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It’s a man thing: the trouble with Tomb Raider

Monday, 25th June 2012 09:37 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Don’t miss the point, says Patrick Garratt. The travails surrounding Lara’s reinvention are to do with triple-A’s obsession with men and violence, not women and sex.

That “chick” movies like Bridget Jones and Love Actually exist is fine, because every other genre is represented in film. In triple-A games there’s nothing apart from hardboiled action designed to appeal to men. And that’s why Tomb Raider is the way it is. None of this is really about Lara Croft.

This article contains discussion of violence, including sexual violence.

Poor Lara. In the past few weeks she’s fallen on a metal spike, seen a friend crucified in a catacomb and killed a man after being placed in a situation where she’s apparently going to be raped and murdered. We’ve seen her transform into some kind of super-hunter who thinks little of shooting people in the face with a bow and arrow and entering into combat against fully-automatic weapons. Not content with grinding video gaming’s most prominent female character through this violent mill, Crystal Dynamics has told us she’s some kind of innocent little thing you’ll want to protect rather than “be,” and that the turning point in her journey from kid to killer is an attempted gang rape.

The media’s had a field day, despite the chauvinism being swiftly retracted. But what’s the real problem here? What we’re seeing in the Tomb Raider reboot is nothing new from a content perspective, so why did we all square up over Lara?

“From thence into beauty”

It can’t be over the assault scene itself, which can be termed as “strong” but is certainly nowhere near any BBFC danger-zone. The plot we’ve seen so far, in fact, bears more than a passing similarity to films like Wolf Creek. Here we have pretty young women thrown into a desperate situation with some “bad” men, which, after a build up, arrives at a transformative scene. The fulcrum moment in exploitation horror normally involves some kind of torture event in which the victim is forced to respond with deadly force or die. This is a common device. Its purpose is antagonism, which then becomes the basis for the rest of the narrative.

Tomb Raider’s change-point occurs when Lara is captured in some kind of derelict structure close to a campfire by a man with a gun. It seems obvious that unless she fights, she’s going to be raped and killed. There’s a sexual assault, to which she responds by kneeing the man in the bollocks. The man then grabs Lara around the chest and buries his face in her neck. There’s a fight, and the man is shot in the face. Lara is transformed. She is now a murderer, and, splattered with gore from the shooting, picks up the man’s pistol and enters into combat with the rest of the gang.

Spot the difference? While Tomb Raider
draws well back from the severity of
content in some exploitation horror, there’s
no denying thematic similarities. Top to
bottom: Tomb Raider, The Last House on
the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, Wolf Creek.

What’s wrong with this? From a broader perspective, nothing at all. If you look at other media we’re in well-trodden territory, which explains why the sexual content in the pre-E3 trailer went by largely unnoticed. There was some eye-rolling, but it was no big deal. Brenna flagged it to me in an email as a potential feature, but it got lost somewhere in LA. The real stink didn’t emerge until Kotaku published its E3 interview with executive producer Ron Rosenberg. We were told in explicit terms that Lara was to be “literally” depicted as a “cornered animal” in an attempted gang-rape scenario before metamorphosising into her murderous final form.

The type of situation Rosenberg appeared to be describing is more reserved for the very strongest and most controversial horror films, such as I Spit on Your Grave, The Last House on the Left and Irréversible. Explicit sexual violence and “rape revenge” remain, to this day, some of the most contentious fields in media despite being more popularised recently by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Regardless, the whole thing was a red herring. There is no rape – although it’s strongly implied there’s going to be one – and what we appear to be seeing in the later stages of play isn’t “revenge” so much as “survival, rescue and escape”. We don’t know yet, obviously, but it’s clear from Crystal Dynamics’ feverish back-peddling that the sexual elements we see in the the transformative scene are incidental. In films like The Last House on the Left, the rape element is explicit and central, and dictates what happens later. In I Spit on Your Grave, for example, the victim eventually cuts off the penis of one of her attackers, shoves it in his mouth and lets him bleed to death. The rape sequences are prolonged and graphic. It’s a savagely violent, wholly exploitative exploration of mental abuse, sexual depravity and torture. It’s hard to watch in a way Tomb Raider will never be.

But, nevertheless, the new Tomb Raider shares a great deal of common ground with exploitation horror on a thematic level. If a movie was to be made of this, it would be Wolf Creek as opposed to Indiana Jones.

That’s part of the problem. As New Statesman dep ed Helen Lewis said in a VG247 chat on the matter recently, the argument isn’t about whether or not the concepts of rape (implied or not), sexual assault and serial murder can be used in fiction as plot devices. Superficially, what’s raising hackles is that this style of content is being applied to this IP specifically, that “this isn’t Lara”.

Thrill kill

Unfortunately, this type of modernisation is unavoidable. Given the reality of triple-A publishing today, Tomb Raider, as it was, is dead. As was clear from this year’s E3, gaming’s top flight is now 18-rated with several plusses. Products in this category universally contain very high levels of violence. In this regard, Tomb Raider is in line with Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, The Last of Us, Dishonored, Black Ops II, and all the rest.

In the gameplay footage we saw in the Microsoft press conference, Crystal started with Lara shooting a man in the back with a bow and arrow, before spiking another in the side of his face and pushing someone else to his death from the top of a cliff. After a conversation with her captured friend by radio, she set two men on fire before wounding an enemy’s leg then killing him with an arrow to the chest. She burnt more men, used a shotgun on others, then dispatched another goon, who was distracted by reloading a rifle, by stabbing him through his throat with an arrow. In a little over two minutes, she murdered 11 men. The sequence ended with her parachuting through a forest to eventually fall through a tree’s branches, in a scene which shared distinct similarities with one of Rambo’s more famous sequences.

Sounds mental? Of course it isn’t. Watch the Splinter Cell: Blacklist footage from from the same conference; Sam Fisher kills 26 people (I think: it’s quite hard to keep track) in just over six minutes. “Execute ready” flashes on the screen several times. We’re told that Ubisoft Toronto has perfected a system of “killing in motion”. It’s incredibly violent, but Sam’s saving the world from the evil terrorists, so he can do whatever he likes.

In truth, Tomb Raider shines a light on the violence levels we’ve come to accept in modern, premium video games by swapping out the traditional male protagonist for a woman and switching the setting from military (or magic, or sci-fi) to civilian. The reason there’s been a backlash against the “ultra-violence” on display at E3 is that triple-A’s new wave involves everyday people in exceptional circumstances. We’ve entered the realm of hyper-violent contemporary fantasy. Watching a soldier stab a man in the neck is acceptable; transfer the same action to a 21 year-old girl and it’s just confusing unless you engineer a suitable situation.

The Bechdel Test. Apply this to games for fun
and incredulity.

Tomb Raider’s perception issue stems directly from this. Any serious video game in 2012 needs to rely heavily on combat. Modern triple-A is about creating a scenario in which the protagonist is free – and positivity required – to behave in the most violent way possible. Triple-A is, in fact, a giant combat simulation.

Square had to create a back-story in which Lara is forced to transform from a student to a mass killer in a realistic scenario. And so we have the movie horror plot, in which Lara, beyond any help, must kill to survive. The word “lazy” has been levelled at Tomb Raider over the sexual elements, but I don’t buy that. I have no doubt that years of thought and plotting has gone into the narrative of this game, and by committee there’s been a decision that Lara must enter and exit a transformatively violent event. Horror scenarios such as this, involving young women and male aggressors, invariably contain some kind of sexual element. Whether or not that’s right or wrong is moot, and you have every right to be pissed off about it from a sexism standpoint. It doesn’t have to be this way. But, as we’ve shown, we see this type of plotting in film even in the mainstream. From a creativity standpoint, it’s fine.

The Smurfette Principal

The real reason behind any annoyance surrounding Tomb Raider is that so few prominent video games contain female protagonists. Lara’s a poster girl, so seeing her treated in this way is seeing all women in games treated in this way. There’s a really simple reason why this is happening. As the Guardian’s Mary Hamilton mentioned in our liveblog on the matter, female characters in games can easily be seen in the same sphere as the “Smurfette Principal”. In brief, the 60s cartoon of the Smurfs got a girl. She was called Smurfette. She was the only female in a village of 100 Smurfs. Katha Pollitt, writing in the New York Times, summed up her inclusion in the show as “a group of male buddies… accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined.”

Lara is Smurfette, not just in Tomb Raider, but in the entire field of triple-A. She’s there to accentuate male characteristics and stereotypical themes rather than to be truly representative of femininity.

The Smurfs was made for boys. Lara is Smurfette, not just in Tomb Raider, but in the entire field of triple-A. She’s there to accentuate male characteristics and stereotypical themes rather than to be truly representative of femininity. The problem is especially bad in games, but exists in other media. An easy way of showing just how sexist movies can be, for example, is to look at the Bechdel Test. To pass, a film must feature at least two named women who talk to each other about something besides a man. I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know that many films fail. Apply this to big budget games and see what happens.

While we don’t know yet if Tomb Raider would pass, it’s obvious it’s a game about a woman made for men. Triple-A, without exception, is aimed at the male audience. When you couple this with the fact that the triple-A market dictates Lara must behave in a phenomenally violent way, it’s not difficult to see how Crystal Dynamics arrived at the game unfolding before us today. Psycho-Lara has to come from somewhere. And the fact that psycho-Lara has to come from anywhere at all is down to the demographic the product’s aimed at.

Think about it this way. Imagine if all blockbuster movies were rom coms specifically targeted at women, that every major film release was a variation on Bridget Jones’s Diary or Love Actually. Imagine that every male character in the entire medium was a smouldering do-gooder driven by love, or a plummy cad to be biffed in a fight over honour. There’d be nothing to describe other aspects of masculinity, so film as a medium would be sexist in the way it displayed men.

That “chick” movies like Bridget Jones and Love Actually exist is fine, because every other genre is represented in film. In triple-A games there’s nothing apart from hardboiled action designed to appeal to men. And that’s why Tomb Raider is the way it is.

None of this is really about Lara Croft, and it would be ludicrous to level blame at Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix over video gaming’s love affair with men. The whole “rape” embarrassment was just an everyday PR fuck-up. The point here is that triple-A games are inherently sexist in their treatment of women because it’s an industry aimed almost exclusively at the male sex. This is a bad thing. Creatively, these products will not be made with women in mind until the medium and the business surrounding it are capable of delivering a broad range of plotting and believable, human characters, both male and female. Games won’t become significantly more inclusive until big budget productions break away from extreme violence as the only core gameplay mechanic; we’re unlikely to be seeing that happen any time soon.

Until it does, don’t be surprised to see female characters treated like this in triple-A, if you see them there at all. It’s not Lara’s fault: it’s a man thing.

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68 Comments

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  1. Patrick Garratt

    Comments were closed, for some reason. They’re now not.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. DiegoEmiliano

    I will explain by parts:

    1 – In the E3 demo, it is obvious that everything was in God mode, as it somehow. With the short time we had, Crystal could not take the luxury of presenting the combat system with pause (which is how it will be definitely in the game) not to bore the audience.

    2 – I ask you all here (male or female) if they are in the same position as Lara, trapped on an island with people who want to kill them at all costs … What would you do? Chances are you would have a psychological problem in deciding whether to kill or be killed, but it is obvious that the final decision would be killed. Is basic. This game will be more realistic and therefore use violence realistically. What other games do a completely stupid, it’s another issue (cof. .. call of duty .. cof, cof)

    3 – VG24 / 7 .. perhaps have a problem with Tomb Raider? For all that I have seen on his Twitter about the franchise has been on absurd controversy, which give more importance to the details and videos that appear in the game. Now please stop, your reputation can go overboard at any time.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Lacobus

    #2 – Before anyone else comments on it I’m going to assume English is not your first language, so the grammar in your comment gets a pass. The content however does not.

    1) Is this a point against how quickly enemies are killed in the video? If so, you still kill an absurd amount of people games, fast or slow so your point is a bit silly.

    2) I think you mean you would chose to kill, rather than be killed? Ok, but not for a second is any of this realistic.

    3) This is just arsey. It’s Pat website he can write whatever he wants…

    #3 2 years ago
  4. The_Red

    @2
    It’s not VG247 that has a problem with Tomb Raider. It’s just Pat. He’s gone a bit overboard trying to fight sexism in games. Just like Warren Specter attacking violence in games like The Last of Us.

    Also, among the mentioned examples of exploitation films (The Last House, Wolf Creek and I Spit / Day of Woman) the first 2 are actually great and important films. Heck, The Last House on the Left may be exploitation (Specially considering the crazy ad campaign it had back then) but it’s also one of the most celebrated works of a great horror director.

    In short, there is NOTHING wrong with the new Tomb Raider or The Last of Us. It’s just Pat (A great journalist) overreacting.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. DiegoEmiliano

    @3
    If English is not my native language as you say, but my opinion is as valid as all appear here.
    The game goes fast in the E3 demo, and in this article criticizes that. You have to be stupid to criticize the game so when soon arose the new demos (where deer hunting) showing a totally different game viewing. So, have tried something soon.
    And if you opt to kill, because in real life human beings have instinct to survive, you understand that concept? Go investigate and find out.
    And finally, to VG24 / 7 has devoted more articles to the controversy over the scene in “violation” in the game, which provide more information about the game itself (gameplay, story, etc.).

    #5 2 years ago
  6. DiegoEmiliano

    @ 4

    I understand, but because he believes that Lara is a tomboy or responding to male stereotypes? She is quite the opposite! That in this reboot is helpless, it is normal because she faces many new situations for any human being (regardless of gender) would react the same way.

    Furthermore, this com will restart it turned into the Lara kicks ass we all know.

    Is that something so difficult to understand for you, Pat?

    #6 2 years ago
  7. PEYJ

    Violence is a big part of video games and thus a big issue in them. Since they play a bigger part in the media landscape and so the world in general it becomes an important problem and discussion. Whether its related to sexism or something else, violence and its possible impact (it has impact), should never be ignorred

    Keep the opinion pieces coming VG247!

    #7 2 years ago
  8. alimokrane

    Oh, the joys of criticizing! I’d like it very much if, for once, someone would actually paint a picture of how a AAA good game can be made with a female lead. Only then, we can have a discussion.

    AND I’d like it even more if, for once, someone would actually paint a picture of how a AAA good game can be made with a female or male lead without resorting to killing anyone. Only then, we can have a good discussion.

    Until the above two happen, I suggest everyone shuts up about this.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. ududy

    There are many games where you kill exactly nobody. They’re called casual games – Facebook and Big Fish make millions on those. But i would hardly call them better, at a narrative or gameplay level, than what the AAA industry produces.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Lacobus

    The irony is in that trying grow Lara up and include ‘adult themes’ and a better story, Crystal Dynamics has just highlighted how juvenile Lara is.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Lacobus

    The violence thing though. Where does that come from? I think it’s down to the mechanics of games themselves. You need enemies, you need challenges to overcome. Of course it helps that people enjoy action but without enemies, be that cars, dragons or -yes- other people, games would be boring. Not everyone enjoys puzzles and collecting.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. NiceFellow

    Good article Pat.

    I’d be curious on your view – perhaps another article? – on the inherent challenges the medium faces as it tries – normally fairly badly as here, although to be fair arguably no worse than your average thriller movie – to encompass themes and concepts it seems ill suited to, particularly themes that don’t sit well with simple escapism and entertainment.

    I’m particularly of the view that part of the issue in general is the obvious incongruousness of how games mix/match mindless, “don’t take this seriously” entertainment with ill fitting “take this bit seriously though” elements.

    You’re either trying to make a coherent statement – in which case the entire game or film should be aligned to that – or you’re entertaining only with perhaps nothing more than a superficial sheen.

    The whole reveal and positioning of this game has been a textbook example of that mismatch I believe. One minute it’s a game with the focus on kicking ass and escapism, the next its a realistic portrayal of a woman forced to make some hard choices to survive.

    The two can fit together, but it takes a lot more narrative and thematic skill than Crystal Dynamics have (heck it’s clearly beyond most Hollywood writers as well) and without the skill to achieve it I wish they’d just stick to making it a game where you kick ass as an improbably shaped female Indiana Jones rather than wadding right into moral quicksand as they have.

    But again, a good article with some interesting points – that are no doubt not really welcome in the industry or market right now.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Gheritt White

    “The whole “rape” embarrassment was just an everyday PR fuck-up.” – SANITY PREVAILS!

    Also, I for one have long since noticed that the only movie genre not properly represented in interactive entertainment is the Rom-Com (and *no*, Japanese dating sims DO NOT count). The closest I can think of is The Sims. I even started to pull together a design doc back in ’09, but switched jobs so nothing ever came of that.

    You see, it’s all about the mechanics – it’s videogames’ defining trait, the key characteristic of the medium. Combat is a limiting mechanic and all player avatars rendered through that lens end up pretty similar by design.

    I think when videogames can finally deliver a high quality rom-com experience, *then* gaming will have started to evolve in its attitude towards the portrayal of women in interactive entertainment.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. absolutezero

    This is not Lara.

    Well that would be because this is not Lara. Its a reboot. Thats not Dante either. The prime tenants that Kamiya set out for his character was to try and make something “cool” (I care not if you agree with him or not) without relying on tired old cliches like smoking and swearing. So Dante does neither. He eats pizza like a Ninja Turtle and constantly makes light of every situation he finds himself in.

    New Dante smokes in the marketing material and bellows FUCK YOU at bosses.

    Where are all the DmC opinion pieces about a well loved character being fucked over with shitty writing?

    There is’nt because Dante is male thus no one gives a shit.

    “Lara is Smurfette, not just in Tomb Raider, but in the entire field of triple-A.”

    Lara is Smurfette, Triple-A is video games. THERE IS NOTHING ELSE. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

    @GW So the industry will advance by creating a Romantic Comedy game. To my mind that would be replacing something bad, with something even worse. RomComs are the most horriffic, generic, production line nonsense in cinema. Introducing that into games would be a disaster.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. The_Red

    When Hitchcock made the famous scene in Psycho, a lot of parent groups, concerned people and others attacked him. Now, that film is considered a classic along with that scene.

    Sure, it was a “psychological” and “deep” movie but in the end, it was just a fantasy situation with a woman in the shower facing a horrible threat. I say this to Pat, Warren and all others, stop overreacting. Yes, there is horrible amount of sexism in games and yes violence is being used as a fun tool but it’s FANTASY. Seriously, WTF is wrong with you? I enjoy my exploitation flicks, artsy flicks, horror flicks, psychological flicks and all others.

    Just let me and many others have our enjoyment and fight in the areas that matter. Like the assholes on PSN, XBLA and other online communities that treat women like dirt. No, Tomb Raider or similar types of games don’t turn them into the assholes they are. Bad parenting, lack of proper education and other things do. A lot of normal, calm and sane people enjoy sexist or violent games and don’t become anti-social monsters on internet. If you can find a way to stop the real assholes, I’d be more than happy along with rest of sane gamers but attacking great titles like Tomb Raider, Beyond or The Last of Us is what the likes of JACK THOMPSON do. Don’t lower yourselves to that level.

    @6
    I don’t want to get too specific but I mostly agree with you. As I said, Mr Garriot is overreacting to everything these days.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. SplatteredHouse

    @12: Super post, and I very much agree with your views there. I’d also like to see the discussion/article happen, which you suggested.

    @14: The DMC comparison can, at best, loosely stand. DMC is the very epitome of mindless entertainment. (Don’t get me wrong, I know it takes skill to play well). I think it’s bloody good at that, but Dante’s character is secondary to the sword swinging, gun blazing high action that it well delivers.

    Style with substance, is how I’d describe DMC. Tomb Raider is Lara. She is the central element of that series, we see it right back to the original. Lara, plus environment to explore is Tomb Raider. (The Natla business merely bookends) The enemies in the early games, are mostly incidental inhabitants.

    So, it’s nothing to do with the gender in that case, it is because these games show very different focus – Dante’s own game moved his character to secondary importance. I’d also remind you that a lot of examination around the character of Dante took place, here and elsewhere, in the hysteria that followed the first trailer for the reboot.

    @15: Why are you unable to accept a differing opinion to your own? The article is not about over-reacting, but speaking one’s mind, presenting thoughts to readers to consider in an accessible way.
    I think it’s a valuable service, to be able to read as nicely composed and considered views as these. Whether one agrees or not with what’s written.

    “it’s FANTASY. Seriously, WTF is wrong with you? I enjoy my exploitation flicks, artsy flicks, horror flicks, psychological flicks and all others. ”

    You’re concerned that these kinds of entertainments are at risk of falling back, if they’re not the only games in the AAA space. If games were to increase in depth and focus, would that mean that you could all of a sudden no longer play the types that you prefer?…Instead, such unreceptiveness to difference gifts us with horrors of a different kind – Dead Space 3, and Resident Evil 6. Because, nobody wants anything without chips, the publisher starts to believe.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Clupula

    My problem with the whole scenario is how weak Lara has been made to look in that trailer. She constantly looks like she’s going to pee herself from fear and seems to do things only because, well, as the developer said, she’s like a cornered animal. The problem is that that isn’t consistent with the depiction of Lara Croft that people are used to. If you had put her in the same situations, but made her more of a defiant tomboy, who is surviving despite the pain, because she’s not going to let these things beat her, I don’t think we’d see this controversy.

    Even the attempted rape. If you had Lara defiant instead of afraid, it’d have a completely different context.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Gheritt White

    FFS, it’s a reboot of a fictional character and you guys are arguing CONTINUITY issues?

    Wow, fanboy much?

    #18 2 years ago
  19. cw5th

    @ 18:

    Exactly. Finaly somebody who understands the very first fact of this Game.

    This is not Tomb Raider 6,7 or 8 people. That’s a brand new Lara with nothing in common with the old stereotypical, big breasted, “serious” archeologist of old.

    She is not longer of royalty, isn’t fond of archeology, doesn’t have a butler or a mainson. This is a new person with an well knwon name(because it sells better if you’ve a well known Name).

    Stop playing the “but that’s not the Lara i used to knwo” Card, it doesn’t apply here.

    @ 17:

    That’s because she is about to pee herself. Who in his/her right mind woudn’t in that kind of situation?

    She isn’t a jack of all trades or some bullshit like the hundrets of “John Smiths” in other Games that just picks up an assoult rifle and automaticaly knwohn how to use it and saves the earth.

    Square wants to tell this story of a nobody that had to do unhuman things in order to survive.

    Not the next tale of “bouncing tits with dual machine guns in nice archeological scenery”.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Ostercy

    “That’s part of the problem. As New Statesman dep ed Helen Lewis said in a VG247 chat on the matter recently, the argument isn’t about whether or not the concepts of rape (implied or not), sexual assault and serial murder can be used in fiction as plot devices. Superficially, what’s raising hackles is that this style of content is being applied to this IP specifically, that “this isn’t Lara”.

    That’s the real factor here. Sexual threat may or may not be suitable material for a “mature” game (whatever that’s supposed to mean) but Lara Croft is the wrong character to introduce it. It’s like introducing the first ever gay character using a rebooted out-of-the-closet Duke Nukem. They could have had the same game with a more genuine version of the young Lara Croft, but they are determined to rewrite her character – wait until the ‘adult’ new Lara is revealed if you don’t believe me – and people are bridling at the unnecessary and disrespectful potential rewrite of an iconic British character.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Gheritt White

    @ 20: This happens in comics several times a year. Big name characters have been getting re-booted and re-imagined since the ancient Greek myths, or even Gilgamesh. This is *nothing* new and Lara’s charcater is in no ways sacred. All protestations to this are (a) churlish, (b) precious and (c) limiting.

    I for one welcome this bold, new and daring take on Lara and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

    I mean, take a look at the Batman of the 1960′s compared to Nolan’s interpretation – which would you prefer to watch? All Crystal Dynamics are doing are making Lara more interesting / relevant again.

    Additionally, as fond as I am of new IPs, I’m equally fond of fresh takes in established ones. These two approaches aren’t mutually exclusive.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. SplatteredHouse

    “I for one welcome this bold, new and daring take on Lara and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.”

    I totally agree. Tomb Raider has regained relevancy. That’s a feat.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. DSB

    I don’t get why this is somehow a gender issue. The industry is full of halfbaked writers who go for the lowest common denominator every single time. Most of them can’t even refrain from stealing the most obvious 80′s Hollywood cliches half the time.

    Isn’t that also the conclusion of the piece? It’s not a question of catering to men, it’s a question of (mostly) letting dummies write your games, instead of people who actually have something deeper to say.

    I don’t really get why this piece even includes the rape. You basically shoot it down yourself, but say that it’s “suggestive of the worst tenets exploitation” – So it’s relevant? Well, maybe some would draw that conclusion, but you yourself point out that it is very much smoke, not fire.

    I don’t think there’s anything weird in Lara being a killer. She’s always been a killer of everything from tigers to velociraptors to human beings, and in my opinion she’s never actually reflected on any of that. She was always an empty frame, who apparently indulged in plastic surgery between installments. Why is this portrayal suddenly the point of contention? And how is it not exactly what she has always been about?

    Rebooting a character is done all the time in Hollywood (which is really gaming’s older, wiser brother). Ultimately it’s about how good you are at suspending disbelief and establishing continuity. I thought Die Hard Mega Hard was great, but I thought Live Free or Die Hard was incredibly shit.

    Obviously a prequel is much easier than a sequel, because you have the privilege of ignoring everything that has happened, and can basically do whatever the hell you like. That was certainly abused in something like Deus Ex:HR.

    Ultimately though, that’s just down to writers choosing the lowest common denominator. I don’t think it’s part of any kind of agenda, beyond saving money on writers.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. SplatteredHouse

    note: Die Hard Mega Hard = Die Hard with a Vengeance.
    (I originally thought you DSB, were talking about the next Die Hard – DH5, which is currently filming. which would have been confusing :) )

    #24 2 years ago
  25. DSB

    @24 Gosh, my bad.

    Danish film importers have this incredibly idiotic idea, that renaming movies to something else in the very same, foreign language will somehow make it sell better in Denmark.

    My favourite is “Cruel Intentions” which was renamed “Sex Games”. Subtle!

    It’s just incredibly stupid. If they’re gonna keep it in the same language, why the hell not use the original title? But yeah, I meant Die Hard with a Vengeance, sorry! :P

    #25 2 years ago
  26. freedoms_stain

    I think DSB has been watching the porno versions :p

    #26 2 years ago
  27. BlasianBytch

    If you look at books like Beloved and the Earth Seed trilogy you can see that you can have ultraviolence and a progressive feminist media.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. Ireland Michael

    And this is exactly what I’ve been saying from the very first moment I saw the trailer.

    #28 2 years ago
  29. Gheritt White

    And what exactly was that, Mike?*

    *Please say it’s “Mmmm, rape… “

    #29 2 years ago
  30. Ireland Michael

    @29 Not funny.

    #30 2 years ago
  31. Gheritt White

    That’s subjective ;)

    Anyway, what has been your point all along?

    #31 2 years ago
  32. TheBigDirty

    Patrick Garratt can say what he likes. I find this incarnation of Tomb Raider and Lara much better, and much more mature than the big breasted character we had before. If you want to cry sexism then where was you back then? It’s what Lara was know for her tits if anything else.

    #32 2 years ago
  33. Ireland Michael

    @31 Oh, I’m sorry, did someone on the Internet actually take something seriously? HOW DARE THEY,

    And no, it isn’t subjective. Rape isn’t funny or something to make light of under any circumstances.

    I think the funniest thing about this thread is the fact that most of the guys just don’t get it, but every woman I’ve talked to does. Kinda proves Pat’s point, to be honest – this is a woman made for men, not a character that just happens to be a woman.

    #33 2 years ago
  34. DSB

    @33 All the women I’ve seen on VG247 actually discussing this, don’t get it either.

    And I don’t see how it would prove anything even if they did. That’s their opinion, and it’s just as flaky as that of the rest of us.

    How many times have you seen a Republican opposed to gay marriage end up sucking guys off in public restrooms?

    I can apply the same model to many of the women I’ve known in my life. The “I’ll never do that” type usually wants it more than anyone else.

    #34 2 years ago
  35. Ireland Michael

    @34 I’m just telling you my experience on the subject. Not saying I’m right or wrong, just what I’ve seen.

    #35 2 years ago
  36. YoungZer0

    @35: “I think the funniest thing about this thread is the fact that most of the guys just don’t get it”

    Aren’t you implying with this comment that you do ‘get it’ and others don’t? So that you’re right and others are wrong?

    #36 2 years ago
  37. Da Man

    The new TR will likely be a poorly written generic bullshit, catering to ‘mature’ lowest common denominator, just like pretty much any attempt at a storyline in a AAA video game today.

    There was nothing wrong with the old LC, TR or anything, CD just completely failed at making proper TRs (aside from remaking the original) and Eidos figured they would be better off including a ‘story’ with scripted sequences and lots of screaming. Let’s just hope there’s some gameplay.

    The new Batman is poor, the new James Bond is terrible and now the video game LC will likely be nonsensical and misguided as well.

    #37 2 years ago
  38. cw5th

    @ 33:

    So why does it not speak to you then?

    @ 37:

    “The new TR will likely be a poorly written generic bullshit, catering to ‘mature’ lowest common denominator, just like pretty much any attempt at a storyline in a AAA video game today.”

    So does the huge majority of games with a tremendes budget. Somehow these nice fellows want their money back and more on top of that.

    How do you do that in these modern times? You broaden the appeal an sacrifice some elements of your vision.

    Nobody gives you that kind of money nowadays just to make a game that just barely sells because the majority of the market can’t even make it bejond the first two hours of gemeplay.

    That’s how a thing like Kickstarters can achieve their goals. Enough people give enough money to some devs to barely make a good – very good game. Ios and PC most of the time of course…

    EA said it well enough last time in an interview, when tehy said that a Game like Dead Space 3 need to sell 5 Million Units to be profitiable.

    That’s the botom line and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

    So why the hate for the TR rebbot if the entire industrie follows this example?

    #38 2 years ago
  39. Gheritt White

    @ 33: Okay, getcha. Now would you mind surmising your argument? We can’t debate if I don’t know your position.

    #39 2 years ago
  40. OrbitMonkey

    This origin story is pretty much a carbon copy of the Green Arrow origin story. Though the Green Arrow didn’t face the threat of rape… That woulda been interesting… Oh and he didn’t go psycho & kill everyone.

    #40 2 years ago
  41. Da Man

    #38, So why the hate for the TR rebbot if the entire industrie follows this example?

    I don’t ‘hate’ any computer software, besides I don’t like any of those, not just this one.

    Besides, I couldn’t care less about something like Dead Space. One was more than enough.

    #41 2 years ago
  42. Ireland Michael

    @36 Based on my personal experience, yes. My experiences may be completely different from yours.

    That’s the great thing about opinion, you see? They’re neither right or wrongl

    @39 Who said I was debaiing this? I just made an observation.

    I’ve debated this subject with so many people in the past few weeks that any desire to actually do so has been completely zapped from me. It’s been done to death at this point, and most people already have their stance on the subject. Mine is the feminist stance, and I’m against the game’s portrayal of Lara.

    #42 2 years ago
  43. Gheritt White

    @39: I wasn’t saying you were, I was just looking for an opportunity – you and I haven’t held opposing views for over a year, was looking forward to a discussion.

    Tbh, there’s only one truly feminist gaming icon that springs to mind – Chell.

    #43 2 years ago
  44. OlderGamer

    Fantastic article Pat.

    I think the response to this type of subject is interesting. And varried. And to be expected. You see we gamers are lumped into a couple of very neat and distinctive groups. Be us 63 yr old, 43, 33, or 23. We are all lumped into adult gamers. But there are great differences in likes and dislikes. And great differences in povs.

    My guess pat is that your closer to 33yr old then you are 23yr old, and thus will have a different aproach to things as someone 10 years younger then you. The wider the age gap, the bigger the differences. But the industry doesn’t always recongize that.

    I always find it funny that the very things that the industry thinks makes a game matrue, is often unapealing to a mature person. The industry as a whole is still very adolesent(and male) focused. I am sorry but I am not a grown up 15 yr old. I am a grown up. And I am not going to be the exact gamer as a 23yr old or 33yr old, even tho they too are grown up gamers.

    My point is that while this game(trend) won’t bother some gamers, it will bother others. Some gamers will buy just because of all of this, while others will avoid for the same reasons.

    I think going forward, providing meaningful content to gamers of all ages(as they age) will be a big challange. We don’t all fit into neat little and easily defined groups.

    Lastly, this is a Tomb Raider game because in todays game world, Brand name is king. They could have made another game, with another female lead. But they wanted to ride the TR franchise. Same thing with DMC. And I do believe that so long as people still buy shooters, there will be CoD, BF, Halo, and Gears franchise games to buy as well.

    Personaly I would rather buy a game that is labeled, “Brought to you by the same studio that did ….” Then a game with a higher number or new subtitle after the franchise name.

    #44 2 years ago
  45. Ireland Michael

    @43 Well, I’m glad that someone agrees with things I say. =P Unfortunately, I’m long since worn on out this topic.

    Do you XBLA, PSN? Not sure if I’ve added you or not.

    I would argue that there are a *lot* more feminist characters than Chell out there. Faith from Mirror’s Edge is another one that springs to mind straight off the bat.

    #45 2 years ago
  46. Gheritt White

    @ #44: I’m very disappointed that some people think that “but that’s not the Lara we all know!” is a legitimate point. Please see comment #21 for more on this.

    @ #37: I’m sorry, but Tomb Raider: Legend was all kinds of awesome and was hailed at the time as a welcome return to form for the series (my word, how quickly the past gets re-written). IMHO they’d taken it as far as they could with Underworld, so a reboot is most welcome, to my mind at least.

    @ #45: Ah yes, Faith too for sure. But there aren’t nearly enough and I concede that Lara is not a feminist gaming icon. Only when a female character’s gender is completely incidental can they lay claim to that status.

    PS: I do have XBLA / PSN – tell me your tag and I’ll add you.

    #46 2 years ago
  47. Da Man

    All kinds of awesome, #46? Sure. But alas, a good TR it wasn’t.

    Underworld was a pale shadow of the Core Design video games as well, from the Sands of Time ledges and shallow level design to the atrocious Thor hammer and those tedious blue things in the underground. Zero replay value compared to Core’s Trs, zero depth similarly.. what was there to do after you finish the missions?

    Only thing Crystal did amazingly well was recreating the atmosphere and Lara. I really liked the graphics and soundtrack. Oh well, by today’s standards it was probably a hardcore platformer when put against Uncharted or Prince of Persia.

    Oh, and at the usual essay over there.. ‘Halo, BF, Gears etc’ all have multiplayer in common. Fable, Uncharted, MGS or GoW do not.

    #47 2 years ago
  48. Ireland Michael

    @46 I disagree.

    A characters gender should not (and I believe *cannot*) be “incidental”. There *are* difference between men and women, and they are not differences that I believe should be ignored. Women live very different, and frankly often harder, lives than most men, and I don’t think those emotional differences should be shoved to the side, especially if they add more depth to the character.

    Of course, the level of storytelling required to create that amount of character depth is very high, and gaming doesn’t really lend itself to that degree of subtlety a lot of the time. So we can agree, gaming doesn’t do a good job.

    Another strong feminist character comes to mind: Elena Fisher in the Uncharted series. She’s never treated as a damsel in distress and she constantly helps out Nathan when *he* is in trouble. But it’s clear to everyone that she and Nathan are attracted to each other. This doesn’t devalue her character because Nathan relies on her just as much as she does on him.

    (But hey, Amy Hennig is one of the best writers in this industry.)

    RE Gamertag: Xbox – Words of Ivory . PSN – WordsofIvory . Steam – wordsofivory

    #48 2 years ago
  49. YoungZer0

    @43: Chell a character? But she’s as hollow as Gordon Freeman.

    #49 2 years ago
  50. SplatteredHouse

    @49: True – until you look at her interactions, what other characters say about her, and how she’s regarded. The journey the character takes throughout the Portals. Even though she never speaks, Valve nonetheless builds a character *around* Chell. So, I think Chell is very much a character, as opposed to merely an avatar.

    #50 2 years ago
  51. YoungZer0

    @50: Naw, sorry, that doesn’t work for me. It is actually the player who builds a character around her. Same goes for Gordon Freeman.

    It’s kind of like, if you have that silent guy/gal in class, and they never talk and you think they are kind of weird and are probably totally creepy, or feel lonely and misunderstood or oppressed. But instead they just don’t talk much, because they don’t think being social is that important.

    It’s never clear until they start talking. So – for me – Chell has no depth as long as she doesn’t speak.

    #51 2 years ago
  52. Ostercy

    @21 Re; “This happens in comics several times a year. Big name characters have been getting re-booted and re-imagined since the ancient Greek myths, or even Gilgamesh. This is *nothing* new and Lara’s charcater is in no ways sacred. All protestations to this are (a) churlish, (b) precious and (c) limiting.”

    Yeah, very shallow analysis. Big name characters even in ancient Greek myths keep their basic features, and respect is paid to the basic characterisation even in the context of a new story. You don’t, for example, find Mars the God Of War suddenly going through an origin story where he’s raped and ends up as Mars the God of Justifiable Force Authorised by the United Nations. He’s the God of War, in anybody’s version. Lara Croft is an aristocratic English archaeologist-adventurer. If they change that due to some prissy PC bullshit or because they want to “americanise” her, they are breaking the “rules” of re-imagining and not showing an iconic character respect. So take your “precious” and “churlish” remarks and reboot them to something a little less uninformed.

    #52 2 years ago
  53. Ireland Michael

    @52 It should be pointed out that she’s still English.

    #53 2 years ago
  54. YoungZer0

    @52: Iconic character? Is that what we’re going to call Lara now?

    #54 2 years ago
  55. OrbitMonkey

    ^ er yes, as Lara is a well known and famous character… Which pretty much is a dictionary definition of *iconic*.

    #55 2 years ago
  56. Ireland Michael

    @54 How is she not?

    #56 2 years ago
  57. YoungZer0

    @55: I don’t know. I think in order to be iconic you’d need some kind of element that people would always recognize. She lived through so many changes that i don’t see how people can get upset when they decide to change some aspects again.

    #57 2 years ago
  58. Gekidami

    I’d say she was pretty iconic to the mainstream, i mean she was in TV ads and stuff, people recognised her outside of gaming. But i’m pretty sure that if you showed her from the new game to someone who heard of her back in the day but didnt follow games, they wouldnt knows who she was.

    Shes iconic to gamers, but outside of that, she’s long since been forgotten and changed so much shes as good as a different character to a layman.

    #58 2 years ago
  59. Ireland Michael

    @57 Not really. She’s always been English, she’s always been from an aristocratic background, and she’s always been an archeologist and explorer.

    They might have changed up the gameplay (thankfully, after six games of the same thing) for Tomb Raider Legend, but it wasn’t really a reboot honestly. This is the first time Lara has ever really been “rebooted”, and it’s perfectly possible this story will fit comfortably enough for it to still be in-canon Lara.

    @58 I think if you ask most 20 and 30 somethings, they’re going to know who Lara Croft is.

    #59 2 years ago
  60. YoungZer0

    @59: I was talking about her appearance.

    #60 2 years ago
  61. Ireland Michael

    @60 She hasn’t changes much in that respect either. The graphics have simply improved a lot more, making her far more realistic looking.

    #61 2 years ago
  62. YoungZer0

    @61: Agree to disagree. Until the new reboot, she still looked like some barby doll. Rather awkward considering the other humans did not.

    #62 2 years ago
  63. silkvg247

    You know what’s sexist? the drama about the fact it’s a woman getting beat up and capured, put in life or death situations. Making a big hoo ha about it. That’s sexist because you’re differentiating. Sorry but how many games have male protagonists in similar situations? Life or death? Kill or be killed?

    Isn’t the whole point that you want your character to survive and win the day?

    The implied rape thing.. so what. All the more reason for her to shoot them in the face if they’re trying that shit on. I’m sure a dude would do the same thing. Seriously.

    The old lara was sexist, with her size 0 waist and ridiculous tits.

    At least this one is believable. I actually think it’s kinda cool to see a female character in a game put through the paces properly, in actual dangerous situations. As opposed to diner dash or whatever.

    I honestly can’t remember any other games where you play a chick and she’s in such danger. Too many companies scared of showing animated violence against females I guess.. can’t blame them. Anyway as far as I’m concerned, it’s a nice change.

    #63 2 years ago
  64. YoungZer0

    @63: Thank you. So far every women i’ve talked to about this seems to have the exact same opinion as you do. One of them is a Die-Hard Tomb Raider Fan.

    I also fail to see how this is some kind of male fantasy, or whatever people keep calling it. I mean, if you have that kind of fantasy, you should probably see a doctor.

    And the thing about protecting her? If i play Tomb Raider, i’m playing as Lara Croft, so how can i ‘protect’ her if ‘I AM’ her?

    #64 2 years ago
  65. Gheritt White

    @ #48: Oh, *you’re* Words of Ivory? I always see you popping up. Yeah, Amy Hennig is a ledge, s’why Soul Reaver’s so good, innit.

    @ #52: I don’t like to put rules and restrictions on storytelling, I think it’s restrictive. The story of Mars the God of Justifiable Force Authorised by the United Nations sounds pretty rad – I’d like to play that one for sure. I say, bring it on!

    @ #59: Seriously, who gives a flying fuck about Lara Croft canon. She’s simply not been around long enough for it to matter. I say she’s yet to have her big defining staples – for all we know, this could be her Dark Knight Returns.

    @ #63: Damn fucking straight.

    @ #64: I genuinely have no problem, as a grown man, identifying with Lara Croft when playing her – my imagination does, in fact, stretch that far. I think that’s where some of the mass appeal comes from, tbh.

    #65 2 years ago
  66. Ireland Michael

    @59 I was only using the canon point to point out that, up until this game, she’s never really had “reboot”. Her character has remained pretty consistent throughout the franchise, for the most part.

    #66 2 years ago
  67. YoungZer0

    @65: I don’t see how that should be difficult. It’s not like Lara is doing something male protagonists are not doing. I only have a problem playing female characters if they are over-sexualized aka Catwoman in Arkham City.

    That’s why i never touched the previous Tomb Raider games and that is also why i’m very interested in the new Tomb Raider.

    I mean not a single soul would complain about the violence if it would happen to a male protagonist.

    #67 2 years ago
  68. Ostercy

    @65 “The story of Mars the God of Justifiable Force Authorised by the United Nations sounds pretty rad – I’d like to play that one for sure. I say, bring it on!” :) Actually … I think I agree. Not sure about raping him to get there though – although male rape is a “mature theme” that may not have been addressed much in games, and I’m not sure Mars deserves that … although, you know, I guess he takes the rap for a lot of war rape and it would be poetic justice …

    #68 2 years ago