Gearbox got a lot of flack for Duke Nukem Forever and rightfully so. But then nobody played it and talking about misogyny in it almost seems like complaining about someone clapping in the forest even though no one could hear them you know?

And then when describing a DLC playable character Gearbox dropped the dreaded phrase “girlfriend mode” and that was pretty terrible too. Just because developers use stupid and sexist words like that while programming doesn’t mean you should use them when you’re describing your game (and also developers maybe you just shouldn’t use the phrase at all? It saves everyone the hassle of talking about how sexist you are and you trying to defend what we can all agree is a pretty sexist phrase).

But because I love a good dungeon crawl game that’s all about loot and I also love good first person shooters that are flexible enough to support multiple playing styles I picked up Borderlands 2 anyways.

I didn’t play the female playable character available at launch though. Her design is a little too Barbie-anime mash up for me and her skillset does not lend itself to my play style at ALL. She’s a support style character meant to control mobs and heal and buff her group. That’s not what you solo with.

It’s also kind of weird that female characters in anything remotely RPGish always end up being support style characters that control mobs and buff groups. I know that many women dislike confrontational play style and prefer standing back and playing support but I am always left to gaze at my navel and wonder: do we prefer support play style because it’s our tendency or because thirty years of gaming have told us we should?

No, I selected the smoking hot Commando who was a widow and has an unhealthy relationship with his gun turret. There’s a lot of flexbility in his skillset so I could go for DPS if I grouped up or I could rely on my turret and my not too shabby sniping skills if I was soloing. Also he’s a wounded widow that has an option to look like Hugh Jackman in Les Mis. So fuck yeah.

If Axton suddenly started singing about who he was and what drove him to this point I’d die a thousand tiny deaths.

The game has been tremendous fun. As long as you spec right you can tackle a great deal of quests all by your lonesome and if you get some lucky loot drops you can take on mobs way above your level. There’s a definitely sharp difficulty curve around level seventeen that’s mildly alarming. One minute you’re laying waste to everything you find and the next you’re scrambling to have enough money to afford to be brought back to life (because when you die they take money away from you to rebirth you).

One day though I realized I had a quest I hadn’t touched that had turned “trivial.” Being a completionist I HAD to go and finish it right? I returned to a town full of dying people trapped in their homes where a lady doctor asked me to retrieve a battery to build a shield that would save the town. While doing all her tasks this guy provides running commentary on how stupid she was and how unmanly my character was for helping her.

He had choice zingers like “make me a sandwich.”

I hated him immediately. It’s Pavlovian guys. If you’re a woman who plays video games you will immediately hate anyone who makes a request for a sandwich. You get your first request the very first time you play a video game online. Like the first HOUR. You say “hey I’m a lady” and they say “hey make me a sandwich” because apparently it’s in a manual for all guys playing games that they say that. Some are being ironic. Some are being assholes. Some just say it because the manual told them to.

All guys do it. But having it come from a NPC? That was a little new.

I manage to ignore him (because he is not real and it was clearly leading up to something delightful) and followed her requests. Her final one was for me to test the shield. I climb up a cliff face, kill some robots and take control of a giant mortar that overlooks the serene little town. I fire.

And I watch as that mortar slowly makes its decent and hits the jerks’s house on the fringe of town. He tumbles to his death. I’m a little sad because I hate killing people when it’s unnecessary.

But then I’m laughing because the voice actor did a great job being obnoxious even as he died and because it was IMMENSELY satisfying to blow up a virtual misogynist.

I don’t condone killing you know. It’s not how you solve disagreements and it’s not a way I feel we can make the world a batter place. That was my disclaimer just in case some MRA dude reads this and is like YOU LIKE KILLING GUYS YOU’RE A MISANDRIST. No. No more than you killing a lady in a myriad of games makes you a misogynist.

But I had no idea how satisfying and amusing it would be. Even when I was climbing up that cliff face and knowing full well I’d probably kill that guy on accident.

Playing that quest made me feel like, briefly, this game was built for me. That doesn’t always happen. While games have broad appeal and there are plenty of games I adore there’s often this sense that I, being a lady, am afterthought to the designers. Great if they can get me to play, but they’re really much more focused on their 18-30 white male demographic.

There are other moments in the game that hint that it was written for more than that core demographic–or at least that the designers were aware of other gamers besides that core demographic.

While the female models for the game aren’t nearly as diverse as the male models we do get Tiny Tina, a little girl with a weird speaking affectation who watched her whole family die and has turned to throwing tea parties fueled with explosives.

And we get Ellie.

If Pam Poovey doesn’t work out as a Halloween costume me and my boobs have a new one we can try!

She’s a hyper stylized woman that isn’t also sexualized! I didn’t even know such a creature existed! I mean, yes she’s a little hypersexual (she wants to ride ’em cowboy) but she’s also a new and interesting design! Her breasts are ginormo and not getting nearly the support they need and her head is tiny and basically she’s what I feel like when I’m in a bitter mood and PMSing but she isn’t the traditional skinny comic book looking woman I’ve grown accustomed to seeing in my games. Nor is she the super old and rail thin woman that’s a close second in popular lady tropes in games.

Maybe it’s just a bone Gearbox is throwing. Maybe it’s just a way to get people talking about their game. Perhaps cynicism and business acumen fueled the decision. I could be cross that unbridled idealism wasn’t what went into the game.

But I blew up a misogynist.

And it felt great.

  • antros

    Oh for the love of crap.
    Gearbox barely touched the thing.
    Its got has waayyyyy too much crap behind it.
    And here a rebuttal to that

    • I’m struggling to care about anything to do with Duke Nukem Forever, but I’m glad your ignoring my passionate praise of Gearbox to nitpick about a shit game they slapped their name on.

      • antos

        I ignored it because i have nothing to add.
        I love BL2.
        Killing off Dave was a great way to end the questline.
        Almost as satisfying as putting a bullet into Jacks cranial cavity
        And you know what?
        I loved DNF as well.
        Irreverent,disgusting and i loved every sodding moment of it.

        • I’m down with BL2. Absolutely love it! The second was…eh. Though I loved a lot of the earlier Duke Nukems. This one felt just like it was trying too hard? Now Lollipop Chainsaw? Saints Row 3? Those are some fantastic games that toe the line of taste just the way I like.

  • Hof

    Is this just a sight for women PMSing to complain on? You should probably do a little more research. The whole girlfriend mode was shot down in case you didn’t notice by Randy Pitchford. I mean I understand just because some ignorant bastard joked about it makes sense the whole company is sexist. Also since most people that plays video games are males the Barbie looking Soren is probably there to please the horn dogs that never get laid. Lets face it sex sales. Oh on top of it if you knew anything about the game history the Siren wasn’t a support character in the first Borderlands. She was an elemental wrecking machine that destroyed everything. The soldier Roland was the healer. Also since you are on a role of how sexist this game is I thought it was interesting how you forgot Ellie’s mother the whore Mad Moxxi. Who is a female that doesn’t do anything but work as a bartender and talk about sex all day long.

    • Egg


      troll in the dungeon

    • Yes yes I see. Here is my response.

      • Hof

        So since I don’t agree with you I’m a troll. Wow you are an ignorant femist.

        • Dude I praised the game for being really feminist and not sexist but since you’re in a ignorant troll you must have missed that. In the future RTFA and try to be polite or you’ll only receive derision in response.

    • “Let’s face it sex sales.” Are they half off this week? I believe Madmen had a line about that… it ended in Donald Draper saying, “Don’t be stupid.”

  • neo_aa

    In soviet Russia, rambling nonsense writes pretentious blogger!

  • I would immediately charge and shotgun folks as the Siren. The levitation trick is good for taking out the enemy “tank” for a minute while you quickly shoot the smaller enemies. Played solo as well. Her and Zero are the best, IMHO.

  • I love this game! And I do play with the Siren, even though Nazz tries to tell me she doesn’t have my gaming style. I have made it work just fine. I like the Siren way better in BL2 than in the first one. I agree with you wholeheartedly about everything else though, lol.