When my fiance and I bought Borderlands last year, we fell in love. The artwork, the music, the game play, the wit and humor, the oh so annoying but lovable Claptrap…it was brilliantly coordinated. We are now playing through both Borderlands and Borderlands 2 to gear up for the upcoming Borderlands: Pre-Sequel. In the world of games, we often run into the issue of women missing as main characters, particularly in the genre of shooters. However, the Borderland developers embraced female characters as a choice in their RPG/shooter combo, albeit some minor stereotypes persisted.
You begin Borderlands on a bus in the middle of nowhere. You are propositioned to choose from four different characters: Mordecai, Brick, Rolland and Lilith. Each of these characters have special abilities per RPG norm. Lilith, the only female character available in which to choose, is a Siren. Now, there are of course inherent stereotypes with the word Siren and affixing the name to an alluring female. Borderlands 1 does not focus entirely on the storyline so we don’t learn much about the characters in the game. Thus, we are forced to evaluate the characters physically. Lilith is slim with perfect skin and shadowy eyes (this is consistent with all female characters in the game minus Tiny Tina), yet a punk, unique haircut colored red. The one time we see her outside of game play, she walks seductively in the opening scene and blows a kiss. If you are playing multi-player, you can see her in the other person’s screen and her hips do this belly-dancing shift as she walks or runs which is, of course, lacking from the other characters (come on guys, let’s see those hips shake!). On the website she is depicted with purple and pink stars, a stereotype of women who are supposedly bad ass but simultaneously cute. There is certainly nothing wrong with being girly AND dominating the battlefield.
Nonetheless, during game play her character exceeded expectations. I played Mordecai my first time through the game because I love stealth approaches. My second time playing through, however, I have found Lilith is by far one of the most powerful characters in the game. In conversing with a couple of other Borderlands fans, it appeared I was not alone in my assessment, though I would love to hear others’ experiences. Whenever you make a killing shot, she has this maniacal laughter that you don’t normally expect from such an alluring female. Her voice is not high pitched either, rather it is between an alto and tenor. While some stereotypes are present, they are few and far between compared to other like-genre games. I am impressed that Lilith proved to be my favorite character due to her phenomenal skill tree.
In the second installment of Borderlands the player is presented with similar characters: Zer0, Salvador, Axton and Maya. Once again, Maya is a Siren, but she is unique from Lilith. Maya is far less alluring; she is portrayed more as a soldier with her baggy pants and stoic expression. Her colors are blue and yellow. When we played, my fiance was Maya and I played as Zero. He really enjoyed her ability to control the combat by picking up enemies whom I could then shoot down. It crossed my mind that perhaps the Borderlands crew fully intended the Sirens to be the most dynamic characters; after all, who would want to cross these ladies with wicked tattoos?
As you play through the storyline, you interact more with Lilith and, later on, two other Sirens. They all differ in appearance and ability, none of them a stereotypical representation of beauty as you might expect of a Siren. Lilith is even pivotal to the storyline: Jack siphons off her Siren power for his experiment. As a NPC offering side quests, we see another side of Lilith that we did not see from the first game: she is courageous, outspoken and extremely impatient.
There are also other female characters in both games that are instrumental to the story line:
Ellie is a gruff mechanic you meet out in The Dust. She is not a tiny gal and embraces her appearance, though the whole gruff-large-female stereotype does get old.
Her relation, Mad Moxxi, is on the other end of the spectrum, but no less confident in her ability and appearance, evidenced by her many affairs. While her appearance is rather…*ahem* revealing, she is no less a competent business owner and skilled fighter.
Tiny Tina escaped experimentation from Jack after her parents died. Her expertise in explosives is not to be taken lightly, despite her age and size.
Tannis makes appearances in both games and she is the expert scientist on the Vault. Indeed, she is oddly attached to her ECHO system, reflecting aspects of autism, and prefers seclusion from society.
Note: I have only touched on a few of the main characters and supporting characters from both games, but there are many more included in expansions and side missions
Despite some minor physical stereotypes, I am impressed by the Borderlands developers. They not only have females available for main characters, but they also have a vast array of supporting female characters that are pivotal to the storyline. I anticipate the pre-sequel will be equally encouraging with consistent inclusion of unique, dynamic female characters. If you have not played the game, I would highly recommend both installments. I would also highly recommend Borderlands characters for cosplay. Lilith was one of my favorite characters to create. You can pick up copies of the game at the Borderlands website, on Amazon and at your local game shop. If you have played the game, please always feel free to share your thoughts! Now go pop some scags.