Cult of the Turtle

Joe Tortuga's musing on life,tech and gaming

No Universe

August 13, 2012

So, the lead designer of Borderlands 2 was talking about something that might have been a good idea.  Then he called it “girlfriend mode”.  There’s some problems with that, which revolve around the intersection of the ideas of women gamers, the typical market for a game like Borderlands 2,  and the culture of video games that allows that kind of attitude to exist.  It’s a problem, but you know what? People fuck up.  They make mistakes, they may not even know they made a mistake, so in this day and age, what is important is how you react to making a mistake.

And how did gearbox react? Pretty badly, if you ask me.  Here’s a sample quote:

There is no universe where Hemmingway is a sexist - all the women at Gearbox would beat his and anyone else’s ass. — Randy Pitchford, President of Gearbox Software (the company making Borderlands 2)

There’s so much wrong with this tweet that I don’t know where to start. Maybe we start at the end and work our way backwards.

So, he’s not sexist because the women at the company he works for would beat his ass.  Or, I guess, anyone who was sexist’s ass. Okay, that may be a deterrent from sexist acts, maybe, but it’s not really going to stop you from being one.   And anyway, this smacks of the “I’m not anti-X, I have friends who are X” kind of logic.   Well, good for you on the friends thing.  I’m glad they’re fairly tolerant of you, or whatever.  This logic was old when I was a kid, and that was a long time ago.

So maybe we should talk about the thing where there “is no universe” part.  You know the part that is naive, blind and just plain wrong.  We live in a sexist culture, and to borrow a metaphor from Mary Ann Mohanraj (whose posts on racism are pretty excellent), we swim in sexist culture crap, and it sticks to us.  We can’t help it, but we can acknowledge it.

To deny it completely is to be blind to it, to be unable to apologize when we inevitably make a mistake, and to be unable to fix it when we see it.  Because we have to know a problem is there, exists, and be able to identify it in order to make it go away.  It may never go away, but it can get better.  But only if we enter our world with open eyes and minds.

And it infuriates me that someone can be in our culture, and particularly in video games culture now, and not be able to see that it exists.  So, Randy Pitchford is either clueless or lying.  Either way, there is currently no universe where what he said is accurate.