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LONG BLOG

Character through Quote: Gaige the Mechromancer

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Warning: If for whatever reason you have not yet played Borderlands 2, this contains spoilers for aspects of Gaige's character. It is also an analysis of a very complicated mind, so read with caution.

As a series, Borderlands has had a number of unique characters as far as attitude, art design, and general concept goes. However, while many of these characters have intriguing concepts, they rarely last long in my memories. I could tell you plenty about Zer0, as I already have. I could tell you how much fun Mordecai was in the first game. I could tell you how differently the playable Siren characters are in the first and second games.

I'm not going to, because while that could be fun, anyone could write it. That's not a bad thing, exactly, I just want to be very specific in how I tackle certain subjects right now.

For the moment, let's narrow our focus once again. Meet Borderlands 2's first DLC character, Gaige:

Gaige's concept art

Gaige is a character that's hard to get a read on, psychologically, and that's why I like her. Her interest in SCIENCE! (capitals and punctuation necessary) is genuine and passionate, but her pet project is much less benevolent than, say, a baking soda volcano. In the context of Borderlands, a "Claptrap" was initially a mass-produced line of somewhat intelligent but very boxy and talkative robots. Gaige, naturally, decided that wasn't good enough. Meet Gaige's passion project, "Deathtrap":

Deathtrap Concept Art

Deathtrap, the origin in part of Gaige's pun-based class name, is anything but benevolent... At least, to those who are not its creator, or allied to its creator. As far as Gaige is concerned, Deathtrap is a symbol of her scientific progress, an indefinitely long experiment, and one of the closest things she has to a friend.

With the character of Zer0 there were plenty of small, jokey references to memes and other media that I ignored as irrelevant to his character. With Gaige, I can't dismiss the references or memes entirely. "20% cooler" and "The Stare" are both skills within Gaige's branching skill tree that directly reference the modern incarnation of My Little Pony, of all things, and those are only the two I explicitly remember. There are others I didn't recognize, but a fan wiki did, like "Potent as a Pony", which adds health to Gaige and Deathtrap as it is leveled (https://borderlands.fandom.com/wiki/Gaige/Skill_tree).

 

Why is all of that relevant, you may ask? I'll get to that. First, let's return to the well of quotations, though there is a semblance of order this time around.

 

  • "I'm calling it the Mechanized Anti-Bully Deterrent Test, or Project DT. It's only in the prototype stages right now, but I have mathematically determined that it is going to be OFF THE CHAIN. Basically, the idea is that if you deploy a DT unit in a school environment, it's going to CLAMP DOWN on bullying by finding bullies and BEATING THE CRAP OUT OF 'EM." ~Gaige Echo Log 1, via (https://borderlands.fandom.com/wiki/Gaige/Quotes)
    • All people are many things at once, not defined by a single character trait or personality quirk. However, before there was "Deathtrap", there was "DT". Why? For the simple reason that kindness, empathy, and respect are things one has to learn. Children, even high school age children like Gaige and her peers at the time of recording the first echo log, haven't fully developed mentally. As a result, they can be incredibly cruel to those they do not understand, and evidently they did not understand Gaige. Why else would her default response to feeling treated poorly be to design a weapon of nominal self-defense, that functions more like a tool of revenge? A science fair only explains so much.
  • "Oh, AND she [Marcie] somehow found out about my DT project and reported it to the school board, saying something about, I don't know, how a mobile laser-equipped robot might be dangerous, or something. Whatev. I hate her." ~Echo Log 2 (Same as above).
    • There are multiple arguments as to why Gaige felt such fierce contempt for Marcie, aside from ones revealed in later echo logs. My interpretation is that while Gaige did genuinely loathe the girl, part of her was also jealous. Marcie followed the rules Gaige ignored. Marcie's application of her career skills was too "safe" for Gaige's standards. Marcie didn't care about adventure or vaults or scientific discovery, the way Gaige did, but instead pursued her career skills along with more stereotypically feminine interests. In effect, Marcie was too "normal" for Gaige to tolerate.
  • Gaige: Marcie Halloway ripped off my robot's design, used them to build fascist security bots for the cops, and now she's going to try to win the science fair with MY IDEA! [...] I'm going to upgrade my bot, and I'm going to WIN the heck out of that science fair! It is SO ON! [...]  Don't call him DT any more, dad. His name...is "Deathtrap."" ~ Echo Log 3 (https://borderlands.fandom.com/wiki/Gaige/Quotes).
    • Here we begin to see that Gaige's issues run far deeper than you might initially suspect. Previously, you could write off Gaige's hyperactivity, passion for her research, and general disinterest in the social web around her as simply her personality. With this added hint of malice, however, the picture becomes blurrier. The question then becomes not if Gaige is diagnosed with something or not, but what diagnoses apply to Gaige. Out of respect for my issues and the issues of others, I will not attempt any armchair diagnoses of Gaige.

Long story short, Deathtrap activates inadvertently, and Marcie is killed. Gaige, despite her panic and denial, manages to be optimistic about the situation in her own way. She wanted adventure and a chance to pursue the legendary vault, and though the reason was one she never wanted, her grim circumstances gave her the chance. ~Echo Log 4 (https://borderlands.fandom.com/wiki/Gaige/Quotes)

It is also difficult not to mention that Gaige is prone to power highs that unleash a god complex, through one of her skill lines that trades accuracy for power. It's not subtle, either, with direct reference to the "Alpha and Omega" boast in one of the later dialogue tiers. Naturally, she doesn't take losing this well. How much of this is due to Gaige's personality and how much is due to the drug-like effects of successfully using her Anarchy skill, I am uncertain of.

Now, where exactly do the cartoon horses fit in? That's simple enough. Gaige has a very child-like view of both the universe around her and her own responsibilities (or lack thereof, in her mind). Her highly anarchic political leanings, various undiagnosed neuroses, and desire for more adventure in life collided with familiarity towards a fictional, fairer world than the one she inhabited. Severe stress from many sources, those and more among them combined into the metaphorical straw that broke the camel's back. (No disrespect intended to anyone into MLP:FiM , as it's a decent show and I imagine most people who read this don't have cybernetic limbs or personal murder-bots... No disrespect intended for anarchists, for that matter.)

At least, all of that is my interpretation of Gaige. There are many more out there, and disagreeing with my interpretation is both expected and welcome. After all, every Borderlands protagonist has some sociopathic elements as  a result of the kind of dark humor the series has integrated into its brand identity. If you look at Gaige and just see another class, or a character with less depth than I interpret, you are more than welcome to do so.

 

What is your take on the series' one and only Mechromancer? No matter how different it is, I'd be interested in hearing it.

 

Sources used, other than those already cited:

Gaige concept art created by Scott Kester, used for illustrative purposes only. All rights remain with their original parties.

Deathtrap concept art created by Lorin Wood, likewise.

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About Silva Blaineone of us since 7:33 PM on 03.11.2016

Hello, my name is Silva, for this purpose anyway. My identity isn't a secret exactly, just something I don't go out of my way to broadcast at the moment.

I'm a mixed media artist, leaning significantly more toward digital art over pencils on paper.

I've been writing and drawing in some form for most of my life, though with periodic hiatuses as my motivation waxes and wanes.

Not sure what else to say. If you have questions, I'm most likely willing to answer them, and I'm virtually always willing to provide constructive criticism (or receive it).

Oh, right: I'm also willing to take book and music recommendations at any time. Never can have too many options on either front.