Game Opinions

Venture into the Borderlands – Part 6: There’s Brakes on the Plot

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

It’s time for the exciting new part of my written Let’s Play of Borderlands 2, where I cut down 5 hours of gameplay (no exaggeration, that is seriously what I aim for before writing) to 10-20 minutes worth of reading. No no, don’t run away. It isn’t as dry as it sounds, I promise you. I make jokes, I do casual armchair theorising about elements in the game, and I talk about what works or doesn’t. The part 6? Don’t worry either! There’s handy little links at the bottom with all the parts that you can casually thumb through when you are on a lunch break, or stuck somewhere with only your phone. Seriously, there is no need to worry, this isn’t nearly as stodgy as it seems or looks, and it at least beats 5 hours of video footage…

…Damn, am I pleading for people to look beyond the appearance of dullness in the desperate attempt for readers? Uh, I better just get on with the Let’s Play, yeah…

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

Ah yeah, back to trusting someone I have literally no reason to trust.

For those who have been waiting the week since part 5, I had just finished playing through TORGUE’S FULL CAPS MURDEROUS MARVELOUS MISHAP, where people like Moxxi refused to tell me what in the bloody hell even happened to Sanctuary. So off I went to discover what happened; Fortunately, it actually didn’t take me long. After going through an ice-cavern, I turned up in the Scottish highlands. I think that is how geography works? That’s something that can occur?

That is when a distant blue blast happened, lighting up the sky. After I realised I didn’t have to leap for cover before the radiation got to me, a mental image of a Borderlands themed When the Wind Blows rushed through my mind in place of my life flashing before my eyes. I then realised what it was. Oh Lilith, so that’s where Sanctuary teleported to (taking a few weeks to do it and Moxxi existing in MR TORGUE’S DLC at the same time, is this how quantum mechanics work?), levitating in mid air.

This is when I was presented with an obvious problem: How the hell am I meant to reach a levitating city? I can’t drive on air, I can sail on air but not high off the floor; And I can’t fly or drive anything that can. Angel, who is still about and whom we still passively listen to like an ex-partner you kicked out the house for the twentieth time, comes up with the idea of using the teleporting machine. Genius! Okay!

…Except… Well… It doesn’t work. Some calibration issue (insert Garrus Mass Effect reference) means the teleportation wouldn’t work. So, Angel pulls some strings (with Jack meanwhile warning her to stop helping the bad guys in front of said bad guys since private messaging doesn’t work, or it’s a bluff) and lands me a magical electronic device that enables me to take the teleportation leap to where Roland awaits with the plot.

Fortunately, the game has the uncanny ability to recognise that there is plot and then offers anything except plot to do. So, I looked upon all those side quests and got to work doing them.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

Rolo The Plot Vehicle can wait, I have anything else to do.

First was a small murder mystery. Someone got shot, four suspects, and three accounts. Sadly, all the accounts told me was “well, he got shot in the throat.” Considering I could see a body and wasn’t just scooping meat into a bag, well, it was something I could have sussed out myself. In the end, I went with a pistol-wielding chap as my shot in the dark, since Moxxi mentioned someone drawing a gun on her. Well, I got it wrong and the murderer ran away while I was still rewarded. I… I’m still not sure what happened.

Anyway, then off I went to go deal with a particular gaping hole where Sanctuary once stood. There I learned a small collection of things:

A . I learned that Sanctuary is a repurposed Dahl corporation airship. The original occupants got killed by the beasties below inside the mine.

B. Holy hell I have bad luck. A safe I had to collect filled with Marcus’s belongings had to fall and rest inside the skull of the largest crystal gollem, and said belongings are more like reminders of how Moxxi gets around, and that her sexuality is the extent of her character.

C. Just, leave the mine alone, nothing good is there.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

D. Crushers are weird.

Next, I’m off to The Fridge, which is fortunately not called The Freezer. Scooter fell for someone a few familial links too close for comfort and she’s run off. So, I’ve got to pick up some flowers, some scavenged pizza (that is in remarkable condition, something that reminds me of McDonalds burgers never rotting), and porn for him to win her back with. Well, except the porn — I hope.

So, after presenting the gifts and shooting her because she shacked up with the lewd seven dirty dwarves due to Scooter’s jealousy, off I go to do more mercenary work for him. This time in the form of shooting Shorty who, somehow, got himself swallowed whole and lives as a little bundle of rage. Rather than just leave him to the digestive system, Scooter suggests perhaps freeing him by killing the monster… So I can kill Shorty… I mean, I guess he wants to be sure? I’m sure Scooter isn’t bonkers at all…

And then came the Clan War that Ellie wants to start, and end with one of the clans dead. I admit, this is where I think Borderlands 2 straddled that awkward “humorous caricature” and “awkward stereotype” line pretty strongly.

On one side you have the Rednecks who believe in inbreeding, racing, and living in trailers.

On the other side, you have the Irish who live off booze, put the colour green absolutely everywhere, and invoke mission names like “End of the Rainbow” where you must “Spot the Leprechaun” (also known as a bagman who is particularly short).

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

All I have to say, is “yes”.

I’m sure some people find it funny, even those who could be considered part of caricature group. Although, I can not quite work out if because the lack of name-dropping (i.e. they don’t ever make references to Ireland or America for obvious reasons) they avoid criticism of stereotype depiction, or despite the name change they still fall under it. I think I might need to branch out to fully describe what I mean, although with the obvious risk of generalising out what may be a very specific set of circumstances.

If you can, look up a cartoon from the 40s. Assuming I remember, I’ll put a link right here of the one I’d really like to frame next to Borderlands 2: The Japanese cartoon. Now, imagine if all specific references to Japan were eliminated. You still have the embarrassing buck-teeth, the awkward manner of speaking, and the weird glasses, but no Japanese flags or mention of going to Japan. In this state: Is it still offensive?

I know the comparison is pretty hyperbolic, but I think the question still exists. Just because you strip directly identifiable information, stereotypes function partially because they are deeply ingrained in pop-culture. I can mention drinking tea, wearing a top-hat and exclaiming “I SAY!” and people will likely be able to identify the portrayal as English without making any comment about queen or country. I believe you are still invoking a schema in the mind of someone by mentioning characteristics, therefore making the audience make the leap for you into awkward, uncomfortable conversations of “looks like you stole your view of the Irish from the early 1900s, although it’s mature of you not to make an IRA reference”.

It is possible I’m just easily left awkward by what is intended as light-hearted jokes about the characters inside the situation, as these are the same jokes inflicted upon some sub-cultures based on excessive stereotyping. If you enjoy it, that’s great really — Just like it is a shame if you’re bothered by it (although that does lead to an interesting, hopefully civil, conversation of why so). Just, I can’t work out if the jokes are repurposed humour from decades past, or if they’re still good in their own right.

Either way, I admit the comedy in the side quest (Clan War if you want to look it up) just wasn’t my thing, as it seemed to use its caricature reference like a crutch more than anything else and therefore felt a bit lazy. I guess I found it interesting how it does bring up the question of “when does a caricature become offensive,” even if it appears as more of a grey-scale spectrum than a flicking black/white switch.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

In case you’re curious, I decided to try to create a time-paradox by killing a Tales from the Borderlands character. No such luck I’m afraid.

After that, I had to experience Borderlands 2‘s favourite butt-of-jokes Claptrap’s birthday, which gave me a lot of unwanted flashbacks to birthdays of my youth: Spent alone. Damn you, Borderlands 2, you’re meant to make me happy not sad. I also got to help someone with medication (for skull-shivers. I don’t know, really, before you ask) and making a shield, occasionally interrupted by Dave’s crude sexist remarks.

You may be confused at the lack of plot, and it was only for the final hour that I decided to venture out to see what Rolo wants. Long story short: Angel knows where the key is, but to get there we have to go through three stages of tough Hyperion security measures. The first stage was dealt with by going to see Mordecai, whose pet bird, Bloodwing, got nabbed. Coincidentally, the bird has the memory-stick required to upgrade Claptrap who can then get us past the first gate.

Well, put simply, Bloodwing got experimented on by Jack with all the elemental powers. Although, he couldn’t remember for the longest time what the last one he had used was.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

Thanks Jack.

With that, I got the chip, upgraded Claptrap (who sadly retains his frustratingly annoying sense of humour), and went to see Rolo about what next. I think it might be plot.

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(Borderlands 2, 2K Games)

Looks like plot.

Anyway, I’ll see you next week on Venture Into The Borderlands!

[Part 1: Funny Little Robot] [Part 2: Roland’s Disapproving Gaze] [Part 3: The Worst Fear & Loathing Tribute Band] [Part 4: Tiny Tina’s Troubling Temperament] [Part 5: CAPS LOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR HUMOUR]

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