[Editor’s Note: This article discusses the attempted sexual assault of Lara in the newly released gameplay video]
My time at the Square Enix Tomb Raider demo was the first time GA left me on my own out into the great, blue glow of E3! Unfortunately, it wasn’t that great of an experience.
As the demo began, I really liked the updated gameplay of Tomb Raider. The graphics looked decent, though the lips/dialogue were still something out of an English dubbed Godzilla movie. Lara herself looked much more realistic when compared to the gravity-defying breasts versions of her past. The game features lush and interactive landscapes where you will be able to roam around freely to explore an area.
Disappointingly, like the preview video at E3 last year, Lara is still grunting and moaning excessively whilst jumping, falling and “gutting” a deer. And this demo featured more of the slide, fall, slide scenarios we’ve seen in other videos about the game. What eclipses those points, however, is that nearly the entire last half of the footage was an attempted rape scene where Lara has to escape and kill her attacker (via point-blank gunshot to the head).
Obviously, I don’t know how these industry events really work since this is my first time at one, but the vibe in the room was one of not being impressed or excited by this demo. The response by the guys I was in the room with (yes, they were all guys except for me) was much more lackluster than I expected from a bunch of dudes who had no problem with butting me out of line to get in front of me. Was it for the same reasons I was unimpressed and highly uncomfortable with what I had just sat through? I can’t say.
As excited as people might be about this game, I am not interested in yet another entertainment company using a rape or an attempted rape scene as an excuse to make their female character “stronger”. I hope that the continual use of rape as an entertainment trope is enough to explain to everyone where the developers have gone very wrong with this game. And that fans of the character, Lara Croft, know that she was already a strong character and doesn’t need to have a contrived background like this to show that she was “made strong”. In fact, it’s been understood about Lara since her inception that she’s a pretty bad-ass woman. If you want to make a darker, grittier Lara Croft to show us how she becomes the woman we’ve loved for years? Do it.
However, not only is falling back on the rape as backstory trope lazy-writing but more importantly, it is also damaging to your fans. And not just to the men and women that have survived an attack or the attempt of one, but to everyone by continuing to perpetuate the idea sexual assault is somehow a legitimate character development for a female character. If that’s the only trauma you can think of to ‘strengthen’ a female character, but you have a list of dozens that would’ve worked just fine if this was a male character? I think you need to re-examine how you’re writing your story. In fact the idea that a character has to go through ANY kind of “trauma” to be a “strong” person is good enough reason to re-examine how you’re writing your story. Strength of character doesn’t have to be defined by any event and people of any gender are perfectly capable of being strong without one.