by Danny Tran
“Hello hello? Thought you were salvage, you are about to die!”
Following the action-packed opening mission and violently crash landing on the moon of Concordia, Borderlands The Pre-sequel, with its bizarre but strangely amusing name, opens up with a thick Australian accent, something that took most gamers by surprise.
Known for its quirky dialogue and loot-based gameplay, Borderlands has been deemed the precursor of the “looter shooter” genre, a genre that to this day is unbelievably successful. While the original games Borderlands 1, 2, 3 were all developed by American studio Gearbox Software, 2K Australia, a subsidiary studio under the branch of Gearbox studios, pitched the idea of a prequel game following the release of Borderlands 2.
This prequel would explore the backstory of some of the characters, while simultaneously setting up the future following Borderlands 2 abrupt, cliffhanger ending. In short, 2K Australia wanted to develop a special kind of game, one which took into account both the past and the future: a pre-sequel indeed. Gearbox Studios approved the pitch and 2K Australia began their journey on making their own game. While the pre-sequel built upon pre-existing mechanics, the Australian developer wanted to put their own mark on the Borderlands franchise, and a lasting one at that.
Mainstream media and videogames in general are largely dominated by American influence and Borderlands up to that point in time, was no exception to this. In response to this, 2K Australia saw a great opportunity to sprinkle some of their own culture into the game: since the game took place in a new destination, why not make the inhabitants of the moon Concordia Australian? While the series was always known for its humorous dialogue, the developers who now had their own Australian writing staff, made use of this unique opportunity to implement a plethora of references to Australian comedy and culture. Charming characters like “The Don”, an aptly named NPC whose name is a reference to the renowned batsmen Donald Bradman, serves as one of these examples. Never seen without his bat, this NPC fittingly references the Australian’s favorite sport of cricket on numerous occasions, even tasking the players to retrieve his ball in homonymously named mission “The Don”. The developers at 2K Australia were seemingly quite invested in Australian literature too, as the bush ballad “Waltzing Matilda” found itself recreated in the mission “The Empty Billabong”. Written by Banjo Paterson in the late 1800s, the song is about a “swagman” who gets himself into trouble by killing the sheep of a nearby landowner. Unwilling to get caught by the pursuing authorities, he defiantly declares “You’ll never catch me alive!”, before ultimately drowning himself in a nearby billabong. In the Borderlands version, a NPC named Peepot tasks the player with finding their best friend, “The Jolly Swagman”, who has seemingly gone missing. Similar to his counterpart, “The Jolly Swagman” meets his untimely demise near a river — in this case one made of lava — while holding onto a tuckerbag. Upon opening his tuckerbag, it is revealed that it contained a baby Kraggon, — Borderlands equivalent of a sheep. While the overall setting and humor of the Borderlands universe are unique to say the least, the writers managed to stay somewhat true to the original, simultaneously adding their own twist to the story.
Other more peculiar examples include a foul-mouthed, talking shotgun which stands in direct reference to the “Bogan” stereotype. The Bogan stereotype, which is quite renown in Australia and New Zealand, describes an unfashionable and uncouth person, one that is usually of lower social status. The dialogue of “Boganella”, certainly reflects the colorful vocabulary of someone who is supposed to represent this particular stereotype.
Taking everything into account, this brings us to the final point of this blogpost. The Borderlands community took a divided stance on both the unfamiliar accent and the quirky cultural references. While most of these examples went over the heads of the majority of people, Australian gamers were thrilled to finally see a game in which they could see themselves represented. English is getting more and more prevalent in every aspect of mainstream media, yet people tend to forget that other dialects and cultures exist beyond the culturally accepted American and British variation. While the pre-sequel was ultimately met with mixed reviews overall, 2K Australia sprinkled in linguistic and cultural diversity one a scale that many games to this day have not displayed. I for one enjoyed learning about Australian culture in this game, and I hope to see some more of it in the future.
Borderlands Fandom Wiki. https://borderlands.fandom.com. Accessed 28th February 2022.
Sailing Whitsundays. “The history of waltzing Matilda”. https://sailing-whitsundays.com/article/history-of-waltzing-matilda. Accessed 28th February 2022.
Max Langride. “What’s A Bogan? Are You A Bogan? You Probably Are”. https://www.dmarge.com/signs-youre-a-bogan. Accessed 28th February 2022.