Forget Hitman’s Nuns, Why Is Nobody Having A Go At Tomb Raider?
Earlier this week in my column about reverse sexism in the gaming industry, I defended Hitman: Absolution for its portrayal of sexualised female assassins disguised as nuns, and instructed gamers, specifically the feminists among us, to pick their fights.
This then leads me to an article from yesterday in which Crystal Dynamics executive producer Ron Rosenberg revealed details of an attempted rape scene in their upcoming reboot of the Tomb Raider series, which portrays a ‘more human’ Lara Croft. While I did share some of my thoughts in that article, I have to admit that I expected a far larger backlash than what actually happened.
Basically… nothing happened. At least, in the circles of the internet that I’ve been to ever since.
Now I’m not one for starting unnecessary fights and in fact I rarely ever just throw out an opinion without first having substantial reason to do so, but I can’t help but feel a great injustice is being done here. Allow me to quote an excerpt from that article. I realise it’s an article I did which means I’m effectively quoting myself, but go with it okay?
“When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character. 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’,” he continued. “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.”
I have a few issues with this statement.
The first and most important is that last sentence, which seems to have flown right over the heads of everyone. Why would we not root for a male character in this way? Why does it have to be a female that we must pity? I’m sorry but are you insinuating that there are things that would happen to a female, that if they happened to a male in equal amounts, we’d not care about as much? A somewhat brutal attempted rape is inclusive, mind you. Are you trying to say that the only reason we would feel bad for her is because she’s female? Is that not implying she’s a lesser person than a male, Crystal Dynamics?
The second issue I have pertains to the statement that when we play Lara, we don’t project ourselves into the character but want to ‘protect her’. I’m sorry, but Lara Croft kicks ten different kinds of ass. Why would she need our protection and what could we possibly protect her from? This is very much the same problem that the Metroid series suffered with Other M, the game that portrayed a weak and vulnerable version of Samus, and was slammed entirely because of it.
I’m not saying that this game will be slammed for showing a female who is weak and vulnerable, but I am saying that part of playing games is identifying with characters. Even in Half-Life 2, when you were thrust into the role of a hero you knew little about, you still identified with the plight of City 17′s citizens and you felt the same sort of unsure confusion one might assume Gordon Freeman would have actually felt, had he been in that role he was thrust into where every citizen revered him as a hero yet all he knew was that one day some experiment went wrong and here he is, expected to save the world. Even there we can identify with the game and its characters. I know you all cried at the end of Episode Two, just like I did.
So why then do we want to ‘protect’ Lara Croft? Even in the trailer itself she is constantly harping on about how she must be stronger and better and prove herself. Is it because she’s a female? Is this not caveman-esque, where females are entirely weak and inferior and must be protected by strong, burly males? Does Crystal Dynamics realise that there are females who play the Tomb Raider games as well, some that might actually honestly have identified with the character rather than want to simply ‘protect her’? Or is it too far-fetched of an idea? Lara Croft may have been a husk of a character in early games, with boobs and not much else, but in Legend and Underworld I found they managed to reach a middle ground where though sexualised and sultry, she still managed to have a personality and get the job done so right with her vast array of weaponry and puzzle-solving skills. It showed a strong female who was capable at not just being eye candy but using her brain and combat skills as well. She was once again, gaming’s first lady.
Which then begs the question of was the reboot even necessary.
I do welcome the change of direction; I feel that the new Lara might open the door to a whole new world for the Tomb Raider franchise and it’s about time we stepped out from under the shadow of former Lara’s gigantic bosom. But I do feel that Crystal Dynamics need to reconsider not just who plays their games but why we play their games.
Then again many pro-feminism gamers have been up in arms about the gross sexualisation of women, clamouring for a more life-like portrayal of females (although in fairness there’s always some complaint, be it too sexy, too average, too monotone, and so on) so I guess you get what you wished for, gamers. Now the world will be led to believe that what female portrayals in games really need to be like, involves the highest amount of weakness, with everything and a twig gunning for your blood unless you ‘protect’ your character.
Or perhaps this is just a classic case of me over-thinking yet another thing.
Either way, I do feel that it’s time we moved on from hating on Hitman: Absolution for being sexist and start pointing questions, criticisms and just fingers really, at Tomb Raider. Poor Square Enix.