Gearbox Software is no stranger to featuring a strong mix of characters in the Borderlands series, particularly Borderlands 2 and the upcoming Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, and shared its stance in a GaymerX2 session entitled "Gearbox Software's GaymerX Spectacular."
As a recap, Sir Hammerlock, the well-spoken British cyborg adventurer who introduces himself at the beginning of Borderlands 2, is gay, with the story thankfully not turning that into his sole defining trait. And Ellie, the heavy-duty mechanic who lives in The Dust because she can't stand her mother Moxxie's nagging to lose weight, is a large-and-in-charge woman. Axton, The Commando class, is bisexual, albeit unintentionally (he rather seductively asks all his teammates whether they work out) but this glitch in the code was left unchanged after it was brought to Gearbox's attention.
Core writer for the Borderlands series, Anthony Burch explained how the thought process behind the cast coincided with him growing as a writer and a person:
There's a character called Mr. Torgue that I wrote that started as basically, just a really horribly stereotypical Macho Man Randy Savage-type character. So he would say actually offensive things, because I was… I think all of us are still learning, trying to be less shitty people as we go on, and when I started writing games three years ago, I was markedly more shitty than I am now.
So he would say things like "If you don't like explosions, you're probably wearing women's underwear!", ha ha, stupid sexist bullshit like that. And then as I tried to get less f***in' stupid in my life, he became more and more of a fun social justice warrior kind of guy. So when you meet him in the last DLC, he's having an argument about how Ellie is really, really pretty, and if you can't see that, then your body politics need work.
Gearbox Software CEO and President Randy Pitchford is proud to be a part of a company that allows its creators an environment where they have a voice and that is moving along the current of social change:
When I founded the studio, there were people who joined my studio who were gay but not comfortable with that being known. And today, some of those people are super comfortable with that and they're able to articulate how our culture is figuring this out… And as someone who is involved in entertainment and media, we realize that we have a voice there and we can affect that. So I'm pretty excited that our studio is set up such where any person that's a part of it can feel comfortable expressing themselves through our games.
At the same time, he understands that characters should never be completely defined by their sexuality. There are far more aspects to an actual person besides that.
One of my favorite aspects of Sir Hammerlock's character isn't that he's gay; it's that his sexuality actually doesn't matter. What's cool about that is when [he] reveals it that it's sort of like "oh, yeah, I had an old boyfriend," and it's as if it's totally normal. And we'd like to think that in Pandora, in this universe we created, there's absolutely nothing odd about that at all, where it's just totally the course of normal existence. And that's awesome. I like that.
[Minor Spoiler] Another example of such a character will be Jadie Springs, a badass who will introduce players to the moon environment in the Pre-Sequel. Depending on who the player is, and specifically Athena, it will be revealed that Jadie is a lesbian. [/End Minor Spoiler]
As Randy Pitchford remarks, who the player chooses in the game should affect the NPC responses from characters anyway, so this makes sense in terms of narrative design.
As for the future of Gearbox Software, he wishes to see a transgender player character and he believes that it's likely that we'll see a transgender character before we see an openly atheist character, which shows the complexity of character inclusivity in games.
Last but not least, Anthony Burch responded to a question from the audience about the lack of representation of asexual characters (and handicapped characters too) in games with the following self-described "hot scoop":
If we ever make another Borderlands game and Maya the Siren from Borderlands 2 is a non-playable character, I wrote her with the intention that she's asexual. There's a thing going on with her with Krieg (the Psycho class) in the short video we did where he has a big crush on her. But if everything goes according to plan, she will not reciprocate because she's asexual in my mind.
Anthony Burch also answered another question about wanting to show gender parity in enemies, making a game that would have both male and female bandits. After the session I directed him to my editorial about the possibility of females being enemies en masse. But I'll let Gil Almogi speak about this topic with more information as he will address it in a future editorial. Check for that to be posted on GameRevolution soon.