The Borderlands 2 character Tiny Tina came under fire last night, as a Twitter discussion between the game’s lead writer, Anthony Burch, and some of the game’s players raised the question of whether her characterisation was racist. In the game, Tina – an explosives expert, and child – speaks using African American lingo, in a way that one Twitter user compared to “verbal blackface”.
It began when Mike Stacco, creative developer of Cryptozoic Entertainment – a creator of trading card and iOS games – sent Burch the tweet, “Hey. I really like BL2′s writing, but Tiny Tina’s trope of “white girl talkin’ like them urban folk!!” has got to go.”
Others agreed, tweeting responses like, “Its exaggerated stereotypical low class “black” lingo that with Tina amounts to verbal blackface.” Another user pointed out that, “She equates stereotyped ebonics with wacky.” To that, Burch conceded, “Hrm — that’s an interesting point. I meant to make her a mishmash of stuff (ebonics/fairytale/naivete) but I see what you mean”.
But many sprang to Tina, and Burch’s, defence. Gearbox head Randy Pitcford claimed, “Tina is not racist because you are not racist. You’re a pillar of tolerance and inclusion.”
Burch finished by saying, “The last thing I want to be is exclusionary or prejudiced, so if Tina truly is problematic I’ll change her,” but added, “I’m just not convinced that a character using lingo like badonkadonk/crunk is inherently racist. If I’m wrong I would like to know why.”
He also confirmed that any potential change to Tina’s character would only apply to future content. When asked if he’d re-do her sections, Burch replied, “That’s not actually feasible within the technical constraints of the game, but I’d alter her dialog in any future BL stuff.”