Lara Croft Reboot: Vulnerability Galore!

Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft on a motorcycle.

Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft on a motorcycle.

Trigger warnings: rape, violence against women.

Tomb Raider holds a fond place in my heart as a cultural icon, if only for the sexual awakening I shared with many other teen girls when I found myself infatuated with Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft.  However, I never could get into the videogames due to my own prejudice against games that screamed “boys only!”  As a teen girl, I couldn’t get past her giant tits long enough to take the game seriously.  Later, 2006, game designers acknowledged Lara was unrealistic, and responded with a redesign of supposed realism, I still snubbed Lara Croft:

As a gaming woman, I don’t find Lara Croft’s new proportions especially empowering or representative of me. It’s another message of how I ought to look so I can be sexy, confident, and poised. The consensus was that Croft was ridiculous, even from those who found her aesthetically pleasing. Now, she’s “realistic.” I could, theoretically, look like the new Lara Croft; she’s become within the realm of possibility existing. I’ve already “won” genetic lottery—I’m white, brunette, not fat—and now I just need to get breast implants, work out more, and stop eating.

If you don’t remember the 2006, here’s an image of how “realistic” the then-new Lara was:

The 2006 Lara Croft reboot.  She is a busty, small-waisted white woman swinging from a rope as she aims a pistol.

The 2006 Lara Croft reboot. She is a busty, small-waisted white woman swinging from a rope as she aims a pistol.

So game designers acknowledged that a pin-up girl was problematic, but responded with “realism” that was not so real.  Now, in 2012, Tomb Raider has another reboot that attempts to make Lara realistic through… vulnerability?

Two days ago, Jason Schreier at Kotaku published the post “You’ll ‘Want to Protect’ The New, Less Curvy Lara Croft,” where he interviews the executive producer of the new Tomb Raider, Ron Rosenberg.  Schreier reports that

In the new Tomb Raider, Lara Croft will suffer. Her best friend will be kidnapped. She’ll get taken prisoner by island scavengers. And then, Rosenberg says, those scavengers will try to rape her.

Today, the article was picked up today by journalists reporting “Lara Croft attempted rape will make Tomb Raider players want to ‘protect’ her.”  Let’s analyze!

Rosenberg reveals that gamers won’t project themselves onto Lara. Rather, they will want to protect her in a way gamers don’t want to protect their male protagonists:

She’s definitely the hero but— you’re kind of like her helper … When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character.

First of all, I do appreciate that Rosenberg is trying.  He’s considering how a female protagonist might be different than a male protagonist.  However, the subtext I see in this quote are presumptions that the gamer is male (and a narrow definition of male, at that), he wants to be chivalrous, and that as gamers we somehow can’t project ourselves onto female protagonists in the same way we can male protagonists.  These attitudes aren’t exclusive to Rosenberg, but widely prevalent.  I particularly worry that “protecting” Lara will enable some male gamers to see themselves as the “good guys”–the knights in shining armor–who would rescue Lara from some evil rapist out there, which ignores the ways in which gamer culture can perpetuate the broader rape culture.  Allowing men to dichotomize themselves as the good rescuers vs. the evil rapists out there also ignores that most rapists are folks that victims know, and that men are also victims of rape.  A more sensitive and realistic portrayal of sexual violence would take these facts into consideration rather than telling the same old story of stranger-danger.

Anyways, back to the game.  Much of the reboot attempts to make Lara more realistic.  In the words of Rosenberg,

The ability to see her as a human is even more enticing to me than the more sexualized version of yesteryear. She literally goes from zero to hero… we’re sort of building her up and just when she gets confident, we break her down again.

So is vulnerability more realistic?  Perhaps.  I don’t mind vulnerable characters, but I find it is too easy of a characterization, and is something men tend to be comfortable with.  (I recall how Battlestar Galactica creators went out of their way to show Starbuck’s vulnerable side, but never did the same for Lee Adama.)   Overcoming victimhood and sexual trauma are primarily female character arcs, and not especially original.  We don’t see the same transformation from vulnerable to badass in male characters.

Again, I do appreciate the effort.  The Tomb Raider reboot seems to be trying to expand the role for female leads beyond girls-we’d-want-to-fuck to girls-we’d-want-to-protect.  We’ve got two options now for female characters, which is better than one, but they are both gendered in limited and troubling ways.

So far, I’ve based my discussion on a few quotes from a brief interview.  Let’s now take a look at the trailer for the game itself.

Lara wakes up, bound and bloodied, and gasps.

Lara wakes up, bound and bloodied, and gasps.

The trailer really does stress victimhood.  In the first seconds, Lara wakes up with a gasp.  She is bound.  The camera turns and reveals she is also upside down. She says, “I’ve got to get out of this,” and swings and escapes.  She moans and gasps as she lands on a piece of metal.  She finds a woman she knows, dead and strung up and apparently ritualistically killed.

Lara finds her friend "Steph," strung up and apparently dead as part of some ritual.

Lara finds her friend "Steph," strung up and apparently dead as part of some ritual.

Lara tells herself, “I need to find a way out,” as she carries a torch and crawls through rubble.  The trailer cuts to action shots with Lara ducking to escape explosions and jumping across debris.  She radios for help, drinks from a waterfall, and huddles by a small campfire.  Then, she picks up a bow and hunts a deer.  A wolf attacks her, and she fights it off, yelling, “Get the hell off me!”  She reunites with her best friend Sam, only to have Sam captured away at knife-point.  Lara quickly draws her bow and glares at the captor.  I love her expression.

Lara glares at the man who is holding her friend at knife-point. She is about to draw her bow.

Lara glares at the man who is holding her friend at knife-point. She is about to draw her bow.

The man escapes with Sam, and Lara gets her foot caught in a bear trap.  She reunites with some of her own crew.  She’s kidnapped again, hog-tied and thrown down.  Then, the trailer cuts to her escaping and hiding with her hands still tied.  She fights off and kills her attempted rapist.  I how beats him while she is tied up because it counters the prevalent message that women are physically weaker than men and therefore cannot fight of attackers.

Lara is covered in blood.

Lara is covered in blood.

She gets up, covered in blood, and remembers a male relative (I think?) giving her a pep-talk.  Cut to more action shots, dramatic music, and Lara saying, “I hate tombs.”

All in all, the trailer does show Lara getting built up and then broken down again, which I find a bit off-putting because I hate seeing bad things happen to women because they are women.  I do appreciate seeing some backstory as to how Lara Croft became such a badass because nobody is born an ass-kicker, and I appreciate that the gamer designers try to consider some of the unique challenges women face in life-or-death situations, but I’d like to see something more original than surviving a rape attempt.

Overall, I was off-put by the interview, but all in all, the trailer actually made me want to play Tomb Raider because it is rare I get to play a game where I can be a chick and blow shit up.  However, I won’t want to protect Lara, I’ll want to be Lara, and I don’t know if I want to live through all that trauma.

About Lake Desire

Lake Desire, real name Ariel Wetzel, has been blogging about feminism and videogames since 2005 at her blog New Game Plus. Lake also writes at Feminist SF - The Blog! Lake Desire is an English graduate student at University of Washington, studying science fiction, feminism, and cyberculture. At work, Lake participates in rank and file labor organizing and the anti-budget cuts struggle. Lake believes in direct democracy, queer liberation, and opposes white supremacy, patriarchy, and imperialism. Lake is white, queer, feminist, anarchist, and of course a cyborg. Lake may not sound like your typical gamer, but has been gaming since a toddler and never managed to quit.
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80 Responses to Lara Croft Reboot: Vulnerability Galore!

  1. Claire says:

    The trailer is made 50% grosser and more ridiculous because her hair remains shiny and voluminous DESPITE EVERYTHING. Whatta babe, amirite? She may be beaten and suffering and threatened and brave and capable and hardy, but she sure looks glamourous. Her skin is covered in blood and mud but with that hair it looks laughable and designed to entice. That first still didn’t make me sympathise with her, it made me feel looked at.

    • Clare says:

      Hard to miss the permanent smoky-eyes makeup, too.

      Lara Croft was always used as eye-candy for straight dude gamers, but I hate it that (male) creators took one of the few female video game characters/protagonists who was a legitimate badass who could take care of herself, and turned her into a vulnerable ingenue and sexual victim. That type of vulnerability is already waaay overrepresented among female characters. It just seems like an even worse form of titillation, really.

      • Korva says:

        Exactly. She is still a highly sexualized eye candy toy for the presumed straight male gaze. That is what makes the whole constantly-battered-and-threatened-with-rape thing so damn squicky and sick to me.

      • Game_Queen says:

        I feel like they did the same with Samus in Other M. Maybe men in general should stop trying to give female game characters stories that make the vulnerable and realistic. They do a shit job.

      • Sarah says:

        This x100. I’ve always been a fan of Lara Croft, and while her breast size was often ridiculous (and seemed to inflate as each game was released), she was still portrayed as a badass and tough video game character.

        But now she’s been stripped of all her identifiable qualities in exchange for this petite, fragile, constantly vulnerable…thing. Why-oh-why do developers feel the need to make female characters more “realistic” by making them more vulnerable? What, is it not “realistic” for a woman to be non-vulnerable and able to kick ass? And the ones that ARE badass often have to go through some sort of development where they start as a shy, vulnerable maiden THEN grow into a tough, independent woman. FFS! Men never have to go through this sort of character “development”. Male characters aren’t made more vulnerable to be more “realistic”.

        And the constant moans and panting in the trailers is just…ugh.

  2. Hardcore Casual Gamer says:

    The last paragraph exactly summarizes how I feel.

  3. i think one of the things that bothers me the most about this entire thing is that the development team aren’t taking into consideration folks that are already rape survivors that could be playing these games. it’s as if they think it’s rare. it’s not. the only people that can make that sort of claim are the ones who have never had to deal with it, and i’m not sure i trust people who are being so willfully ignorant in designing the games i want to play. they’re taking a character that can and should be badass and turning her into something more frail by making people want to protect her. what the hell.

    • Mireille says:

      But as a rape survivor, I have obviously become really empowered by living through the horrors of rape and must be a much stronger person so I’ll kick much more ass at the game. At least, that’s how I understand they’re telling me it works, right?

  4. Nezumi says:

    [TW: Discussion of Rape]

    I remember way back when on Twitter, someone criticizing the “fetishizing/sensationalizing rape” in the reboot… used the promise of rape and how it related to the voice acting of the reboot to sell magazines, completely failing to see why people were upset that he was using rape to sell magazines — after all, he was against rape and criticizing something else misusing it, so that made it okay!


  5. Korva says:

    This squicks me out. “Humanizing” characters and giving them a background is fine and good, but when a female character’s “vulnerability” involves rape or the threat of rape — as it usually does, but never for men — it crosses a line that just makes me sick. ESPECIALLY in the light of the greater gaming “community” which is so utterly steeped in rape culture. There is just no way I can view this “protect the poor girl from the evil rapist” situation without a huge amount of bitter cynicism. How many of those “valiant protectors” make rape jokes and rape threats all the bloody time, be it against someone they beat in PvP or against a woman who dares to speak up on sexism in her blog — or just speak up on voicechat? I honestly can’t believe that this sickening, potentially very triggering issue is going to be handled in a decent manner in a game, and certainly not this kind of game.

    Even without this issue, though, I still wouldn’t want my character to repeatedly be hurt and humiliated. That’s just not fun for me. I don’t enjoy cheap power trips, but I neither do I enjoy being kicked around like a football.

    • Deviija says:

      Obviously I agree with the former, but I wanted to agree with the latter and comment on it too. Men have plenty of power fantasies to choose from out there, left, right, and center. Even Mario, fat plumber with a mustache that he is, still saves the beautiful damsel and has an implied relationship with her. Still a power fantasy of getting the girl, going on adventures, powering up, beating enemies and obstacles, etc. But for a woman to have a power fantasy to play out, she must be constantly victimized or put through the meat grinder to show how vulnerable she is? How much she needs to be protected because she’s, what, a woman? That may not be the intention line drawn with the ‘protect Lara’ stuff, but it isn’t a large leap to make to ‘damsel in distress, must save the helpless woman’ comparisons.

      I love the article write up, let me preface with that. Having an option to be something other than a big sex object is a plus… but being a victim or a damsel in distress that is helped along by the player? Is not really that great of an option. It isn’t a step forward, imo; it’s a step sideways. Much more of the same that’s already out there for women’s roles in video games. And with attempted rape scenarios in the game itself, it’s hard for me not to think that such a scenario draws attention to Lara as not only a woman but as sexable. Maybe that’s just me, though. I just rather keep rape out of the equation altogether than draw attention to Lara sexually, and all the vulnerability and power domination and such that comes with it. It’s not needed at all, especially in a landscape of women characters that have rape plots and rape sidequests and rape backstories aplenty.

      Why can’t a woman just be awesome without those things? Why can’t a woman be an asskicker because she decided to be one? There are plenty of dude characters that kick asses because they decide to, on their own terms. Men protagonists are rarely ever if at all shown as the ones directly being assaulted, humiliated, (attempted) raped, and/or directly confronted with these forms of cliche ‘strength-making’ plotlines. They usually get stories about how their girlfriends/wives (sometimes kids as well) are fridged horribly and how so very hard that is on them. Poor dudes with their pain because the ladies in his life were horribly brutalized and murdered. But, no no, so sad for him. In other words, we’re supposed to see this ‘manpain’ as the focus to sympathize with and as the focus for this character being so wronged and victimized and vulnerable. Only… it’s really not stuff that directly happened to him at all. These terrible things happened to the people around him, not him directly. So he gets ‘strong’ and kicks butts because of that. Women, however, are almost always shown as being directly victimized, assaulted, (attempted) raped, etc. either in backstory or in the actual story. They ‘learn to fight’ or ‘get strong’ after those Bad Things things happen to her. It’s ground that not just video games re-tread but fictional literature and tv/movie media constantly re-tread as well.

      A well-used example would be just to look at Dragon Age: Origins’ City Elf origin. As a female elf, you are captured and treated as an object and set-up to be an attempted rape victim. As a male elf, of the same origin, the local women are captured, treated as objects, and set-up to be attempted rape victims, and the male elf PC gets to rush in and be the big savior of the women. This is the same origin, but it is played out very differently per gender. It’s an example that rape and direct abuse is a motivational factor and special punishment only meant for women. Men, on the other hand, get by-proxy victimization by Bad Things happening to the ones he cares about. But not directly to him, especially never attempted rape plots.

      Plus, out of all the major E3 games we saw, only 3 titles had women as the main protagonists. One was on the handheld system. The other two on larger console systems were shown to be bloodied survivors, beaten and victimized and on the run. Sure, Lara may be shooting dudes in the face with arrows left and right later on in the game, and Ellen Page’s character in Beyond may be beating people up with supernatural aid later on in the game, but it doesn’t erase that how these women get to that point is to be pushed to an edge. To be hunted/victims/bloodied and in need of help by the player. Because those are the mechanics essentially being used in Beyond that Ron is talking about being used in the Tomb Raider reboot.

      In Beyond, with Ellen Page, you are playing the ghostly entity called Iden. Iden is used as a sort of omnipresent/fourth wall protagonist that the player gets to inhabit and directly influence the world and the flesh-and-blood character (Ellen in Beyond, Lara in TR) that is the protagonist of the game. TR doesn’t have an Iden entity, but what Ron is saying is the same thing. The player is supposed to want to protect Lara, to influence the world and the situations to help Lara survive and get through the Bad Stuff. In Beyond, you utilize Iden to help Ellen survive her situations and harm those that would harm her. So, basically, both games are trying to have us look at these games as you, the player, helping the protagonist rather than playing *as* the protagonist. Why? Because they’re women? They need protecting by male entities/presumed male audiences?

      I just find it very strange that that’s our entire landscape this year in games, and the similarities between them. And how that fits into the broader discussion of women’s stories, victimization, and personal character agency vs. player agency interaction. Especially so since these kind of stories and gritty victimization are only for ladies.

      Anyway, I babbled on enough. To sum it up, I agree that I don’t enjoy cheap power trips, but I don’t enjoy being kicked around at every turn. It’s not fun for me to see and play out that kind of victimization in my escapism hobby.

      • Melanija says:

        “hunted/victims/bloodied and in need of help by the player.”

        That reminds me of another game with this same premise, Republique, which was recently funded through Kickstarter: It’s description:

        “You receive a desperate phone call from Hope, a young woman trapped within a shadowy totalitarian state. Using a stolen phone, she calls and begs you to hack into the nation’s surveillance system, assume control, and help her escape from the clutches of the omnipresent Overseer.”

        I actually backed it, as I thought it was an interesting game idea, even if there was something in the back of my mind that was a little suspicious of it being a woman you were helping out like that. Now that I’m realizing this is becoming a trend, though, it’s not so easy to push those thoughts aside.

        I was originally looking forward to the TR reboot, too. I didn’t play a whole lot of the previous games in the series, but I really liked the idea of playing as an “average” woman (in terms of skill, etc) who could have been somewhat like me, and who ends up facing extreme odds, overcoming them, and becoming stronger in the process. But now, reading what the executive producer says that game is supposed to portray, I see that he at least isn’t intending for me to be able to relate to Lara as someone who’s position I could be in, but as someone who I’d want to help and protect, which isn’t what I want at all.

        The thing that makes me especially angry about all this is that I feel like we’re now in a position where, if these games don’t sell well, people will just point to them as another example of how games with female protagonists don’t sell. On the other hand, if they DO sell, then the developers might use that as an excuse to ignore all of the problematic elements involved.

        • Maverynthia says:

          I’m glad I didn’t back that game. Everyone was touting it as “female protagonist” however whenever I kept reading the description.. I wasn’t ever seeing me controlling her.

        • Deviija says:

          Yes, good pointing out. Republique is another of those games that can fall into that fourth-wall/player-interactive-entity for lady protagonist genre. I was really interested in the game, the world and lore bits that the devs shared, and the look of the game. Also, Jennifer Hale voicing the protagonist, last I heard. Bonus! But then I realized that it wasn’t a game about being this woman and playing her as a protagonist, but playing as ‘you’/the audience/the gamer helping the lady do everything. Keep the lady safe, white knighting it, not being able to play as the lady directly/no power fantasy outlet etc. My interest went downhill after that.

      • Korva says:

        Word. The City Elf origin was also what immediately came to my mind as the perfect example of how rape and the threat of rape are used so differently with male and female characters. Why wouldn’t a male character have been kidnapped, too? This is terrorism against a powerless, despised minority, plain and simple, and it DOES happen to men as well in such situations. Did that even occur to anyone? And seriously, if “even” Bioware can’t or doesn’t want to get it “right” (if this issue can be “gotten right” at all), then a shallow-as-a-puddle action game franchise in which the main character has always been a wanktoy of literally monumental proportions is supremely unlikely to get even close. (*)

        I too really want not only more female protagonists, period, but especially female characters who do what they do it because they can and they want to, be it out of a sense of duty or adventure or simply out of a desire to kick ass. This really cannot be said too many times.

  6. Juushika says:

    My interest in this reboot has tanked with recent teasers. It had a lot of potential–not entirely unproblematic potential in equating suffering with character (growth), but still more body and depth than prior incarnations of the franchise. Now it’s a cheap, excessive version of same, amping things to the furthest extreme with the least amount of grace (and, like everyone else, I can’t expect it’ll be handled well), because subtlety doesn’t sell but being able to white knight for an attractive but accessible victim certainly will.

    So yeah basically what everyone else said, and it shouldn’t surprise me that this is where it’s gone, but I’m still disappointed.

  7. Doone says:

    Odd as it may seem, I think Rosenberg and others like him who try to approach the issues of gender see women as the only way to bring these qualities to game characters at all. They recognize the problematic portrayals of women, that’s good. But then their solution is to create heroines who get great character development …only to leave male characters intact. In other words, they believe they can address gender issues my *merely* altering their perceptions of women. They don’t do it by simultaneously challenging the perceptions of men.

    And the latter are every bit as important as the former. Men have to be willing to challenge what it means to be a masculine hero. As a guy, I find that’s the crux of the whole sexualization/gender issue. Until we challenge the portrayals of the Marcus Fenix’s, the Incredible Hulks, et al …this particular issue of the Lara Croft’s will see little progress. We will continue to focus on women because we believe we can challenge their sexualization while leaving our masculinity in tact.

    It cannot remain in tact.

    • Korva says:

      Yeah, the whole toxic hairball of gender stereotyping is definitely a mens’ issue as well. Unfortunately, the willingness to critically examine the portrayal of men appears to be even lower, privilege and all, even though the stereotypes hurt and limit them too. “But what about the men?” is usually little more than derailment or an attempt to silence women.

      It’s all connected. Can’t have dignified female characters while men are told they’re entitled to (and must obsess over) TAP. Can’t have a broader spectrum of male characters while the only really “acceptable” male emotions are anger and heteronormative lust.

  8. Ari says:

    Can anyone think of any time this has been pulled in the history of the industry with a male protagonist, with the notable exception of F.E.A.R. 2? Ever? At all?

    Because for all the video game community will seize on any discussion of rape or rape culture to point out “but men get raped too!!!!” they sure do like to erase it completely from the stories they’re telling.

    • Olivia says:

      for all the video game community will seize on any discussion of rape or rape culture to point out “but men get raped too!!!!”

      I was thinking about this the other day, how, any time there’s a discussion about rape as a gendered crime, some men are always quick to whine that the discussion is not focusing on the fact that men can be raped too. A common refrain I’ve heard about Tomb Raider recently though, in response to the criticism that the inclusion of attempted rape in this game is gratuitous and similar male protags like Drake aren’t subjected to this kind of treatment, is “but it’s realistic! a woman in Lara’s shoes would face the threat of rape!” Ughhhh, the contradiction! You can’t have it both ways!

      • Sarah says:

        I’ve come across that “defense” many times in the last few days. A couple of days ago, I got into an argument with a man who insisted that “if any pretty woman was in Lara’s situation, it would be expected for the men to rape her. It’s in a man’s nature.” I didn’t even know how to respond. All I could think was “wtf??!” There are plenty of women (pretty or otherwise) who are kidnapped or captured who are not raped by their captors, and there are plenty of men who would not even consider raping a woman in such a situation.

        • Nezumi says:

          … Once again, I am bewildered why so many men are enthusiastic for, or upset at opponents of, a system that’s pretty awful for them too. What exactly is the up side to being part of a system that portrays you and everyone like you as ravenous rapists with no real capacity for rational thought when it comes to women or sex?

        • Korva says:

          Ugh, yes. People claim feminists are man-haters, but (a very small radical fringe aside) we aren’t the ones declaring all men to be violent criminals and torturers “by nature”.

  9. Raja says:

    I personally love the darker take that this Tomb Raider is going for and its definitely different than what previous TR titles have been (Been playing TR since I was like oh 10) Angel of Darkness attempted to inject a darker theme into the series and while many hated it I didn’t think it was a bad game in its own right. I am glad they chose to bring Lara back to her tomb raiding roots and I do like the style they are going for as the dungeons do look a lot creepier along with the whole environment. With that said i can see how the first e3 coverage of the game can be taken as rape pornish, I honestly wasn’t too eager for its release before i saw this years footage and than i was stoked.

  10. Alison says:

    From Rosenberg’s comments and the redesign, I can’t help feeling they were trying to tap into the girl next door trope for this Lara. Which makes it all the more creepy to me. They’re trying to make Lara to be a softer, more innocent person, while emphasizing that they don’t intend the player to inject themselves into Lara.

    The player white knights their way through the game. And, it’s not an acceptable message to tell people they’re free to “help” people that never asked for it. It’s not that far from Nice Guy (TM) jerkness of feeling entitled to reciprocation.

    Then there’s the issue of not playing as Lara. Is the player some puppet master? Emphasizing the separation between player and Lara, while having complete control of her, is a frightening idea to me. Why would I want to play as someone’s manipulator?

  11. Juushika says:

    There’s a new official statement (if the link works; if not, it’s also here) concerning these issues. Thoughts?

    (Seems a bit cake and eating it too, insofar as it’s a statement reassuring that the issue of rape pops up but isn’t explored in gruesome death, which is no real improvement–since rape threat is the lazy character builder exactly because it can be done in lazy allusion.)

  12. SunFlowerEnthusiast says:

    It kind of bothers me how many people have jumped the gun on this and are already referring to this as a rape scene. Having watched the clip, i would say the touching and forced kiss attempt is more general sexual aggression and an implied rape threat.

  13. Shanoa says:

    I really don’t know why attempted rape is off-limits or a big deal in the context of this game.

    Attempted rape and rape are used as plot points throughout all forms of media. It’s a terrible thing to happen to somebody, and it shouldn’t be glamorized. And nothing I’ve seen of the game suggests it will be… it looks brutal, terrifying, and malicious. And Lara looks strong for digging deep within herself and fighting back.

    I far prefer a Lara Croft that is developed as a person, than some 2-dimensional excuse for 3D T&A. I may not be able to relate to a [attempted] rape survivor, but I can relate to a person that sees hardship and battles through it. I can relate to a person that feels weak sometimes, or feels vulnerable sometimes, or feels scared. I can’t relate to a chick that faces down danger with nothing more to say or reflect than a glib remark… that’s no better than the characters in Gears of War.

    • Shanoa says:


      Gaming isn’t going to turn onto feminist ideals like a light switch. It’s going to happen gradually, step-by-step.

      I’d rather applaud Crsytal Dynamics for daring to take the chance and put the effort into creating a real, human, female lead. Enough people do that and we can give them (and everybody watching them) the idea ‘Hey, there’s an audience out there for this. Let’s keep exploring it’.

      Or they can hear it from the misogynists on one side, and hear us on the other side saying they didn’t do it perfectly enough, and they can [rightfully] think ‘Fuck it. We’re not trying that shit again. Let’s go back and make fighting fuck-toys again, at least we know there’s a market for that.’

      • Olivia says:

        PS: Gaming isn’t going to turn onto feminist ideals like a light switch. It’s going to happen gradually, step-by-step.

        Wow, that was incredibly patronizing and uncalled for.

      • Korva says:

        The thing is — how is Lara NOT still a fucktoy through and through? Even with the “we said rape but now we don’t mean it anymore” update, I honestly can’t view either her design, her portrayal nor the way they talk about her as intending anything else. And to me, this sort of battered but stills “sexy”, will-she-get-it-or-won’t-she-you-must-protect-her-nudge-nudge-wink-wink thing is worse than the infamous torpedo tits she used to sport. They’d never talk like this about a male lead. The fact that there are female players — or male players who DO want to identify with this character — apparently hasn’t crossed their minds either.

        Female characters don’t need to be “torn down” or have their vulnerable side emphasized in order to be made “human” or “believable” or whatever — it already happens all the damn time, it’s basically the default. It’s not new, it’s not special, it’s not unique, it’s not deep. It’s shallow and stereotypical as hell.

        • Matt says:

          Thank you for articulating something that’s been buzzing murkily in the back of my mind without me being even conscious of it.

          Showing the female protag to be “vulnerable” to make her more human sounds like the writer’s unconscious throwback to basing plausibility on bad stereotypes – or something more insidious.

          The latter sounds more convincing now that it occurs to me that (cf. David Wong’s Monkeysphere article and an XKCD strip) to humanize someone badass all you need to do is throw in some totally random crap about the character:

          The original Duke Nukem was an Oprah fan and fizzy pop addict.
          Doomguy was a lefty who had a pet bunny.
          The TF2 guys… well, they’ve got their things.

          No “vulnerability”, except maybe things like Heavy’s gluttony (the circumstances of which I suppose can merit its own fatphobia post here) or someone caring about something that is itself vulnerable.

          One passing bit of banter about some highly technical, nerdy issue about dating Neolithic pottery would have done far more to pull Lara Croft out of the flat-cartoon mold than a thousand beatings and attempted rapes combined.

          • Matt says:

            Disclosure: I never read the linked articles until just now.

            Not headdesking for want of $$$ for new desk.

            It’s actually worse than I could have caricatured it.

          • Korva says:

            “(…) to humanize someone badass all you need to do is throw in some totally random crap about the character

            Exactly! Other examples are Francis and his “I hate ” from L4D, and L4D2’s Ellis with his stories about his friend Keith, or indeed any of the banter between the Survivors. That’s memorable, and players like it.

            A pet, a hobby, a favourite saying/quote/battlecry, a remark about having learned about this-and-that in an elective college course or in Scouting, all that would actually lend character to a character. Add a beloved friend/professor/mentor/parent who inspired her and sparked her adventuring spirit, but died before being able to fulfill their wish to see Remote Adventure Location A or find the location of Mysterious Artifact B, and you have a motivation and the potential for a touching cutscene where she scatters the ashes at A or lays B on the grave. Or hell, they don’t even have to die (because the “dead mentor” is really stereotypical too), maybe they just grew too old and know, or maybe they were hospitalized by Jealous Rival C, who then can be the enemy.

            What does “she’s so vulnerable, you need to protect her” tell us? Nothing. Well, nothing about the character, anyway.

            • Korva says:

              Whoops! That’s supposed to be Francis and his “I hate (insert pretty much anything the Survivors come across)”.

      • Deviija says:

        No company making products to sell to we as consumers is above critique and analysis. The latter post really smacks of the ‘Stop complaining about it or else they won’t want to make a female protagonist for a game’ fear excuse, imo. If something is done questionably or poorly, there is nothing uncalled for in criticizing it and/or raising questions for an open fora discussion. If companies (especially dominated by straight white men) do not know what is problematic or what can be done better in the future, then they’ll continue perpetuating the same issues and the same problems we have right now. They’ll simply assume that, hey, apparently everyone/every demographic liked it and we’ll make more of the same! And more of the same problematic issues is not something I’m interested in, personally.

        It’s like how BioWare proves to be an ally, yet it still makes plenty of mistakes and has plenty of portrayal issues from gender on down the list. But they do show that they listen and try to improve (the Dragon Age team in particular, anyway). Whether they are successful or not-so-successful, they still continue trying to do right and continue offering ‘minority content’ (be that playing as a lady protagonist or same-sex romances etc). All of that does not make them invulnerable to critic and being called out when things are problematic. Same goes here.

        • Shanoa says:

          I don’t think they should be above critique, but I’m not seeing a whole lot of constructive critique here or anywhere else on the internet.

          I’m seeing a lot of ‘oh that’s terrible, I refuse to buy it’. Which helps nobody, least of all the developers who are in the middle of developing a game.

          Of course, we could all wait till the final product comes out and judge it fairly in context before jumping to conclusions based on one trailer, but that’s just crazy talk in this day and age.

          • Olivia says:

            Of course, we could all wait till the final product comes out and judge it fairly in context before jumping to conclusions based on one trailer

            1. People’s comments are aren’t just based on “one trailer,” they are also based on comments made by the developers and producers of the game.

            2. Why is it unfair to judge what we have seen thus far? The interviews and the trailers were designed to invite our judgement, to ensnare our interest and entice a purchase. There is nothing unfair about making decisions about how to spend our limited time and money based on the marketing materials that companies have produced for the specific purpose of helping us make that very decision. When you see a trailer for a movie that you think looks unappealing, are you inclined to go spend $15 and two hours sitting in a theater just confirm whether or not your initial impression was correct?

            but that’s just crazy talk in this day and age.

            Can you please just stop commenting if you’re going to continue on in this condescending manner? You’re just being rude to folks who have done nothing save post opinions that are contrary to yours and it’s just really inappropriate here.

      • Lake Desire says:

        Didn’t I say I appreciate the effort?

      • Meishuu says:

        How is this “new” Lara NOT a fighting fuck-toy?

    • Lake Desire says:

      Did I say I have a problem with rape plots ever being used?

  14. OkCyborg says:

    this is depressing. i was really looking forward to the game when i saw that they managed to give lara a more realistic and less sexualized look. but reading about the plans for her leaves me more than uncomfortable and the comments of rosenberg make me cringe.
    basically he is saying that straight guys cant relate to a female characters in any other way than in becoming their chauvinistic protector, and even that only happens when the women are beautiful, vulnerable and under the threat of sexual violence – a good prey for the nice guys, the white knights if they just do their job well and are faster than the evil stranger.

    rosenberg said :

    “The ability to see her as a human is even more enticing to me than the more sexualised version of yesteryear. She literally goes from zero to hero… we’re sort of building her up and just when she gets confident, we break her down again.”

    i really wonder if he meant that lara was more a human being than a fighting machine or more a human being than a woman. maybe some people just can care for women after they got broken. this comment leaves me disturbed.

  15. Maverynthia says:

    I’m just dubbing this as Tomb Raider: Other M and moving on. A similar thing happens to Samus in her game.

  16. idvo says:

    Oh, forget this game. When I first saw Lara’s redesign and read some very early info on the reboot, I thought it would take on a more survivalist aspect. You know, crashing on the island and having to overcome the challenges of wildlife and fighting other treasure seekers or whatever. I was excited for it. Now? I’d rather play Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball than even *watch* this game being played. At least that game is honest about what it’s trying to do, instead of presenting me with some twisted version of female “empowerment” that’s really only showing how “vulnerable” women are and let the game’s presumed male audience feel good about protecting Lara while also getting off on her moaning in pain and fear.

    It also pisses me off that they’ve completely ignored the fact that women play their games, too. Unlike how they think their male audience will react, I’m not going to see myself as a “protector.” I’m going to see myself as Lara, and if I played this game, my time would be spent saving *myself* from rapists. Yeah, no thanks.

    The developers talk about the plot like it’s oh-so-new and subversive, but it’s just a rape-revenge exploitation flick in game form. From what I’ve seen, this game isn’t doing anything to improve how women are portrayed in games. It’s still casting us in the role of the weak and fragile “fairer sex” that needs knights in shining armor to save us from the bad guys, while conveniently forgetting that the bad guys and the knights are sometimes one and the same, and that the knights can be vulnerable, too.

  17. Alex says:

    The creators are apparently taking it back that the scene is an attempted rape: Well, at least they know it’s a problem, even if they clearly don’t understand why.

  18. Ikkin says:

    So is vulnerability more realistic? Perhaps. I don’t mind vulnerable characters, but I find it is too easy of a characterization, and is something men tend to be comfortable with. (I recall how Battlestar Galactica creators went out of their way to show Starbuck’s vulnerable side, but never did the same for Lee Adama.) Overcoming victimhood and sexual trauma are primarily female character arcs, and not especially original. We don’t see the same transformation from vulnerable to badass in male characters.

    Something I’d like to note is that, when male characters are given a vulnerability-to-strength storyline, they rarely start out helpless and scared — it’s not about becoming strong so much as trading bravado and bluster for true strength of character.

    • Laurentius says:

      Actually there is similar trope for men as well, villains often have that kind of past but not heroes.

      • Ikkin says:

        If you’re referring to the Freudian Excuse trope, I don’t think it’s really the same thing.

        The fact that it’s usually used as a backstory for villains is important here – the abuse taken by such characters is generally used to explain their moral weakness rather than their physical strength (which is somewhat problematic in its own right).

        I find the present-tense breaking of sympathetic characters to be the more relevant comparison here. As a specific character, I’d put forth Kingdom Hearts’ Riku, whose first viewpoint scenario involved the villain who had stolen his body in the first game repeatedly sabotaging his attempts to escape his control. But, even when he’s backing away from that villain ineffectually, he never reaches the same degree of pathetic to which Lara seems to have been reduced because he’s so aggressive and filled with bravado otherwise. And because he believes so strongly in that illusion of self-sufficiency, he actually has something he can learn by being broken instead of starting as low as he could be and falling every time he thinks he’s getting better.

        (Or in other words, breaking the hero is something you do when the hero has deeply-ingrained bad habits that need to be dealt with. If your hero starts as a blank slate, kicking them down whenever they do anything is unlikely to do anything of value for your story)

        • Laurentius says:

          “The fact that it’s usually used as a backstory for villains is important here – the abuse taken by such characters is generally used to explain their moral weakness rather than their physical strength (which is somewhat problematic in its own right).”

          I’d rather think it’s both as there are numerous examples for this but exactly this kind of backstory implies also their moral downfall so it’s not used on male heroes. Somehow male heroes can take the beating but remaining resolute or have some kind mental breakdown (though rarely whimpering in fear but that happens sometimes too) but without physical abuse as it seems combination of these two ( like in this villain backstory trope) rather implies breaking character then making. It’s interesting and telling though that devs decided that it would be used to make a woman hero character like Lara.

  19. Katie says:

    My enthusiasm for this reboot completely burnt out after seeing the trailer. Yeah, the old Lara was the poster girl of Fighting Fucktoys, but at least she was never threatened with rape, or other nasty things like in the trailer.
    As someone already said, this is just trading one hetero male sexual fantasy for an even more disturbing hetro male fantasy.
    My sister, on the other hand, has no problems with the trailer. She said that it was “realistic”, and that for years Lara had been this “untouchable” being, and this game was going to challenge that. She went on to say that Nathan Drake tended to get beaten up a lot in his games. Now I’ve only played a little of Uncharted, but I highly doubt that Drake is threatened with rape in his games. And he’s probably never shown sobbing or mewling in pain.
    If they had dropped the whole reboot thing, and made an original survival horror game with a female protagonist, and removed all the problematic elements, I would have considered buying this game.

    • idvo says:

      “If they had dropped the whole reboot thing, and made an original survival horror game with a female protagonist, and removed all the problematic elements, I would have considered buying this game.”

      Yes, this. Reboots are feeling more and more useless to me. Now there are some that I like, I won’t deny that, but really, what’s the point? All they seem to do is change the core aspects of whatever the original was into something (usually) “darker and edgier,” and with so many reboots we get stuck with the same types of characters and tropes. It’s time for something new.

      If this was a new IP, that would be one thing. I would still be suspicious of it, but at least it wouldn’t make me so angry. But to take one of the few truly iconic female game characters and tear her down so much, ostensibly to build her up, makes no sense to me. There are ways that they could have shown her as young and naive in a prequel without turning her into a victimized damsel in distress.

      Perhaps I was a bit quick to judge this game in my earlier comment. It hasn’t been released yet, and it’s possible that the story will be better than I expect. However, from what I’ve seen so far, I’m extremely wary of it.

  20. Pingback: The Story of a Woman: Lara Croft

  21. Trodamus says:

    This game will be comprised of 8-12 hours of gameplay (including noninteractive cinematics), detailing Laura’s experiences over the course of what I presume to be anything from several in-game days to around a week. Correct me if I’m wrong but the vast majority, if not all gameplay we’ve been shown has been from the “early” portions of the game.

    I do think they made a mistake with the rape in the game. Specifically, I think they made the mistake of telling us or showing us any part of it pre-release. Without context, backstory, setting, emotional impact or development, it is very, very, very easy to call it problematic. To say nothing of the rape theater we’re now experiencing at the neotenic hands of “gaming journalism.”

    I do not think it is impossible for this to be handled maturely and with the appropriate gravity within the context of the game itself. I do think that, regardless as to how it is portrayed, it will be easy to criticize it.

    So I ask a question. If you were writing this game, and it had to have this rape event in it, how would you write it?

    • Melanija says:

      The thing is, it doesn’t HAVE to have this event. It is not central to the plot or Lara’s character development that she experience sexual assault or attempted rape. They have now made it quite clear that rape is not something that they are “covering” in this game, it’s simply thrown in as another random Bad Thing that’s used to “break” her so that the player will see her as vulnerable and want to protect her. On top of that, this particular Bad Thing is the one that leads to the defining moment where she kills someone for the first time, which is why it falls into the “rape is needed to make women strong” trope.

      While I definitely agree that it’s not impossible for rape or sexual assault to be handled maturely in video games, I don’t think it’s possible in this game, as they are not interested in creating room to seriously portray the issues involved. And that’s fine, they don’t have to, but in that case the scene should have been written as a different event.

    • Matt says:

      The first thing I’d do is get the hell out of that basement and wash my hands before I eat anything because who the fuck are these people I’m dealing with who absolutely insist that there must be some element of rape in their game.

      And if it really isn’t a basement full of Cat Piss Guys masturbating to my GMing and it’s one of the higher-ranking ideas guys in a legit dev team, I’ll just try to be polite and convincing in showing him a) just how much creepy rape fetish stuff there is out there and b) just how utterly cliché whatever rape trope he wants is and that it’s likely to leave, far from the dramatic impact he wants, mere eye-rolling and disgust at us the makers who put this thing in here.

      If that doesn’t work I’ll tell him I’m going to pretend it’s him being sexually assaulted the whole time I’m writing it and will leave it to the graphics and art directing people to realize from context that the references to him are actually the protag. After uploading the abridged script to a few choice websites.

    • Matt says:

      Forgot to address this, which was implicit in my response:

      I do not think it is impossible for this to be handled maturely and with the appropriate gravity within the context of the game itself. I do think that, regardless as to how it is portrayed, it will be easy to criticize it.

      The problem I see is that whatever your intentions are there is no human being alive on this earth who wouldn’t be viewing the resulting work with all the baggage the Patriarchy has dumped on them. The misogynist sees her getting her due; the closet misogynist pretends to himself he’s empathizing with her vulnerability when really he’s just appreciating it on another level; the (small-c, thoughtful, not-one-of-the-previous-categories) conservative sees gratuitous sexual violence to satisfy a depraved audience; the feminist sees either that or some dreary mindless tropewank; the untrained viewer just sees another “lowest common demoninator” cliché thrown in in an effort to make things more dramatic.

      That said, I do agree that rape as an issue can be maturely and thoughtfully handled in a game. But that game should be completely about that issue, not some action adventure game that could have done completely without it and never needed it and from a series that never dealt with it before.

      • feministgamer says:

        That’s the biggest problem here, that any sexual violence won’t be portrayed with the weight it deserves. So far, it’s looking like “Level one: wolves! Level two: bears! Level three: rape! Two hundred points! You win!” Any game that includes a sexual assault on the main character should show the real trauma and impact it has on the victims. I’ve actually played a game where the main character was raped (she falls in love with him, btw). She felt only mildly inconvenienced by her own rape and never once thought about it again after it happened. This is a recurring trend.

        And I definitely don’t think the rape should be a QTE. That’s extremely problematic.

        • Matt says:

          ….as a QTE… where was that? D:
          (also I’m tempted to ask what other game that was you played but that risks bringing attention to it)

          • feministgamer says:

            The other game isn’t worth criticizing since it’s years old and the writer has publicly admitted he’s ashamed of it. Not sure if he’s ashamed for the right reasons, though.

            It may just be a rumor, but there is buzz about Lara Croft’s alleged attempted rape sequence in the game as a “press X to not be raped” sort of deal. I’ve also heard, from those who’d like to ignore its existence completely if they had a chance, that the sequence is there to motivate Lara into killing her first man and that if you fail, Lara dies (like that’s a major step up from the gaming *showing* us her rape). This isn’t something I’ve personally seen yet in the game (though the way time slows down in the trailer at the questionable moment is very open to inserting a QTE), whether or not it exists has sparked a dialogue about how the developers are going to treat the attempted rape that they’ve explicitly said is in the game.

      • Korva says:

        Great replies, Matt.

        IMNSHO, a hate crime simply isn’t something that should just be tossed into a game as some sort of filler or Generic Bad Thing. At worst, it would just turn into a sick thrill for the privileged audience, who can have their cake (the subhumans gets what they deserve!) and eat it too (but it’s not ME doing it so I certainly don’t have to feel bad). Even if that wasn’t the developers’ intention, you can bet your butt it would happen — especially with a sexual assault scenario because, as I said before, gaming is steeped in rape culture and abuse of women.

        If a company wanted to do it “right”, the team would first have to acknowledge the hatecrime as such. They’d have to examine themselves for possible prejudice and how it would influence their treatment of the subject. Then research the hell out of it. Pay particular attention to the voices of survivors, who are usually ignored in mainstream media — or worse. Make a list of common pitfalls to avoid like hell (e.g. anything that stinks of victim-blaming). Portray the effects of the crime on the character, including the horrible shit that society will throw at her/him, but without reducing the character to nothing-but-a-victim.

        They’d also have to be aware of the privilege and prejudice of a good part of their audience, and be prepared to unflichingly challenge that audience to recognize and examine its own sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. — and they’d have to do it without sounding “preachy”.

        It’d be a huge challenge, especially in a stereotypical “mainstream” game. And I definitely agree it would have to be a or even the primary focus for the whole game.

    • Trodamus says:

      Thank you all for your replies.

      For some background on why I’m more or less defending the concept: I am rooting for this to be an excellent game that deconstructs the previous Lara by showing what kind of harrowing experiences would be necessary to make an action hero so detached. Even minus the deconstruction — which I admit may not intentionally exist — I am intrigued to see such a character-focused piece, which will see her going from whimpering to bold and triumphant. I would like this to be so successful that other games follow suit, making true characters rather than convenient detached vehicles that plow through action set pieces.

      That said, I really think the reboot needs a better PR team, because these guys just keep on saying the wrong things. Things like dropping the rape news when they shouldn’t have even mentioned it, because it really isn’t sound bite material, or coming up with the “vulnerable” line when they should have known it’s a loaded word. Or that weird “you’ll want to root for her” because “you’re her helper” line.

      I don’t think it’s impossible that it will be handled tactfully or appropriately as befits the character they will have presented to that point in the game, and then reacted upon for the remainder of the game. That was part of what I was trying to say — it’s a dozen-hour narrative, of which we’ve seen relatively little and we only know the rape scene exists because someone told us.

      To this point, they’ve withheld quite a bit of the late-game “strong Lara” and I think that’s intentional. It’s probably something they want people to experience firsthand. So what i’m saying is, we really have no idea how it’s going to be handled. We just know that it exists.

      The reason why I say it’s easy to criticize is for what Melanija and obscurefox both say: it falls into the “rape makes women strong” trope. I feel it’s a catch-22, where she either triumphs over the rape and her rapist, thus falling into the above, or she doesn’t and it breaks her and that’s got problems too. This is why I asked, “how would you write it,” because I’d like to know, how do you avoid the above?

      Part of that would be making it clear that it has had an emotional and psychological impact on her for the rest of the game. Maybe it’s this that makes Lara cold, hard and detached: that she doesn’t trust anyone ever again. It’s not making the game “completely about that issue, as Matt believes it should be, but it would be something next to it at least.

      But a major, MAJOR part of making this work, would be to not undermine the scene with a post-kill the rapist achievement (“No means no” unlocked!”). It can’t be gamey, as feministgamer suggests. There shouldn’t be an escape for the people playing, where they can take refuge in it being fiction. They should know it’s a real thing, a terrible thing, and anything gamey will I think revoke that.

      Though I do want to fight back against one assertion specifically. Mat and Korva both stated something to the effect of, “someone might enjoy this scene too much.” So long as it’s presented gravely and maturely, such that any reasonable person has the “right” reaction, I don’t see how it’s relevant that a deviant subset gets a thrill out of it.

      • Melanija says:

        “I feel it’s a catch-22, where she either triumphs over the rape and her rapist, thus falling into the above, or she doesn’t and it breaks her and that’s got problems too. This is why I asked, “how would you write it,” because I’d like to know, how do you avoid the above?”

        You avoid the above by not including rape as a plot point in a game that isn’t going to take it seriously. In reality, having successfully fought off a rapist is not a triumphant thing that elevates you, while learning to live with having survived a completed rape takes a ton of strength of its own. In order to not have either result turn into a cliche, you’d have to show things like that and how it’s not as simple as one means you won (and are strong) and the other means you lost (and are weak). Some of the things you mention could help in a game that wanted to do this, but, after hearing the studio head say that “Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game”, I don’t think they even WANT to deal with these topics in this game, and frankly I don’t blame them.

        Either way, that’s not to say that there won’t still be good things in the game. I’m still personally planning on playing it, I was looking forward to it way to much to give up on it completely, but now I will probably just rent it instead of buying as I had originally planned. Nevertheless, the fact that the executive producer even SAID that the game (at least part of it) is about “breaking” Lara so that the player can protect her is something that I think we can critique and say that is not what we want in the game, without having actually played through the whole thing ourselves. How much this actually features in the game is irrelevant to whether or not we think that this is a good design philosophy to be working from.

        Finally, to bring it back to the attempted rape, the idea of breaking her down is also not a great place to start from when deciding to include a scene featuring sexual assault, and especially the sexual assault of someone who has traditionally been a sex symbol. Together with their lack of interest in covering rape as a theme, this further cements my belief that the game isn’t going to break out of cliche territory on this topic.

      • Laurentius says:

        But question is why this is even in game and why should it be there in the first place ? I mean I read this book as a kid/teen that gathered a bunch of absolute classics of “survival” stories with such prominent ones like “The Birds” by D. du Maurier, “Three Skeleton Key” by G.G. Toudouze, “Through the tunnel” by D. Lessing and in a way “mother” of survival story “The Most Dangerous Game“ by R. Conneli, none of these and (a bunch of others that were in that book) didn’t used sexual violence as plot vehicle or character development, there is so many things to go with instead…

      • Korva says:

        So long as it’s presented gravely and maturely, such that any reasonable person has the “right” reaction, I don’t see how it’s relevant that a deviant subset gets a thrill out of it.

        What if the “deviant subset” isn’t a subset? Again: rape culture. Again: gaming is up over its eyeballs in it, as are “mainstream media” in general. Who blinks an eye at yet another sexualized female victim? Where is rape actually ever handled “gravely and maturely”, with full respect and support for the victim? Nowhere — except in feminist spaces, and we all know what sort of reactions THAT triggers.

        And even if it really was handled with a utter, brutal honesty that forces every player except total sociopaths to deeply examine themselves and their surroundings, I still wouldn’t want it in a game, because I want my games to be fun. Realistic depictions of torture and hatecrimes are anything but fun. Honestly, why would anyone pay for that sort of thing? The ones who’d badly need such an “education” wouldn’t do it even if there was a hell and it froze over.

        • Melanija says:

          “Realistic depictions of torture and hatecrimes are anything but fun. Honestly, why would anyone pay for that sort of thing?”

          Because it is a part of life, and confronting and examining it through various forms of media can be one way to deal with or understand it. There can be games that are all about fun, and there can be games that explore serious topics, just like there can be for any other media, and each individual can choose to play or not play whichever kind they like.

          • Pai says:

            I think the Tomb Raider franchise is probably a poor vehicle for any kind of examination of serious issues, seeing as how the entire series is about pulpy action adventure.

            • Melanija says:

              I agree, see my earlier posts. :)

              I was responding more to the idea that Korva seemed to not think ANY game should handle this kind of content, although I may have misunderstood, and if so I apologize.

          • Deviija says:

            Another question to ask is: are games even mature enough to approach these subjects maturely and with an educated stance for confronting and examining serious topics? As they are now, I think it is a huge ‘no.’ With ‘grimdark’ and ‘gritty’ Euro-centric privileged games so plentiful (like that of Witcher and Witcher 2), rape as sidequests — where you can help a victim or roll on by — litter the landscape. Even fairly mature DA still fits that and succumbs to poor dealings with rape in the City Elf origin. Heck, if you choose to leave the captured women (one of which is a friend) to the rapist(s), Soris, your elf cousin, pretty much says ‘lol oh well, she’ll get over it.’

            We have the tools to deal with serious issues. We just don’t have the (right) people in the industry and the talents and social responsibility required to deal with these issues, imo.

          • Korva says:

            Most things that are part of real life aren’t in games. One reason why I so hate the idea of rape in entertainment is because some people will invariably cry it is “realistic” for women to be raped in games. Yet rape isn’t handled in a “realistic” manner in the industry (as we all agree here), AND these people don’t want any “realism” that w0uld actually affect them and their own fun. “Maturity” too is often an extremely loaded term for “I want lots of brutality and lots of bitches, preferably at the same time”. It does give me some hope that sometimes a non-feminist site will actually criticize something like that atrocious recent Hitman trailer. But that hope is quickly crushed by any look at the comments on those more “mainstream” sites, or even at forums that I thought were decent enough places yet where threads about how the trailer is cool and fun and fine, or how discrimination doesn’t exist or only exists where people “allow” themselves to be discriminized against, aren’t met with any opposition.

            On an abstract, theoretical level I can admittedly see your point about using entertainment as “education” about such things. But with the industry and society as a whole being what they are, I don’t think it’d work. And any attempt should come with a big trigger warning on the box.

      • Deviija says:

        As others have said, you avoid the above by not including rape as a plot point in a game that isn’t going to take it seriously. Rape/attempted rape is *not* a sidequest or the objective to a level or a boss/QTE situation that needs to be overcome to triumph. Press A to triumph over your attacker and find the power to learn to throw punches at people and shoot guns. Yes, that sounds ridiculous, because it *is* ridiculous. And it is how it is handled in games. A woman gets sexually assaulted/raped and thus learns to use weapons/to fight back/to become a badass. It’s not necessarily a character building event at all. It is a traumatic event. It is an event that goes beyond just the physical altercation, attempt or fail, it has incredible lasting effects mentally and emotionally. Never see those things dealt with either.

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  23. obscurefox says:

    One thing that really bothers me about the rape or attempted rape makes the woman character stronger , and suddenly learn how to fight back and become tougher. In real situations it’s not always like that. rape survivors may be led to feel bad about themselves if after the rape or attempted rape they didn’t get all strong and such, maybe they even became more timid and had some kind of break down . It’s really annoying to see rape used as a character builder . It creates an idea of how a survivor is expected to behave. I also just think it’s lazy, I mean , can’t these men come up with any other idea for a woman to overcome to make them stronger , of course rape culture is so ingrained in the culture that perhaps that’s all they can imagine.

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  25. feministgamer says:

    I’m sorry, but I just have to say, I watched the gameplay only trailer, and it’s just abuse after abuse. There are no highs and lows, it was just low, low, low, low, low.

    For those who haven’t watched the E3 demo, just as an example from it: She falls down a waterfall (after surviving many excruciating moments to get there), nearly dodges mortal dangers in a high speed water current, lands on the windshield of a plane that’s going to break out from underneath her, she grabs a parachute just as she falls, she pulls the cord but the parachute FAILS, she pulls the second cord which works but how she’s running face-first into trees via parachute – until one strap of her parachute breaks and then she runs into a tree and falls onto its limbs one by one with a speed that would break ribs until she finally crashes to the ground. She’s whimpering and screaming for her life the whole way. She can barely stand afterwards.

    Really. I’m just. What am I? Disgusted? I can’t believe this sequence exists and it’s what they chose to demonstrate their game. I can now easily believe that their entire game is nothing but torture porn, and I was never a fan of that.

    The mechanics look fun and it could have been a really good survival game, but I’m just numb at the idea of this entire game being exactly what they’re saying it will be.

    • Nezumi says:

      Calling it torture porn is an insult to actual torture porn. At least that’s self-aware that it’s a form of niche pornography, rather than being presented as mainstream entertainment.

      • Nezumi says:

        Apparently, I’m misunderstanding the term, based on its literal meaning. Here’s something: WORDS MEAN THINGS. Torture Porn should be porn that’s about torture! Eroguro. Waita Uziga. Demonophobia. That sort of thing. And that doesn’t pretend it’s something normal people should be interested in. Saw or whatever does, and that’s kinda problematic.

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