Borderlands 2’s fifth DLC character lands Gearbox in hot water

borderlands 2 dlc

Know this, oh ye studios and publishers: After 30 years, gender issues have overtaken violence as the hot button issue in video games. Earlier this year, Square-Enix was taken to task for not one but two of its studios’ depictions of women. Gearbox is now under fire as a newly announced downloadable character class for Borderlands 2 was described as “girlfriend mode” by one of the game’s lead designers.

Gearbox detailed a fifth playable character, the Mechromancer, that will be available as DLC for Borderlands 2 around two months after the game hits shelves. Taking inspiration from Jamie Hewlett’s (Gorillaz) old comic book character Tank Girl, the Mechromancer is a punk girl in a jean jacket,  pigtails, and a robot arm. Her support ability summons a giant tank named Deathtrap who, unlike commando Axton’s turrets, is there to draw fire away from the player.

The Mechromancer is different from other characters in a different way. One of her three skill trees, the chain of abilities unlocked as you progress in the game, is called “Best Friends Forever.” Those skills are built to make the game significantly easier than playing as one of the other classes. For example the “Close Enough” skill will give shots fired a chance to ricochet so the player doesn’t have to aim particularly well.

So what’s the problem? Making Borderlands 2 more accessible without affecting the core game has to be a good thing, right? The problem is how Hemingway described the Mechromancer to Eurogamer during a Gearbox studio tour. “The design team looking at the [Mechromancer] concept art and though, you know what, this is actually the cutest character we’ve ever had. I was 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.”

Hemingway’s statements ignited a firestorm of angry Internet goers and the game remains a trending topic on Twitter as of this writing. Gearbox president Randy Pitchford took to Twitter himself on Monday morning to defend Hemingway and the game.

“There is no universe where Hemingway is a sexist,” said Pitchford, “The future DLC Mechromancer class has a skill tree that makes it easier for less skilled co-op partners (any gender!) to play and be useful.”

While Hemingway’s phrasing could certainly be seen as patronizing, Borderlands 2 is hardly a bastion of video game misogyny. The game is written by Anthony Burch, who along with his sister Ashly Burch is responsible for the surrealist comedy show Hey Ash, Whatcha Playing. The only serious topic that show ever tackles is how women are depicted in games, and the writer has shown a keen awareness of problematic game creation.

Hemingway chose his words poorly. If people want to take Gearbox to task for being misogynists, take them out for releasing Duke Nukem Forever.

Gaming

Wage war on a budget with these fun and free first-person shooters

We all know about Halo and Call of Duty by now, but what about quality titles that won't cost you upward of $60? Check out our picks for the best free first-person shooter games from Paladins to Quake Champions.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Gaming

This list of PlayStation 4 exclusives puts its competitors to shame

The PlayStation 4's game library and incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Gaming

Here's how you can play your favorite PC games with a Nintendo Switch controller

Nintendo's Switch controllers, including the Joy-Cons and the aptly titled Pro Controller, use Bluetooth, which makes them compatible with your PC. Here's how to start using them for PC gaming.
Gaming

Get creative and collect 15 coins with our Fortnite overtime challenges guide

The first Fortnite overtime challenges are now available. Use our guide to help you collect the hidden coins in the featured Creative mode islands and get closer to that free season eight battle pass.
Gaming

I'm canceling my backlog for Apex Legends. Be back never

Live service games like Fortnite and Apex Legends are eating up everyone's time, leaving other games out in the cold. While my backlog continues to grow, it seems the gaming industry is struggling to keep up as well.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.
Gaming

Become a champion with our beginner's guide to Apex Legends

Jumping into Apex Legends for the first time? Need help becoming a champion? Our Apex Legends beginner's guide has 15 tips and tricks that will hopefully help your team make it into the champion's circle.
Gaming

Buy a new Switch console and get a $35 eShop gift card at some retailers

Multiple retailers are currently offering the Neon Blue and Red Nintendo Switch console with a free $35 eShop gift card. The system still costs the standard $300 and includes Joy-Con controllers and the dock.
Gaming

Thrive in the nuclear apocalypse with our Metro Exodus survival guide

Metro Exodus is a difficult shooter, especially if you're new to the series' blend of stealth, action, and scavenging. Here is what you need to know to survive the nuclear apocalypse.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in Destiny 2: Forsaken

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Gaming

How do the revised Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles stack up?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?
Gaming

Here's our Champion's guide to picking the best character in Apex Legends

Apex Legends' use of heroes with different abilities helps separate it from other battle royale games. To help you choose your legend, we've put together a legend guide detailing their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.