Tomb Raider dev talks gender, says the industry still has some growing up to do

Wednesday, 5 December 2012 10:40 GMT By Dave Cook

Tomb Raider art director Brian Horton has discussed the rebooted Lara’s position as the game’s leading lady, and has suggested that too-few games place emphasis on their leading ladies. Horton has also discussed ‘that’ scene, and the issues of femininity and vulnerability surrounding Crystal Dynamics’ lead.

Speaking with CVG, Horton noted the lack of female leads in games contributing to the challenge of writing a strong leading lady, yet praised BioWare’s attempts – to a degree.

“I think that’s what’s really great about Mass Effect for instance: you can choose to be female Shepard. You can choose to make the protagonist a heroine, but that’s not the way they market the game, right? It’s marketed as the male Shepard. So for our game, Lara stands alone in an industry of AAA third-person action games, in that it has the female hero.

“The challenge for us is, that now we’re making it more realistic, it starts to conjures up different emotions in people. They’re playing as Lara and she’s struggling – you have a mixed emotion.

“Before she was really just an expression of male energy in a female body. Now she’s both female and feminine, but at the same time very strong, has that inner strength, has those smarts – the things you associate with Lara Croft – but also with a little more texture.”

On the issue of ‘new’ Lara’s vulnerable state in the reboot – which Brenna has discussed at length in her latest feature – Horton admitted that there was a challenge between making her vulnerable without her feeling vulnerable just because she’s female.

He added, “We’re making her vulnerable because it’s her first adventure, and she happens to be a women. That’s the distinction.”

In regards to the ‘rape’ outcry surrounding early Tomb Raider footage, Horton downplayed the suggestive tones of said scene and stated that while those particular accusations where wrong, the industry still has a way to go when tackling mature themes.

In regards to Lara killing her first enemy, and the way it puts her on the path to becoming the hero we know, Horton added, “As an industry we’ve grown up, but not enough to do everything you can do in films or TV. We made a conscious decision to make a bold storytelling choice and gameplay choice, to give that scene more emotional weight. We don’t shy away from the choices we made.”

What’s your view? Is new Lara’s vulnerability damning towards female heroes in games, or have we not seen enough of her transformation into the hero we know to make a call? Discuss below.

Thanks OXM.