Why the New Tomb Raider isn’t that bad

So, Kotaku posted an article that got people upset, talking about how people will want to “protect” Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, with quotes from executive producer Ron Rosenberg.

There were a couple of disturbing things in there: firstly, the idea that people don’t project themselves into Lara as a character.  The viewpoint presented here is that all gamers are men and therefore don’t identify with Lara, instead they want to protect her.  Later on, there is talk of an attempted rape, where Rosenberg describes her as being like a cornered animal.  Just clumsy language, but ultimately dehumanising.  Tit.

So, why am I here saying that the game itself isn’t that bad?

Firstly, Rosenberg may or may not be an arsehole, I don’t care.  Executive producers are essentially there to sign cheques, nothing more.  He was likely also tired after talking to many many people and picked his words stupidly; he probably just started talking to a journalist as if he was just some guy.  The whole thing about “attempted rape” appears to have come from nowhere, as the game does not feature the prospect of sexual assault whatsoever.  Bear in mind the word “interview” in the context of E3 could very well mean “spoke to while surrounded by dozens of other people”, I don’t know the context, but yeah, as I said – tit.

Secondly, the treatment of the character of Lara Croft within this Tomb Raider is realistic, human, and shows a depth of thought that would have been unheard of back in the days of Eidos dressing Nell McAndrew in green Spandex.  This is an important point that has been completely missed in the fallout over Rosenberg’s article.  Many articles have hit upon the idea that attempted rape is lazy storytelling; certainly it’s a trope that is in danger of becoming a cliché but I doubt anyone has seen enough about the story to know whether it truly is lazy storytelling or not.  Even if the game did contain a scene of attempted rape, which it doesn’t, and I’m glad it doesn’t… but if it did, the question as to whether it doing so was a negative or a positive thing would depend on how it is treated in the final product, a product which remains to be seen beyond a trailer.

Thirdly, some people seem to have a strange idea that by putting Lara in danger the developers are themselves subjecting the character to these unpleasant situations.  ”How could they do all this unpleasant stuff to Lara!?” …as if Lara Croft is a real person who could be kept away from danger simply by the writers writing it that way.  This is a strange criticism to level and is one that doesn’t make sense; it’s akin to blaming Alice Sebold for what happens to the title character in The Lovely Bones.  I simply do not understand this line of thought.

Fourthly, the nitpicking… I totally understand why people do this because when something goes into a direction that you don’t like you want to look at it from every single angle in order to find ways to bring it down.  Nitpicking including pointing out how Lara sounds like.. well, like you’d expect a woman in the situation she’s in to be honest.  Lara has always made noises when moving around, when jumping, climbing, etc, and people have always been keen to point out how sexual those sounds are.  To those people I say this: watch women’s tennis and listen to the sound.  Seriously.

Yes, the new Tomb Raider thrusts a young Lara Croft into a difficult and terrifying situation that she needs to escape, and maybe that’s not the most original piece of storytelling ever, but it’s not an exercise in sexist exploitation.  In fact it’s a somewhat refreshing reboot of a character as a more realistic and in many ways stronger role model than the previous “rich girl whose parents died in a plane crash” view of Lara.  Strength in the real world lies in overcoming adversities; maybe it’s true that the new Tomb Raider is a bit hamfisted in the way it does that, but that’s a far cry from being deliberately sexist.

So yeah, it may have an Executive Producer badly in need attending Talking To The Press 101 and perhaps many other things, but the new Tomb Raider currently doesn’t seem to be as bad as everyone’s making out that it is.  In fact, it’s the kind of thing that should be being praised for its positive portrayal of a female role model.

One thought on “Why the New Tomb Raider isn’t that bad

  1. from http://blogs.metro.co.uk/games/the-immature-violence-video-games/

    What also concerned me was another post-E3 controversy over a supposed rape scene in Tomb Raider. The truth of the story seems to be that it’s only implied Lara’s captors intend to rape her at a certain point, but what confuses is me is why this should be in any way controversial in a mature-rated game. Especially as you’re playing the victim, not the aggressor.

    Everything I’ve seen of the Tomb Raider reboot so far suggests it’s a far more psychologically complex game than any of its peers, and one of the few action titles at E3 that genuinely deserves to be called adult.

    Not because of its violence or gore, but because Lara acts like a real human being: she’s terrified by her surroundings and she becomes almost traumatised at having to kill a man (whose designs on her are left uncomfortably ambiguous).

    And yet according to the game’s developer some members of the American press have already criticised this approach because it means ‘she whinges a lot’. An exasperating attitude that seems to underline just how immature mature-rated games – and gamers – tend to be.

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