nukem is going to be terrified of making a joke? This whole issue is just depressing. I think it's pretty accurate. I know a massive ton of girlfriends who play CoD because their boyfriends asked. It plays on that and makes fun of it. Should he have said, "significant other mode?" No, because that would be implying that the significant other is bad. Let's just call it, "significant other but only if they don't play too many games and are only playing it because you asked them to mode." That really rolls off the tongue.

Andy Moore
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Amusement and sexism aren't mutually exclusive. You can say something as a joke *and* have it be sexist at the same time. You'd be saying a funny thing but you'd still be an insensitive jerk.

A good correlary is rape-jokes, or holocaust-jokes. They *do damage*, and denying that that happens or that people should "lighten up" is pretty much Male Privelege defined (in this context).

It doesn't matter who you know that finds it funny, or how you interpret it. What matters here is that *other people were offended*, which makes this a jerk thing to say.

Eva Roberts
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What happend to easy, normal and hard? The simplicity escapes me.

Michael Rooney
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It's not an easy normal hard situation. It has nothing to do with difficulty. It has to do with a skill tree designed around assisting the less experienced people you are playing with cooperatively. Presumably you could use it on any difficulty level.

Eva Roberts
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Thanks for the input I haven't played the new one yet. That actually might make the comment more ignorant but I don't think he was meaning any harm. Just probably not that savy.

Michael Rooney
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It probably wouldn't change your opinion, it just makes the easy/normal/hard comparison inaccurate :p

Eva Roberts
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Well I guess even the skill tree part probably wouldn't. Most of my gaming is spent on RPGs (currently playing Skyrim and Dark Souls), and some light FPS, I play those when I don't want to think hard. I was looking at buying Boarderlands though, just haven't heard to much good or bad about it. This is where the offense is still taken. That a developer thinks I don't think things out to make my character better. I don't think the he is sexist though, and this is probably the first developer I can say that of. He was just talking about his realationship and other people called it what they wanted. But if that's what other people feel then hey yeah that is wrong.

Michael Rooney
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The skilltree isn't designed to be simple. It's just a skill tree for support players. The less skilled player shouldn't use that tree. The more skilled player would just be given skills that help the other player.

"One skill in the Best Friends Forever tree is "Close Enough;" it makes bullets that miss their targets ricochet off surrounding objects toward the intended enemy. "Can't aim? That's not a problem," Hemingway says."

From the joystiq rereport of the eurogamer article.

The real point he was making was the sentence after the "girlfriend mode" quote. The bff tree is for people with the, "I love Borderlands and I want to share it with someone, but they suck at first-person shooters," problem.

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Eva Roberts
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I really think he knew what he was saying but I don't think he was trying to offend. But with mo money (I mean customers) comes more problems. Everyone has an opinion so it really could be alot worse.

Ezequiel Alvarez
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This is hilarious.

I wish I had a girlfriend though.

(thus synthesizing the ethos of video game culture)

Steven Christian
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What is the ratio of Hertosexual Males/Lesbian Females to Homosexual Males/Hertosexual Females that play the game?

I believe that you will find that the prior is higher than the latter, hence the mode is moreso attributed to girlfriends than to boyfriends.

It's simple logic.

Steven Christian
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BTW, after recently getting my girlfriend into borderlands, she admits that she is no good at FPS games and thus needs all of the help that she can get. This mode would be perfect for her and she could play at my level and still enjoy the game :)

Tomi Vesanen
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How about developers just stop saying anything that implies "You're a woman, thus supposed to be shit at games, don't ya know?!"

Timothee Garnaud
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Actually is nicknaming it "girlfriend mode" is really about sexism or just about finding a way to drag nicely your patner into games he/she would be unwilling to try?

How many FPS players have a girlfriend who has no interest either in games in general or in FPS? I see many female friends complaining about their boyfriend playing CoD. Purhaps this mode name reflect more the idea of dragging another kind of people into games than "casual sexism".

Jacob Germany
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The mode is about inclusiveness. The nickname is sexist. Not that complicated.

John Flush
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They should have just called it "sucky friend mode" and moved on. I'm pretty sure the name they did pick, which was wrong of course, came from the fact the studio is probably largely of one demographic and they gave it a name that made sense in their own context of life. Problem is those sort of things always get out and then you have to deal with those that didn't deal with the notion during development of what they were actually trying to solve... playing games with someone that sucks at FPS, regardless of gender.

Michael Rooney
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The name they picked is Best Friends Forever. The guy just said "girlfriend mode" in an interview once.

Terry Matthes
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I think they name is absolutely fine and people just need to chill the hell out. I don't think the developers intention was to offend women, but to tie into a cheeky intersection of our social lives that touches gaming in a way I know that a lot of us (myself included) have experienced.

Save your soap boxes for issues that actually matter.

Andy Moore
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The article *said* it wasn't his intention. Did you even read it?

Jacob Germany
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What really bothers me? Other than the litany of commenters who feel eager to defend sexist comments?

That no one thinks it's odd that he said "girlfriend" instead of "wife" (if the remark was going to be sexist anyhow) or "child". This stereotype, which is even more endemic than the "girls suck at games" assumption, that the players are all 16-22 year old males is a problem in our industry that needs to finally be killed, thoroughly.

I at least see *some* movement towards the "girls play games, too" mentality. Very little towards the "gamers can have spouses and children and full-time jobs" mentality.

Every time I see a statistic of the average age of gamers, it's an older and older age. Yet this remark, aside from assuming women can't play FPSs well, assumes that the player-base consists of young males who want their girlfriends to play their games. =|

Aaron Casillas
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Add a boyfriend mode, horrible gameplaying friend mode, a wife mode, a husband mode, I might be inebriated mode and it's all done.

Kenneth Nussbaum
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You had me up until the end when you went all hyperbolic.

"At the very least, this discussion assures that no game worth its salt will ever have something called a 'girlfriend mode.' "

First of all remember that its not called "girlfriend mode" the developer just referred to it as girlfriend mode to get a point across.

All and all this press is only helping the game.

If your really upset about the presentation of women in gaming why aren't you writing full page articles about the incredibly obvious objectification of women in DOA5, instead of attacking a basic Freudian slip that anyone with a girlfriend who plays video games with them would have made...

Get a chick to play some games with you and then come and tell me that "girlfriend mode" isn't the greatest idea to come to male gaming.

PLAYING VIDEO GAMES WITH YOUR GIRLFRIEND IS ONE OF MANS GREATEST FANTASIES. I believe thats the demographic hemmingway was trying to appeal to.

Jacob Germany
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1. He didn't say it was called "girlfriend mode". Just that future games would be more likely to avoid it.

2. This press is helping the game. So? I don't think the article's author hates the game, or the developer, in any way.

3. The deflection of "bigger problems to deal with" is common in these articles on sexism, but it's moot. Just because there are other, even bigger, issues of sexism doesn't mean that smaller instances should be ignored. I, frankly, like reading them all. If you don't, you can skip reading them. This one even stated, explicitly, in the title, that it was about *casual* sexism.

4. No one has a problem, author or any comment I've read, with the actual "Newbie tech tree". The problem is the sexist perspective of the industry.

5. "Get a chick to play some games with you and then come and tell me that "girlfriend mode" isn't the greatest idea to come to male gaming. PLAYING VIDEO GAMES WITH YOUR GIRLFRIEND IS ONE OF MANS GREATEST FANTASIES. I believe thats the demographic hemmingway was trying to appeal to."

That's a really, really great illustration as to why this discussion on sexism is needed. Because it's not about "male gaming". It doesn't matter what "man's greatest fantasies" are. A mode that allows unskilled players to play with gamers without getting too frustrated? Great. Saying that mode is for "girlfriends", implying that the "real" players are young males? Not so great.

Megan Swaine
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I'm sorry, are you like, 14 years old?

And no, I don't think this type of press is helping the game. That whole axiom of "any publicity is good publicity" is a load of bull- making statements in the press that alienate part of your player audience is not "good publicity". Video games is a business and a demeaning your customers is a bad idea in ANY business.

Danny Bernal
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Everyone here seems to be tossing around sexism as implying a discriminatory attribute with a hate element. I really feel this comment was just a play on a commonly found stereotype.

I'm not for believing in stereotyping (as in applying it to everyone), but I have to acknowledge they exist. On that same note, I sadly know many people who fit many stereotypes, some are carried proudly, some are disliked. We all have a tendency to group others in some way shape or form, whether its by physical attributes, behavioral patterns or personal preferences.
The only way to avoid falling victim to someones criticism when designing seems to be to make something so bland that no one has any interest in it any more. then, everyone wins because nobody wins.

That said, there are clearly also various levels of aggression (intent? interpretation? I think i'm using the wrong word here :P) when a stereotype is used. This is subject to interpretation at 2 levels. 1) the intent of the communicator. 2) the bias of the listener.
I believe "girlfriend mode" qualifies as "cute" in my opinion. It fits me and my wife perfectly.
I interpreted this whole thing as "something more for the girlfriends who happen to suck at games but want to play too". I think those who interpreted this as "what all girlfriends will pick because they all clearly suck at games" are clearly biased in their listening. open up a little. there are a million ways to interpret this and yet you chose this one way to conjure up a storm.

Here's my advice to all the angry people here. get over it. No harm was intended, said, nor done. While this comment may appear sexist to some, I believe it simply related to a commonly found situation which is also a stereotype (which fits me and my wife! yay! ^_^). Lets face it, This game was probably primarily targeted at guys. and the comment (and feature) was clearly referring to the sub group who happen to have girlfriends who suck at gaming. If you dont suck, Pick another damn character! its not like it's "The" option. just "another" option.

Richard Bunk
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I really think that right now the gaming press just doesn't have too much news to deal with and this fills the void.

Is it casual sexism? Likely, but is it dangerous? Not really, just a small jab at the constant competition between the sexes. To me the whole comment is fairly innocent, but I don't subscribe to political correctness and I don't go on witch hunts based on what people say (actions are far better indicators of someone's heart than a few words).

I think we really need to get over this need to whistle-blow things and call it news. The fact of the matter is, if you grab any 10 men and any 10 women I would suspect you would have a higher amount of men better at shooter games than women.

I think some people look at this stuff and see the lack of women characters and such in gaming and point to that as sexism. Often they go further and scape goat that as the reason women don't play games.

The fact is that men and women are wired differently, core gaming experiences are going to attract a different type of player than casual. The over abundance of male characters in gaming is just a reflection of the demographic and not necessary a device to keep women out.

Richard Bunk
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"The backlash against articles about sexism toward women keeps getting stronger, as people get more frustrated with the increasing cries of inequality in articles like this one I've just written."

Actually for me, I am just tried of hearing people complaining and calling it news. Gamers have no end to their dismay, the gaming press at large doesn't need to feed directly into it with articles that often demonstrate more ignorance than the people commenting on it.

David Paris
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Just call it Little Brother Mode. My daughter has been using her brother as a boost in coop gameplay since they were tiny. I suspect a great many siblings are quite used to being 'Tails' to carry 'Sonic' to hidden areas, and similar assists.
rn
rnSounds like a lot of hoopla over nothing.

Megan Swaine
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It was a stupid remark. It DOESN'T MATTER if it was "offhand". That does NOT make it okay!

What about guys that are bad at FPS? Do you think THEY will want to play the skill tree now that it's been dubbed "girlfriend mode"?
What about girls with an ounce of pride? They probably won't touch it either.

Demeaning your own players with such a label as "girlfriend mode" (even if it is just a joke) is not only sexist, it's utterly juvenile and amateur. No good dev worth their salt would do that. Did this guy skip his very first day of class or something?

The sad part is, I might have actually been tempted to try the skill tree otherwise. Now I won't.

Katherine Nelson
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Another opinion from a female game developer - trying to respond to comments and the article, just one more perspective:

- Thank you Gearbox for creating a skill tree for casual players. This is great for our industry.

- There is a difference between someone saying something sexist vs. actually being sexist. It’s possible to say something hurtful without understanding the full implications (or other angles and perceptions) of what is being said.

- Using the phrase “girlfriend mode” has the cultural connotation of a specific sex (female) when in this context it is meant to have the gameplay connotation of a specific gameplay preference (casual).

- The association of “casual gameplay” in and of itself with “female” is one we as game developers should try to avoid. This is an association, regardless of intent, that insults female hardcore gamers and helps to reinforce the male-bias gaming environment.

- Just because the intended demographic of the product is male, it does not mean we should assume the PLAYERS themselves to be male or female. They can be either – hardcore female gamers are playing lots of games out there that believe they are specifically targeting males. To use phrasing in-game and out of game which infer women are not playing or are generally more casual gamers is to further (and accidentally) isolate them.

- I think the attempts of articles like this and others do help game developers engage in the difficult conversation about the perception of female game developers and gamers, it may seem unhelpful or critical due to how it is approached, but even pointing out the smallest offenses can help our understanding of the larger issue. I do believe any attempts at pointing out offenses should be done respectfully and with sensitivity during this time of growth in our industry.

(My statements and opinions are my own do not reflect or represent the views of Volition, Inc. or THQ)

ELISHA MILLER
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A big thank you to Brandon for writing this article.

And a thank you to the rest of the guys who posted against sexism. All that sexism encourages is reverse-sexism, so you really are the peacemakers. Perhaps fewer women comment on these articles because they think it's a waste of time -- after all, since when do sexists listen to women?

Regarding Hemingway's statement itself... well, it's clear he's talking to his buddies. Hemingway's not including, nor thinking of, girl gamers. He made it clear the mode is for buddies who have girlfriends who can't play FPS (i.e., you know what I mean guys -- the girlfriends who complain about you spending too much time on the game, well I've fixed that for YOU -- I call it the "girlfriend skill tree").

The very invention of the mode was, in truth, for the sake of the guys (thanks for pointing that out, Hemingway). So girl gamers, don't you want to play Borderlands 2 now? If you're omitted, ignored, or unimportant, just remember it's because you "SUCK AT FPS."

So he made a mistake. Glad some people recognize it. Feel sorry for those who don’t.

Casual sexism and sexism disguised as humor still breeds disrespect between the genders. Even if you accidentally offend someone, apologizing for it shows some class. It proves your intention wasn't malicious. But disregard their feelings, and you victimize the person twice. Something sexists/reverse-sexists are only too willing to do, so it's easy to identify them.

I agree with Brandon -- it probably wasn't Hemingway's intention to offend, but it still hit the mark.

Darcy Nelson
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Kind of late, but better late than never.

I'm just going to leave this here.

http://www.shakesville.com/2011/12/harmful-communication-part-one
-intent.html

Matthew Doss
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Wow. Just wow. While I understand and completely agree that rampant sexism in this industry needs to go away, I also feel the need to point out that the knee jerk reactions to everything is getting old.

Look, the guy may not have chosen the best words possible. Sure, he could have made a more lengthy remark which left no room for outrage. But the simple fact is that there was a huge outcry made by people who are trying to find fault. People are saying the tree is actually called girlfriend mode. It isn't.

The simple fact is that there is rampant sexism in the industry. But some of the people responding to this are just trying to point fingers to start fights. If you look hard enough, you can convince yourself of anything and even cite "evidence."

What people seem to be overlooking here is that the Best Friends Forever tree is designed for people who aren't skilled at shooters but would like to play. One can only guess at the motivations, but for simplicity sake I will cite my ex wife. She wanted to spend time with me, and I still wanted to play games when I could. As a result, she decided she wanted to try to play some with me... and a FPS isn't really the place for a non-gamer to start. Needless to say it didn't end well, and not only turned her off to games, but got her angry with me for subjecting her to that.

So, we've got a needlessly wordy explanation for something which the developer said "for the lack of a better term, the girlfriend skill tree." Had he said noob mode, he would have been attacked for that comment. Had he said casual, some casual players would probably have raged and said "what casual players aren't capable of playing a FPS??"

His intent was to not only convey this problem, but to show the solution. Sure, you can argue that intent doesn't matter. People make mistakes, and not every person can always convey the information as effectively as they should. So what, we should string a guy up because he used the wrong _single_ word to describe what probably requires more words to describe?

Ok, I get it. He should have used "Co-Star" mode. Here's the problem, not everybody has heard of co-star mode. I hadn't until people started ranting.

So yes, he made a mistake as he could have used a better choice of word(S). But the real mistake is people who think it's ok to take someone else's misstep and try to portray it as something else. Don't take a small mistake and try to convince people it's the end of the world.

It may be just my experience, but from what I've seen the first people to start yelling about an issue are usually the last ones to actually try to fix the issue at hand. If you guys put just as much effort into improving the community and industry as you guys do bickering back and forth...


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