The Victimization Of Lara Croft


I was hopeful. I saw the new take on Lara Croft way back when and thought, well, color me intrigued. The old Lara Croft never really spoke to me — comic book proportions, sassy British accent, short-shorts, whatever. No harm, no foul, but not the game for me. And then along comes this new reimagining — Lara Croft by way of John McClane. A rougher, tougher hero — kicked around but triumphant.

I was good with that.

I’m not so good with it now.

I refer you to this article: You’ll ‘Want To Protect’ The New, Less Curvy Lara Croft, at Kotaku.

From that article:

“When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character,” Rosenberg told me at E3 last week when I asked if it was difficult to develop for a female protagonist.

“They’re more like ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of ‘I’m going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.’”

So is she still the hero? I asked Rosenberg if we should expect to look at Lara a little bit differently than we have in the past.

“She’s definitely the hero but— you’re kind of like her helper,” he said. “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.”

Well, sure. Because who could possibly relate to a — snerk, gasp — female protagonist? Better instead to assume that we’re just helping the poor dear along. Because if we don’t, well…

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.

“She is literally turned into a cornered animal,” Rosenberg said. “It’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s forced to either fight back or die.”

Ah! See, there it is. If we don’t act as her helper, we’ll “help” her get raped.

Aaaaaand then killed.

As a storyteller, this is troubling on a number of levels — that we humanize a female character by making her weak, by forcing her into the role of the victim. I’m not saying there’s not a mode for a story where a woman fights off brutal male attackers and triumphs against them. There is. I’m also not sure that Tomb Raider is it. Especially since we had a character who was shallow, yes, but she was also a wealthy confident ass-kicker who brooked no bullshit. She wasn’t a potential sexual bullseye for a bunch of island thugs. Is this our current idea of a strong female character? A bloodied victim? An abused teen girl? Is there no middle-ground between “super-bazoomed comic book heiress” and “survivor of torture porn island adventure?” Can’t we scuff her up but keep the rape out of it? And can’t we come to her being a strong relatable character not because she’s a woman, not despite the fact she’s a woman, but regardless of it?

As a human fucking being, this is troubling on one particular level: that all women can hope for is to get out alive and, y’know, unraped. We already approach rape in this culture like it’s a pothole in the road you need to avoid — as if the power to not get raped is solely in the hands of the woman. As if the onus of responsibility is not at all on the scum-fuck rapists. It always seems to be a message of How Not To Get Raped as opposed to How Not To Be A Shitty Fucking Rapist. Nobody’s saying women shouldn’t learn to be strong and protect themselves — but it’s not a woman’s responsibility not to get raped.

And yet, that’s what this Tomb Raider appears to be saying.

This doesn’t make her bad-ass.

It doesn’t make her or the situation “more real.”

(As if that’s what games like this need — a hard high dose of rapey reality.)

It doesn’t improve her or make her stronger.

It goes too far. It pushes too hard. It weakens her deeply.

We cannot “relate.” We need to “help” and “protect” her.

We turn her human by “literally” making her a “cornered animal?”

All this says some very scary things about how we look at women, I think.

(A caveat: this is based on this one article and some game footage. For all I know, the game will come out and not be this at all — but by all indications, we’re in for some trouble with this one.)

(Also check out this post by Kat Howard.)


82 responses to “The Victimization Of Lara Croft”

  1. Well, gosh, I’m disappointed, since the other Tomb Raider titles were such paragon examples of enlightened handling of gender and objectification.

    Oh, wait.

  2. And furthermore! The way not to get raped is to become a “cornered animal”. Because if a human female is incapable preventing men from acting on their completely natural rape instincts, she must become… ( wait for it) a literal bitch.

    *sigh*

  3. The worst part is, the gameplay footage (and the character design itself) looks like it could be an excellent game. But the motivations of the studio and the apparent content of the game throws a huge spanner in the works.

    Like I said on twitter, it sounds like Tomb Raider: I Spit on Your Grave, and that’s not something I ever needed or wanted. Making Lara less perfect is fine, preferable even. adding a little John McClane to the character is a great idea. But there’s a HUGE chasm between “unstoppable badass” and “little red rapey hood.”

    Essentially, more Katniss-like, please.

  4. Gareth, that doesn’t really excuse things. What’s more, the larger issue is that Crystal Dynamics is presenting this game as the SOLUTION to Tomb Raider’s earlier treatment of women.

  5. I have ranted about this topic /so many times/. Women are treated like second class citizens in so many video games. As a female gamer, it makes me insane. A few companies tend to get it right — I’ve never wanted to throttle Bioware that I can recall — but the vast majority of gaming companies portray females as fuckable victims needing to be rescued instead of, you know, capable and strong. (And God forbid any of those women are ever ugly or realistic looking. PIN UP OR BUST.)

    Lara Croft was never what I’d call the poster-child for empowered women in video games, but if this sees the light of day, I’m going to have to suggest the writers played a bit too much Duke Nukem. And we know how gender-sensitive THAT series is. Industry needs to stop catering to the privileged white thirteen year old gamer. It’s perpetuating a toxic mentality.

  6. Christopher — I’m not trying to excuse things, and I certainly hope that it doesn’t seem that I am.

    I was mocking the overall property, which has always been a clusterfuck of short-shorts and gravity-defying breasts.

    I was unaware that CD is presenting this as some sort of addressing of that , as you say.

  7. Maybe it’s just me, but I am not seeing the huge disconnect, here. I am not talking about the content (especially the rape – that should be an incredibly touchy subject regardless of the medium). Instead, what I am seeing is a general dislike that Lara isn’t a Total Badass from the get-go.

    It was my understanding, since the reboot was announced, that at the beginning, Lara isn’t all that empowered, and that it is her experiences in this origin story game that show her that she has that strength. It feels to me like everyone is reading “rooting for her” as “doing it for her.” As to the desire to protect her, I think that’s an emotional reaction most people would have to seeing a person in trouble.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s not you reading too much into it, but me reading not enough into it. Heroes, regardless of gender, don’t bust out with that kind of strength. Conflict and environment play into forging heroes just as much, if not more so, than personality. I don’t think it is demeaning to focus on the events that lead to Lara donning the hero cap, I think it is shitty that such extremes are less common for male heroes because the audience will accept it with less justification needed. That is just shitty, lazy storytelling.

    • “Maybe it’s just me, but I am not seeing the huge disconnect, here. I am not talking about the content (especially the rape – that should be an incredibly touchy subject regardless of the medium). Instead, what I am seeing is a general dislike that Lara isn’t a Total Badass from the get-go.”

      No, I think the issue is that we’re expected to not connect with her because she’s a woman, and in that lack of connection we’re supposed to help her not get raped and murdered.

      Now, again, I don’t know if the game is actually going to be LIKE that. But certainly that’s the indication here.

      There’s a GIANT HOWLING GULF between “Not A Total Badass” and “Potential Rape Victim.”

      — c.

  8. If they wanted to add weakness to humanize her, why didn’t they try something else that could be tied in with the plot?

    “On the island of Sodor, Lara Croft’s best friend has been kidnapped by the evil drug cartel that makes its base there shipping its cargo by trains. To make matters worse, Lara has been poisoned; only the rare Plantus Rarus herb can keep her from dying. Is Lara up to the task of saving her best friend while her own life is at stake?”

    Or…

    “On Gulla-Gulla Island, an evil terrorist organization has kidnapped her best friend’s family and is holding them hostage until they receive the launch codes for the deadly FRGGR missile system. Lara’s previous attempt to save the family resulted in her best friend being shot. Fighting the urge to give in as she worries she will make things worse, Lara must make her way through the jungle exterior without her trademark weapons.”

  9. I was all set to love this take on Lara Croft. A TOMB RAIDER that takes inspiration from games such as UNCHARTED? I am so in.

    A protagonist that starts off weak and kicked around but learns to fight and survive against the odds? Awesome. We need more of those stories in video games. I get tired of badasses who learn to overcome their own badassery in order to find their inner badass.

    A gritty environment full of real-world danger and horrible people? Let’s do it.

    I’m not entirely against using the protective instinct as a way to connect a player to a main character as long as the character grows to stand on their own.

    But this last article–the one you link to and quote in the post–did as much as anything could to completely kick the stool out of my interest.

    Don’t sell me weak and powerless. Don’t use the threat of rape as a bullet point. Don’t sell me the same tired misogynistic rhetoric just because you’re trying to make teenage boys more comfortable playing a non-sexualized female lead. The condescension toward both sexes in these statements sounds akin to some embarrassed gamer defending his “guy status” by nervously explaining to his broheims why he’d dare play a game with a female protagonist who doesn’t have her junk hanging out. “I’m not gay, dude, this is just, like, y’know, protecting my sister!”

    My hope–my sincere hope–is that Rosenberg is simply a horrible spokesperson for the game. That happens: producers and marketers have some vague idea about a game, enough to generate a list of buzzwords and talking points, and then they’re put out there as the face of a project. I’ve been on projects where some top people were clueless as to the game the development team was trying to make.

    I hope the men and women actually developing the new TOMB RAIDER read that article and exclaimed a collective “What the shit is he talking about?” If not, I hope they manage to steer this ship around in time.

  10. Thank you for this post, Chuck. Silly me, I honestly thought we had gotten past some of this shit in the 1970’s. But it looks like we have a binary choice in the portrayal of women in the media: over sexualized or victim. Not the message I want my kids growing up to internalize.

  11. What I want to know is where, in the fictional versions of rape utilized in games or movies, etc, do the people who create the stories get the idea that rape = instant badass/capabilty/evolution in a character. Have they never seen the aftermath of a sexual assault?

    Have they never seen how the majority of survivors, male or female, are the exact opposite of empowered?

    Have they never seen how, instead of rallying around the survivor, said survivor is made a culpable party in his/her own assault? (Well, gee, Lara, what were you doing out there on that island in shorts in the first place? I mean you had to know there was the possibility something bad would happen…)

    Have they never seen how, instead of killer instincts that turn a survivor into a warrior for all time, said survivor gets instincts that tells them to never go out at night, always watch their back, run from the guy at the store trying to return their keys because he’s ‘following’ them through the parking lot to their car?

    Have they never seen the empty eyes and shattered expressions and the sudden alien-ness of the survivor’s own skin even around friends and family.

    Rape isn’t about evolution. It’s DE-evolution, meant to strip a person’s self and empowerment away while reducing them to less than human. It’s not a source of strength or a magic-trigger that produces battle-hardened soldiers of fortune. It often becomes the dividing line of a life, where the “old” person died and was reincarnated as a new person. One that may be a survivor or may be a victim, but will never be quite the person they were before if only due to the way others treat them – like maybe there’s something to this idea that the survivor had even a teensy bit of culpability in the crime committed upon them.

    Of course, those of us who write for young adults, know this is nothing new. “Rape culture” is everywhere, ingrained in kids and fostered by adults. If you’ve never read this post: http://bookshop.livejournal.com/1032547.html Please do. It’s one of the best beakdowns of rape vs. romance and how the line gets blurred I’ve ever seen. (But it’s LONG, so be prepared.)

  12. Thankee for the linkification, Chuck.

    When people wonder why more women “don’t play video games” or at least don’t speak up about playing them, this sort of thing is precisely why.

    Rick, it’s definitely not a case of us reading too much into it, and it especially isn’t a case of players being all pouty that the character doesn’t kick ass from the opening scene.

    The point is that the executive producer for the game says its players won’t relate to a female character unless she’s presented as a victim they need to protect/save. That’s so many kinds of ridiculous I can’t even count. If you tell a good story, your players will relate to the characters regardless of gender.

  13. So many content creators (typically male in my experience) seem to think the only way to make a strong female character is to have had them experience a moment of total vulnerability and weakness earlier in their life. It’s never “life came at me, and I found I had a spine” it’s “all of this horrible stuff happened to me, and then once it was shown to me again and again how helpless I am I gave in to the more savage animal side and tried to fight back.”

    I also love how the rape part is written like part of a checklist in a bad joke.
    Step 1: Kidnap Friend
    Step 2: Dirty hobo savages grab female character
    Step 3: Attempted Rape (so edgy, so dark, we’re artists!)
    Step 4: ?
    Step 5: Profit!

    Granted, maybe this gets handled a lot better in the game than this article expresses. I /REALLY REALLY/ hope so because I was also excited for a dirtier, grittier Lara Croft origin story where, like John McClane, she gets in over her head but she never stops punching back. However, considering some of the quotes, I now fear for this project. Why would you take a strong, liberated female character and turn her into someone “you don’t want to project yourself into, but rather someone you want to protect.”

    Why can’t we just have a bad-ass female who, much like Leo in The Departed, found out that her hand NEVER shakes? Why not that?

    Is this why folks like Chuck write so many female protagonists? To make up for all the horrible ones other men are writing?

  14. I’ll say up front that Ron Rosenberg is a flaming moron, no matter what else happens with Tomb Raider. You do not go into a video game wanting to “protect the hero”, you go into a game wanting to BE the hero. Maybe the hero protects a cute little rabbit, that’s fine, but you’re still the hero. Or heroine. Whichever.

    As far as the rape* goes… Well, I’ve seen one trailer so far that didn’t push my “squick” button at all, so I’m withholding judgment. If the so-called rape consists of “tribal looking guy approaches Lara with unspecified malevolent intentions and she kicks his ass improv style”… well fuck it! That’s pretty standard game and movie fare and I’m okay with that. I still think Ron is an idiot for using the word “rape” under those circumstances, but the game won’t piss me off.

    If, on the other hand, we get Lara struggling with some asshole, losing, and the screen goes black and the next time you see her she’s curled up in a fetal position and crying… well I’m not going to be too happy, and I think all the anger I’m seeing here will be pretty well justified. God help Rosenberg if it turns out to be some active-time event a la the “sex” scenes in God of War.

    (Was that too far? I’m worried that may have gone too far.)

    *Disclaimer: I am male and therefore may not know what I am talking about.

  15. Thank you. I couldn’t find the words to explain why the new Lara Croft left me cold. The old Lara Croft wasn’t necessarilly a model of sexual equality but she was at least a very capable human being. The origin story put forward in those games was that Lara, a girl from a private boarding school flying home crashes in the mountains (Himalayas I think?). Rather than wait to be rescued she makes her own way out.

    The person I had in mind was not the squeaking maiden/victim they’re presenting. The “sassy” female archetype is just as trite but game developers can’t seem to conceive a woman that’s both strong, capable and not some psychotic tomboy (think of the Siren from Borderlands, or any ‘tough’ girl from gaming). Why aren’t young women allowed to possess a range of traits; angry, humourous, capable, vunerable, indifferent, caring. It’s either doe-eyed innoccent that needs rescuing because after all she’s just a girl. Or she’s tough and capable but completely sarcastic and sexually aggressive.

    I’d find their efforts redeemed if they made her motivation anger instead of “cornered animal”. No bitchyness, no looming threat of the sullied maiden, basically she’s angry and refuses to give in, and quite willing to take revenge. You know, like most male characters in videogames.

    I can’t help but feel comic books and bad action movies are to blame. These “great” writers they seem to get can’t work in anything other than broad character strokes, hiding behind talk of “player choice”. I’m going to spend a lot longer with a game character than any comic or film, so make damn sure your character has a real and nuanced personality.

    The last good female character I can recall is Alyx Valance (?) from Half-Life 2. It’s the only time I’ve seen a female not get pigeon-holed by female status (I’m ignoring the daddy’s girl part as it IS a post-apocolyptic world and he is her entire family)

    • “One of the earlier gameplay videos actually had a blatant rape attempt where the player has to hit X to prevent the rape.”

      !!?

      See, shit, I didn’t even know that.

      Brr.

      — c.

  16. I was about 10 when I first started playing Tomb Raider on my PlayStation One. Before then, Samus was the only female character that I’d come across that wasn’t a damsel in distress. And I loved it for it (Even if my favourite part of the game was exploring the mansion and finding the glitches in the butler). So this repackaging of Lara really bothers me. They’re turning the non-victim into another victim. Brilliant. I don’t want to have to ‘save’ my character – I want her to do the saving.

  17. Yep. Lara’s first human kill in the game, apparently, is a douchebag who tries to rape her in an interactive segment, so not even a cutscene. Which means that something obviously has to happen if the player FAILS to stop the rape.

  18. Christopher:

    …Goddamnitalltohell.

    Tell you what, let’s all go watch The Grey, pretend Liam Neeson is an English woman, and make up some way she survives at the end if we need to. That’ll be the new Tomb Raider origin story.

  19. I’m a woman, and WTF, man.

    Is it the woman’s responsibility to not get raped? You’re not serious, right? Who else is going to magically appear when she rides the subway at night, walks dark tunnels etc. What’s wrong with the message “how to not get raped? That’s normal, everyday female reality, avoiding that subway, that dark alley. If you don’t you dramatically increase the chances of getting raped. Plain and simple. While you go out and try to reform the rapists, I think in the meantime me and most other woman in her right mind will take on the responsibility to look out for herself. Normal.

    Is the main thing women can hope for not to get raped (and make it out alive)? Hell it is. Lara Logan anyone? Rape is the first serious thing that happens to a woman, maybe similar to a knock-out blow for a man. Reality check. It just is.

    The rape plot is not pessimistic or unrealistic or one sided or feminist or a viewpoint triggered by the paranoid sense that men are out to get women or victimize them bla bla. It’s awesome that they treat this subject the way it would play out in reality, instead of tiptoeing around it in a dreamworld phantasy where rape doesn’t happen, and instead she gets poisoned or just beat up. I mean, come on. Rape happens more often than poisoning women (unless the poisoning is in order to rape her, of course) Reality check. It just does.

    Does it make her stronger to fight back rapist attackers? Of course it does. Just like it would any other form of attack. Why would that not make you stronger? I don’t get it.

    And yes, getting raped is pretty much a loosing moment in every way. Why would it not be?

    That cornered animal image is really – weeeeeird. Was Andy Dufresne a cornered animal? But I think your “abused teen girl” image is even more bizarro, Is Andy Dufresne an abused teen boy? WTF man?

    This whole thing of “if you kick a guy in the face who wants to beat you you’re a hero” and “if you kick a guy in the face who wants to rape you” – you’re a hero if you are a man, but “if you kick a guy in the face who wants to rape you” and you’re a woman, you’re suddenly a “bloodied, abused teen girl victim” – WTF. I’d say that idea needs some serious rethinking.

    The only scary thing about woman I can see here is seeing them as victims when it’s not proven yet that they are, just because they get into rape danger. What’s up with that “teen victim” thing anyway. I want to see women’s hero stories treated equally as those of men and you’re seriously getting in the way of that with your surprisingly old fashioned views. Hadn’t expected that.

    • @”Lara Croft” —

      I’m not entirely sure if you’re serious, or if you’re even a woman.

      But suggesting that women not be portrayed as victims with whom we cannot relate and that they should in turn not be responsible for their own sexual abuse doesn’t seem particularly, erm, “old-fashioned.” Further, all this stuffed into a video game — where women already fall into troubling tropes — just makes it squicktastic.

      Beyond that, I can barely parse your comment. What is your problem, now?

      — c.

  20. I love gaming, I played old school AD&D for years. And yeah, I played with some good guys but even then–I had to *prove* myself* so one of them wouldn’t keep trying to assault my character. So I took over as DM after awhile and that was that. And yes, I earned their respect. But it should have been a given–the guys didn’t have to prove themselves. But I did. this crap has been around long before video games. Amazing how 30 years or so have changed nothing.

  21. I just want to thank you for GETTING IT. Not just you, Chuck, but everyone here. I’ve seen women bring up these issues in public forums before and get systematically dismantled–their gender, looks, and sexual preference up for grabs to dismiss the arguments.

    Everyone commenting here, you have restored my faith in humanity.

  22. Dammit. I’d been defending this game since last year’s initial trailer, trying to give the developers the benefit of the doubt, telling people that rebooting the Lara Croft IP like this will be great and give us the chance to play a female heroine just as badass as Nathan Drake or Batman.

    I didn’t mind it being dark and gritty, I didn’t mind her getting so roughed up, because it was going to show her strength as a human being to overcome extreme hardship and emerge victorious as the future cocky explorer that she was destined to become. And even better, they made her look like a real person, not a big-boobed ideal for little boys to slobber over. As a female gamer, I looked forward to the opportunity to add a strong female lead to the video game pantheon.

    But the executive producer’s simpering pitch that we were playing to protect the poor injured girl and that her attempted rape was a selling point in convincing male gamers to buy the game to keep her safe?

    I’ll still keep a wary eye on it, in the minuscule hope that the executive producer who was quoted in the article is actually a foot-in-mouth-diseased moron who exaggerated the scene in question and isn’t actually aware of what game the rest of his team has made. But otherwise I truly, truly regret to say that I don’t want to be a part of it.

  23. They keep comparing her to John McClane, but even when John McClane was walking on glass or had gotten shot, he was still a pillar of strength. His body was weak but his will was strong and that’s what made him a bad-ass. If Lara’s bruised up and bloody by the end of the game thanks to everything she’s gone through, why not show her gritting her teeth and willing herself to continue because that’s what heroes do?

  24. If a Die Hard video game had a scene where he has to fight to escape being raped we wouldn’t be having a conversation about it. See: the Empathy Gap.

  25. I had the exact same evolution of feelings as Jason L Blair.

    I had really high hopes when I first heard about this through E3. The idea that you would go on this coming of age journey with Lara Croft. That she was this 20 something rich girl with few survival skills that crashed into a jungle and had to grow stronger in order to beat the odds. There’s soo much potential there. I totally love the idea of a video game character not starting off as this bad ass. It’s why Silent Hill was great, the guy was a normal guy, couldn’t shoot past 3 feet worth a damn but still had to find his daughter.

    But then I read that article and realized… this guy has no idea what he’s talking about. It shouldn’t be that I want to protect Lara Croft cuz she’s this weak girl, a possession to protect. IT SHOULD BE THAT I IDENTIFY AND SYMPATHIZE WITH HER BECAUSE OF ALL THE CRAP SHE’S GOING THROUGH!!!! That I feel connect to her because she isn’t a bad ass yet and we get to see the transition from zero to hero.

    Ugh, so sad, so much potential and it looks like it’ll break it legs out the gate >_<

  26. Don’t play video games. Never really have. Too old, I guess. I’d already left the station before that train pulled in. But I’ve seen plenty of articles intimating that video gaming tends toward a mysoginistic adolescent male ghetto where females, both gamers and characters, are pushed into the roles of immature male fantasy. And now this. Hmmm…

    I’m not a gamer, but I have a daughter, 22 years old today, who has to live in a world where gaming has been one of the formative experiences of her male peers. So this makes me worried. Worried and sick.

    I’ll have to think on this. I may have more to say.

  27. @ Yasmine as a fellow female D&D’er I hear you. In terms of progress… at least this is being discussed rather than swept under the rug, it’s not great, but it’s still a move forward for the enlightened set.
    Let’s do this differently, let’s write a game and tell the writers that the protagonist is male, switch the gender in animation and voice over and be done with it. No more ridiculous incorrect tropes at least in plot. I know it’s not video games, but that is basically what they did with “Salt” rumor has it that Angelina Jolie basically fought to play what was originally written as a male protagonist. They agreed changed 2 lines and the gender of another character (got keep the love affair heterosexual after all) and went for it. There is hope for better media out there, this just doesn’t sound like it.

  28. Perhaps the best way to connect with Lara Croft would be to make her into an awesome, rounded, authentic character? Instead of . . . well, like you said . . . making her a girl you follow around and try to keep out of trouble.
    This post was totally awesome, as are the comments. Except Lara Croft’s. Not sure what that was about, except for the line about rape not being about “men out to get women” because I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what it is. Unless, as she brought up, it’s Andy Dufresne and then it’s “men out to get men” and both of them are a reality. I don’t think Chuck was saying they weren’t, I just think he was saying that people should create a Lara Croft people can connect to, and not just want to save and help.
    And I think we as women can look after ourselves as best we can, and still get raped. It won’t be our fault if it is. Even if we were alone in an alley. Even if we are a hooker. Even if we wore tight shirts and short skirts. No one deserves rape. And it can’t be prevented by the woman. Or else it wouldn’t be a rape.

  29. I have nothing useful to say about the rape issue, but as for protecting Lara…You know who the character I think I hated the most in a game has been in the last decade?

    Ashley, the president’s daughter in Resident Evil 4. Every single minute of the escort missions was death on a stick. Because frankly, helping and protecting a helpless character made out of tissue paper is NOT FUN. It’s infuriating gameplay, and after about five deaths, you want to start kicking her off the building yourself. Loved the game, hated, hated hated those sequences. (Okay, okay, she ties with your brother who totally sells you out in the dwarven noble origin of Dragon Age. Still kinda pissed about that. But you spend a lot more time with Ashley.)

    It did not occur to me until reading those quotes that Rosenberg almost certainly believes that I, as female gamer, identified primarily with Ashley in RE4. Surely I could not have identified with the hero! He’s male! Identifying with the hero across gender lines–what madness is this? (Never mind that I would have more chance of relating to the gigantic squid-mutant-thingy–at least that thing’s COMPETENT.)

    So they want to turn Lara Croft into Ashley? I’m supposed to follow her around and protect her? Mr. Rosenberg, I think I cannot take time out of my busy gaming schedule to give your company money. I’m sure you’ll understand.

  30. @Miso When that actually happens in a game, then we’ll discuss your empathy gap. The problem is that for female characters, which are the minority particularly in video game and action story heroes, this sort of thing is almost the default. See “rape culture 101.”

  31. […] Chuck Wendig’s post on the Tomb Raider reboot prompted a brief foray through other thoughts on the subject of violence against women in gaming culture. As a life-long gamer, the absurd level of female objectivization found in many games is nothing new to me. I’ve played games by Team Ninja and Capcom; I’ve chuckled at the ludicrous “real-life breast physics” of Dead or Alive 3; I’ve felt manly and heroic for rescuing Princess Zelda from Ganondorf’s clutches; I’ve run over hookers in Grand Theft Auto. Somewhat ironically, I’ve never played a Tomb Raider title precisely because marketing for those titles convinced me that Lara Croft was scarcely more than a vapid action hero with plus-sized assets. As a general rule, I eschew what Tori and I refer to as bro titles–games which promise little content beyond satisfying the violent and/or sexual fantasies of a stereotypical adolescent male. This inclination (which existed prior to my relationship for the cynical among you) doesn’t put me in the best position to comment on the hyper-sexualization of women in games, past or present. I’ve never bothered with XBL or PSN, either, and my forays into organized raiding guilds have always been with (more or less) mature individuals. Thus, I have insulated myself from the prevalent women-bashing attitudes of more vociferous, interactive gamers. The dregs of the industry and I are unpleasant acquaintances, and I acknowledge their existence only with crusty looks whenever our paths cross. I’m looking at you, Duke Nukem. […]

  32. Today I made the great mistake of actually trying to watch the game’s trailer — and horrifying as the rape-as-plot-point angle truly is, it gets much worse when you hear the squealing, gasping, keening voice acting they’ve paired with all the scraping, bruising, and stabbing. It’s blatantly, creepily orgasmic.

  33. I am not a gamer (sorry! don’t shoot me! even with pretendy, gamer guns!) but since I can spell pop-culture, I am familiar with Lara Croft. I always thought that she was ridiculously pneumatic, but at least she was also ridiculously kick-arse. (Incidentally, the thing that freaked me out most about her was that Angelina Jolie, a real woman, managed to look so much like the cartoon original.)

    The idea of making her more ‘real’ in terms of story sounded good, to start with. Rather like the more recent Bond movies, where they have tried to hark back to the darker, less perfect Bond of the books (which were sometimes downright odd).

    In theory, fine. But to then translate that into ‘the only way we can make a female human into someone more relatable is to make her a target of rape who we have to save’?

    Seriously? Do you people know any actual women? Thank you Chuck and all the commenters here for reassuring me that I am not alone in bizarro world, but dear dog, game developers, please, get a clue. I’d contribute to the kickstarter to buy you one.

  34. The absolutely most disgusting thing regarding the whole debacle is that this information (specifically the one from Kotaku) comes from one of the executive producers on the game.

    This wasn’t some journalist. Or someone posting their feelings on a forum. This is from someone who is trying to sell me on his product.

    To claim that this possible rape (or even allude to it) is character building is vile. And disgusting. And there is my issue with the whole thing. Crystal Dynamics wants to liken Lara Croft maybe being raped to Peter Parker discovering Uncle Ben had been shot by the criminal he could have stopped.

  35. This used to be an awesome game back in the day. Then it got bad. Then, thanks to the Steam platform, it got good again. And now this? WTH? This is not Resident Evil, it’s Lara! Come on! I don’t want her edgy and dark and raped/almost raped–I want her superficial and arrogant and kick-ass!

  36. For wanting to be a woman game developer I was: threatened with being driven to suicide, stalked for over a decade so far, career attempts destroyed over and over by bribery of anyone in authority over my work, invited to become a prostitute instead of having a REAL career, arranged to be raped and infected with STDs, had my ideas stolen and placed into big box game titles… work ruined health ruined business ruined.

    All set up by by a man who pretended to want to marry me WHEN HE WAS ALREADY MARRIED. His friends think it’s funny.

    Yes, men in game development are this sick and this out of touch with reality.

    Looking at exactly how badly women in the industry are treated, I begin to understand why they thought I was so threatening that they’d do all this to me. If I did make a game, it would prove that women are human beings and deserve basic human rights! It might help young men RELATE to women, who are supposed to remain unrelatable so that it’s impossible to feel compassion for them when your buddy asks you to rape them!

  37. Call a pedophile a pedophile. Clearly, the assault aspect was intentionally included & marketed to attract those with rape fantasies. The justification that letting the player choose to protect her because it will endear her to them… is BS.

    The fact that an “option” is given is meant merely to assuage the game designers’ consciences. Only game reviewers, those that want to see her raped, & those posing as game reviewers to see her raped will be lining up to buy this game.

    @Josin Yes a million times to everything. my best friend, a dude, was raped 30 years ago, he is still F’d up. (sorry if I posted this reply twice)

  38. I grew up playing the Lara Croft games on PC and PlayStation. Her overly-sultry look and demeanor has always bothered me. The *look* of the reboot looks awesome — clothes that make sense! Physically-possible body proportions! — but…really?

    Despite the eye-candy nature of the original games, at least they made Lara into a woman who wasn’t afraid. Tigers? Bad buys? Spike traps? Falling boulders? NO PROBLEM! And now, they ditch the eye-candy for a “damsel in distress” gig. Lovely.

    This won’t be the first game to belittle rape, either. I believe it was Fallout 3 (correct me if I’m wrong) that has a side-quest-thingy (I’ve not played the game, forgive me) in which you’re ordered to kill a warlord. The backstory goes, this warlord captured and raped one of the female soldiers and this turned her into a lesbian. It was upsetting the other soldiers, so they want you to kill the warlord and fix things. Not “kill him for raping her!” but “kill him for turning her lesbian!!”

    Yep.

    Newsflash, game designers: We don’t like having to protect the protag. We want the protag to be able to protect him/herself. Maybe not right at the beginning, but if I don’t get a sense of “Oh man, this character’s becoming a total ass-kicking badass!!” by halfway through the game, I’m out.

    Words from a female gamer and writer.

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