In Defence Of Claptrap From Borderlands

Borderlands was one of the last games I played on the periphery of 'being a gamer'. I had always liked video games, moving through from the SNES, to the PS1, to then a console for each gen and several handhelds as a child, but I was never fully immersed in gamer culture. I didn't read gaming magazines and my friends were only interested in FIFA and Call of Duty. These days, I follow gaming news up to the minute even for games I don't play, and I know every hot (and cold) opinion on all the hip new games. The takes are inescapable. The vibes? Horrendous. Borderlands was the last game I played in my own private vacuum, and that's why it took me a long time to realise everyone else thinks Claptrap sucks.

Borderlands should not work for me. I don't really get comedy, which I know sounds like pillow talk from a German robot, but it's true. My favourite comedy movies are all horrors, satires, or tragicomedies. Maybe it's the intense black pit of ink inside of me, slowly filling up until it overflows and drowns me, but it's hard to make me laugh. At least, it's hard to make me laugh at something that's trying to be funny. That's Borderlands' whole thing. The violent nature of video games means some of the humour is dark, but mostly it's just straight, silly comedy. It's a big red nose of an FPS, and the shimmer of light on the end of that glittering nose in Claptrap himself.

I have found myself growing cynical with games these days. Outside of the bubble I could wander into my local pre-owned store, trade in a few games, pick up a few more based entirely on how cheap they are and how cool the box art is, then wander out. These days, I have to keep up with all of the new games, all of the exhausting opinions, and the endless proclamation that the current big game is the best game ever, only to then be crushed into the dirt by the next big game to come along. It takes away the fun a little bit, and if I played Borderlands for the first time today, maybe I'd find it all a little try-hard, all a little cringe. Or maybe, as I did back then, I'd find it refreshing. My main hope is that I'd still love Claptrap, because man does that little robot get a bad rap.

Claptrap is an odd character. He's comic relief in a game that never slows down and fires more puns and slapstick set-pieces at you than it does acid-infused bullets from a machine gun. He's designed to be annoying, which rarely goes down well because, deliberately or not, annoying characters are often very annoying, and people don't like annoying characters. Because they're annoying. They annoy you. He's also an oddly tragic character, yet even as Borderlands tries to give him a sense of melancholy, he's still the funniest character in the game.

Claptrap is a charming little robot who is never anything but himself. While Handsome Jack has probably eclipsed him as the series mascot, no better character sums up what Borderlands is about, in all its awkward, annoying glory, than Claptrap. I can understand those who don't enjoy Borderlands being especially put off by whiny little Claptrap, but it surprises me that Borderlands fans can't abide him. I can't imagine loving Borderlands and thinking 'you know, I'd like this if it wasn't trying to be funny all the time'. That's the game's whole deal. When it spun off into Tiny Tina's Wonderlands, the tone remained. It is Borderlands. Claptrap is Borderlands.

Claptrap was the final character I met cleanly, before my mind was warped and my opinions shaped by the never-ending discourse machine constantly lifting up the most generic blockbusters and ripping apart anything even remotely different. I'm glad he was. I'll always have room in my heart for Claptrap. He's funny without a reliance on being edgy or descending into fart jokes, which is where those who rip off Borderlands' style fail. Claptrap is a clown of a character, and he earns a hearty round of applause from me.

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