Mic Wright is disgusted by the direction the Tomb Raider franchise is taking.
Masturbate over the daring female explorer, then drown her.
It’s fair to say the history of the Tomb Raider franchise has not always been pleasant. Lara Croft, the short-shorts-wearing heroine of the series is an heiress archaeologist with killer gun skills to match her smoking legs and ample assets.
But she’s been portrayed in the real world by a succession of Nuts models and sold to gamers as a tasty bit of totty to fap themselves silly over. And the drowning thing? There was a whole meme dedicated to gamers letting Lara expire underwater to sort out their own women-hating tendencies in a nice safe environment.
So why am I banging on about Tomb Raider now? It’s a cultural artefact that ceased to be interesting in about 2001 but the franchise owners have hit the big button marked “reboot”, surely?
Well, not exactly. Crystal Dynamics, makers of Tomb Raider, have decided to go for a shocking new twist. Poor old beaten and bruised Lara, despite being a seasoned kick-ass adventurer, will now have to go through an attempted rape so the gamer wants to “protect her”.
I’ve played a lot of Halo and I don’t remember Master Chief ever being anally raped to help us empathise with him more. Was Mario forced to give a Bowser a blowjob so we could understand his head-smashing rage better?
Sure, I’m being hyperbolic. Needlessly, some might argue, but you need to read the comments from the game’s producers. Their argument is that they are reversing the “sexualisation” of Lara and instead building a character who has to go from zero to hero.
That’s problematic. Very few male characters, if any, have to take that journey for players to empathise with them. And when the actual abuse and violence Lara is to face in the game is raised, it’s done very clunkily.
Ron Rosenberg, the game’s executive producer, told Kotaku: ”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. 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.’
“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.
“She is literally turned into a cornered animal. It’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s forced to either fight back or die.”
Read that again. She is “literally turned into a cornered animal”. From a sex object to drown and leer over to a character who is dehumanised by the violence imposed on her. Wow, Tomb Raider producers, you’ve really gone for nuance here.
How about some downloadable gesture-controlled content where the player can actually become the attempted rapist? That’s edgy right? Sounds like the perfect obscene apotheosis. You heard it here first.
Rape is represented in fiction of all kinds, but too often it is used as the ultimate shock. This is the Hollyoaks school of narrative, though, where rape is dropped into a storyline as a quick way of increasing jeopardy rather than as something the story actually calls for.
The clumsy way Tomb Raider’s creators have handled this issue give the impression that they have neither thought about how a “real” Lara would feel nor of the significant and growing audience of women gamers.
We should not need to see Lara battered, bruised and fetishised to empathise with her. Mainstream gaming is infected with a sickness that focuses big products on pleasing a small section of the audience – the tits and explosions gang – and it is damaging the future of gaming.
Lara Croft should kick ass from the very start, not be made to earn it. And certainly not raped and beaten for the sick pleasure of the yellow underwear brigade.
And God help them if they ever do try to make the player the one raping Croft, which you can imagine them justifying with a line about “guilt moving you to great deeds”. Terrifyingly, I find the prospect relatively plausible.