Why I won’t be playing the new Lara Croft game.

by , under personal, video games

Note: This post still gets a fair amount of traffic, so I wanted to note that at the end of this post (and the related posts) there’s an update.

An old sketch of mine. From 04, I think.

An old sketch of mine,
from 04, I think.
I don't remember why she's pouting. I might just have been better at drawing pouts

Back when I was in college, everyone had Tomb Raider. I was no exception. Not to mention- I liked Lara Croft. I am a huge Indiana Jones fan, and here was a female counterpart who had it all. She knew the history, could handle the weapons, and was clever enough to outwit the bad guys time and time again- even if it meant making a difficult choice along the way.

Frankly, I never had a problem with her breast size. I know women that are skinny with DD breasts. Naturally! While you don’t see it a lot, it’s not as though Lara wore tops that bared nearly all her breasts- they just happened to be there. She was beautiful and capable. Frankly, if eye candy is what it takes for guys to play a game with a female heroine, then so be it. (There are plenty of women who watched Indiana Jones movies solely because Harrison Ford is dreamy, and then stayed for the story.)

Crystal Dynamics unveiled a trailer for Lara Croft at this year’s E3 (their second year showing off footage). A reboot/origin story, Lara is 21 years old and not an adventurer yet.

The trailer has Lara waking up suspended in a cave after being shipwrecked on an island. She escapes, struggles to survive, steps in bear traps, and nearly gets sexually assaulted by a guy- but hey, it’s okay, she shoots him. All while Lara moans in agony, grunts and then in the end has a conversation about how she isn’t sure she can be a Croft (which apparently means be able to kill everyone).

It’s torture porn, plain and simple. It’s as though someone from Crystal Dynamics said, “Hey, everyone likes that Hunger Games book. But you know what it was missing? Nobody tried to rape Katniss. That would have made her a stronger woman.”

Just in case you think I’m making too big a deal over nothing, let’s swap this out for a similar franchise- Uncharted. Do you honestly think that anyone would decide to have Nathan Drake face the threat of sexual assault even though statistically some of the bad guys are probably gay? No, no they wouldn’t.

While Lara is victorious over the would be rapist, including the scene is part of the problem our society has. Somehow this is what Lara gets for being a pretty girl in this dangerous scenario. I’m not taking that too far- it’s what society tells women with its’ reactions to assault. It’s our fault for being raped if we went to a club. If we had a drink. Newsflash, it isn’t our fault. It’s the perpetrator’s fault. I’m not sure why writers think that the threat of sexual assault is an empowering process (it’s happened to plenty of female superheroes in comics). While it’s true that it’s something women deal with in the real world- it isn’t something we want to deal with in a virtual world as entertainment. The odds of any woman having been the victim of sexual violence is pretty high. According to some sources, one in three women are likely to be the victim of sexual assault in their lifetime. One in three. I’m pretty sure that it’s something that those women will struggle with, but certainly not the moment in their life that defines who they are.

I’m not advocating pretending that rape doesn’t happen. But is there a need to include the element (especially in promotional videos and images- I saw this still A LOT) when it doesn’t actually add anything to the plot? Lara already has to overcome vicious animals, scale precarious rubble, and escape from men who want to kill her. Those are the things that shape Lara into becoming the survivalist we’re familiar with. The rest is unnecessary.

The biggest sin of all is that it lacks why I loved Tomb Raider in the first place. Lara took joy in what she did and tried to save the world because it was the right thing to do- even if it meant dealing with dinosaurs. She enjoyed the puzzles and the adventure. This Lara grunts and moans. She’s impaled by a bone, she gets caught in a bear trap after trying to save her friend from being raped or killed. She isn’t comfortable with anything she’s doing. There is no joy. Even if she becomes the Tomb Raider we know and love, do we really need to watch her suffer through it?

So congrats Crystal Dynamics. You might have made Lara be a real girl in a grittier world, but between saying that original Lara had no personality, and saying that this will give her character… I’m out.

If you’re just finding this post, I added a little bit at the end of this next post to respond to some of the tweets/email I got about my thoughts on Lara.

Update: Now that the game is out, it’s clear that the trailer and the ensuing outrage from the people against Crystal Dynamics were unfounded. But it’s also clear that the execs who speak about the games need to be much more aware of the words that come from their mouths- if it almost derailed what turned out to be a pretty great reboot.

  • Completely agree.  Thanks for the heads up.  

  • Alexa Chipman

    I totally agree with this—I had considered writing a similar blog post and you did it for me! I hope they wake up and realized they lost most of their female fanbase.