Today Is All About Borderlands 2’s “Girlfriend Mode” Skill Tree

If you want lots of press about your game, say something a bit silly. That’s what Borderlands 2 director John Hemingway did today in an interview with Eurogamer, and it’s caused quite a stir since.

Basically, one of the skill trees in the upcoming first person shooter is called “Best Friends Forever” – a route that, should the player take it, makes the game considerably easier. Shooting, for example, requires less accuracy.


And that – apparently – has been dubbed “girlfriend mode” – internally perhaps, but by the press at large since the interview went live.

“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,” said Hemingway.

“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 doesn’t mention the phrase Girlfriend Mode here, but it’s spiralled from there. This actually doesn’t seem like such a terrible idea – any game that provides a way to simplify the mechanics shouldn’t be derided at all, regardless of how it’s been perceived elsewhere.

“Borderlands 2 does NOT have a girlfriend mode. Anyone that says otherwise is misinformed or trying to stir up something that isn’t there,” said Gearbox head Randy Pitchford on Twitter.

Maybe ‘casual’ mode would have been less of a PR nightmare.




  1. I think its a good idea as a skill tree, I think he phrased it in an unfortunate way and it has been jumped on.

    When people start being this sensitive about things it really gets to a point of diminishing returns.

    • As the article says a much better way for him to name it during his presentation would be casual mode, or something else more gender neutral. I imagine the fact the character is female may have led him down this path?

  2. If anyone’s really that offended, don’t buy it. It’s probably just an internal joke, so I really don’t see a reason to waste my day getting fired up about it.

    • because sexism is wrong?

      • I take back what I said, as it appears he referenced ‘Girlfriend mode’ several times, not that he should have said it in the first place, but still. I also think people are putting way too much focus on Gearbox, since for all we know it was only Hemingway who said this at all.

      • So only males have girlfriends do they? Homophobe ;)

      • Yeah, it’s only Hemingway. “Girlfriend mode” was apparently anecdotal, and picked up by EG.


  3. It’s not even in the game!

    We’re supposed to be offended by something that’s not even going to be in Borderlands 2?

    The games industry sinks to a new low to generate controversy…

    I bet these same journalists laughed along at the developer’s little joke in the interview as well.

  4. “You Play Like a Girl!” trophy hopefully still in there.

  5. Think people really need to stop being so sensitive! I for one amd quite happy with a game mode which is far easier so the likes of my younger brothers,cousins and girlfriend can play! (When she’s allowed out the kitchen that is)

    • Exactly. There is a difference between sexism and a friendly poke towards the other gender. My girlfriend sucks at videogames. It’s too much for her to control the camera with the right stick while walking with the left one. LBP in coop was a challenge… The only thing she’s good at is crashing cars in Burnout (I kid you not!). I’m sure that BL2 would still be too much for the missus with a dedicated girlfriend mode…
      Then there are girls hat would whoop my ass big time. Who cares? Just because it’s about videogames people jump the gun.
      Everyone just needs to relax.

      • Exactly. Everyone just needs to relax & poke the other gender.

        …What do you mean i missed a bit in the middle??

      • I always get arrested for poking the other gender. T-T Just because i use rope then procceed to poke them doesn’t mean that i’m breaking the law. Everyone else does it. ;)

  6. To be fair I read the original article out to my Wife and she laughed and said “that sounds like a game made for me” so clearly not everyone of the female gender will be offended :P

    • No, quite.

      My missus is shit hot at Tony Hawk (and racing games) but first person shooters aren’t her thing. If this had been handled differently it would have been most welcome.

      Eurogamer probably shouldn’t have pushed the anecdotal quip into the headline, but then that’s HITZ for you.

      • On some web sites it’s all about the HITZ baby! That’s why I tend to stay with TSA. x x x

  7. You know what. This is how people talk to each other. In the dev team they probably joked about it and called it girlfriend mode because of the obvious and inescapable fact that most FPS gamers are male and most of their girlfriends are not.
    I like it when these internal jokes sneak out, makes you see a bit of the real people behind the code. I guarantee they meant no offence and, come on, who hasn’t made a little sexist joke about driving, makeup or time in the bathroom or on the other side, women joke about men not discussing their feelings or being crap at foreplay etc. The point is that we all (men and women) know it’s a stereotype so can laugh it off in that spirit. I’d hate to see the language in gaming become stale and formal for fear of offending someone.

    I told my girlfriend about this and she like the idea. She’s long wanted to try some FPS but they are generally a bit unforgiving, especially if she wants to play with me. Only Portal 2 has really found the pace for us.

    • Agreed, the Mrs and I also found Portal2 a great game to playthrough co-op. Something where we could take our time and plan things out. Plus she only had a couple of buttons to worry about in that game :)
      Strangely the only other FPS she has ever got on with has been Left4Dead, a game renowned for being fast paced – go figure… lol

      • A plus that she “only had a couple of buttons to worry about” eh? Are you implying that females are really not too coordinated?

  8. To be honest, i’m not sure what all the fuss is about? I would of thought something so mundane as playthrough difficulty (thats effectively what this is) would be drowned out by the pure wackyness of this most unorthordox game. I personally can’t wait to play it and as mentioned in this article: “any game that provides a way to simplify the mechanics shouldn’t be derided at all”

  9. Also, Randy Pitchfork has the best name ever

  10. Speaking as a girl I think this is effing hilarious.

    Normally I’d be all “wah wah wah, I’m a feminist”, but I’m fairly sure adding in an easy mode for me is the only way my husband is going to get me playing the copy of Borderlands I’ve bought him (the Deluxe Vault Hunters Edition, because I’m awesome), because to be honest FPSs do nothing for me. It’s got nothing to do with gender, and lots to do with me liking swords over guns.

    Girlfriend mode though? Classic..

    • So we’re looking at difficulty settings being:

      • Girlfriend (Easy)
      • Manly (Normal)
      • Lonely bloke (Hard)
      • Still living with your parents and starting to fancy your Mum (Legendary)

      • That’s awesome lol! Though I normally play on Hard difficulty… :|

      • Davey im disgusted ;) haha

      • Eerie.

        I just beat Golden Abyss on Crushing and live with my parents.

        No comment on my Mum however.

      • I completed Uncharted on crushing… Thank god I ain’t got any younger siblings!!!

      • Funniest thing I have read for a while!!!! :)

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