Why Tiny Tiny’s Wonderlands Is The First T-Rated Borderlands

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Why Tiny Tiny’s Wonderlands Is The First T-Rated Borderlands

Brick points to Tangledrift, a Tiny Tina wonderland area.

Screenshot: Gearbox

Long-time Borderlands players will notice something… different about The wonders of Tiny Tina: It is relatively more docile than its predecessors. This is intentional, as it’s the first game in the series to feature a “T” rating, something its creative director called a “pillar” of its design in a recent interview, meant to take the franchise to, in their words, “a wider audience.

Released last month for consoles and PC, The wonders of Tiny Tina is a spin-off of the Borderlands loot shooter series from Gearbox. Set between the events of the second and third games, it largely takes place in an in-game tabletop RPG called Bunkers & Badasses hosted by Division character Tiny Tina. (In fact, the only indication that Wonderlands exists in the “real” world of Borderlands is the occasional brief glimpse of Tina’s cave between key story beats.)

Borderlands games may be known for featuring billions of procedurally generated guns, but they’ve also earned a (justly, totally deserved) reputation for relentless steaminess. The members get shot, spraying fountains of blood. The characters swear frequently enough to make an entire fleet of sailors blush. There’s enough suggestive material to make these sailors blush even more. These games are rated “M”/Mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) – basically comparable to an “R” rating in the film industry – for a reason. Going to a “T”/Teen grade is a noticeable developmental change.

“At first there was maybe a little trepidation,” Matt Cox, creative director of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands (who previously directed the awesome Bounty of Blood expansion for Borderlands 3) told Kotaku during a recent video chat. “But really, outside of a few words and then gory bits of, like, humanoids, we honestly didn’t find it that limiting.”

I have played a lot of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands over the past month, and I didn’t realize he was rated T until halfway through the campaign. Part of that is due, simply, to the fact that I didn’t even think to check his rating (see: all past Borderlands canon). Part of that is because the game gets away with it. At the end of a first mission, the villain decapitates a main character out of nowhere. Although it was an obviously brutal and shocking act, in hindsight there is not a drop of blood in sight.

“We pushed the boundaries of this teenage rating to a certain extent,” Cox said.

Torgue stares at an ocean he just dropped a bunch of bombs in Tiny Tina's Wonderlands.

Torgue, blowing up the fucking ocean. Screenshot: Gearbox / Kotaku

This shows. A side quest involves helping a sentient bean find a new place to “sprout,” a line the bean delivers with undertones of vulgarity. The end goal of the quest is, quite literally, to “pop the bean”. Obscene shades are hard to miss. But everything is (technically) above the edge! Or take the famous Borderlands secular character, Torgue. In Wonderlands his swear words ring out with the staccato crunch of a distorted guitar. Typically, swearing can be awkward or take your moment away, but in this case it ends up giving a bit more comic weight to obviously ridiculous lines like “Let’s blow up the ocean f****** ! !!”

At times, however, Gearbox’s intention to avoid an M rating is anything but natural and even rubs the wrong way. During an early mission, Frette (a robot companion played by Wanda Sykes) refers to a bullshit plot moment as “dookie dragon”. Sykes, arguably one of the funniest comics of the modern era, isn’t exactly known for avoiding profanity, so for anyone familiar with his work, online reading might feel forced. But The ESRB rules are pretty clear to allow only “light to moderate use of profanity” in T-rated games.

“We got along pretty well. [of] what we could and couldn’t do,” Cox said, while noting that there were a few surprises. For example: “We didn’t know we were going to get ‘partial nudity’ for mushroom butts.”

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Article source https://kotaku.com/tina-tinas-wonderlands-esrb-teen-rating-borderlands-mat-1848819100

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