Building Worlds: Signs in Borderlands

Compelled by his reflections on a recurring sign in the original Borderlands, Nightmare Mode's Dan Cox has penned an editorial on the world-building of Gearbox Software's FPS/RPG hybrid, and more in particular the society that inhabits the game's world, Pandora. Here's a sampling:
That is what I began to think about each time I saw the same sign. What if there was one rogue sign maker in the whole world whose efforts I kept seeing? Working for either himself or the other various feudal lords of the wastelands, this one person's signs were there before me time after time. Even more important, what does this sign say about these criminals?

(PIS OFF) is obviously an aggressive message and the misspelling must be taken into account too, but there are more antagonistic ways to communicate that an area is owned exclusively by one group. The use of heavily armed guards would do it. That would be enough for most people. Yet, someone saw fit to post signs to warn travellers before they entered an area. Not just mutilated corpses or crude signs, but actual writing posted in a prominent way.

That is what gives me hope for the criminals on Pandora. It's not just the messages on the signs, but the fact that the signs were created in the first place. To make a sign is an act of intention and purpose. To commit in writing a message for others to see, to care where they go in this case, is to look beyond the moment's pleasure and into the future. To write and then place a sign is to expect others to come along and read it.