There’s something about Lara…

by Keegan Spindler

Oh Lara. What have you done now?

It’s somehow unsurprising that gaming’s chief female is the source of debate. It should be a suppose, considering just how irrelevant she’s become over the last few years, but apparently Lara Croft is someone the gaming world just can’t get over.

The most recent debate is centred on the upcoming reboot of the series and, more specifically, the issue that the developers are covering some uncomfortable ground. The reboot focuses on the beginning of Lara’s story, something thus far unexplored, and attempts to explain how she became the kickass, dual pistol wielding Tomb Raider that so many of us in the gaming world know and love.

Crystal Dynamics, to their credit, are trying to do something with a franchise that is steeped in history and loyalty. To do that takes a lot of courage, and up until E3 it looked like that they had done right. The first trailers they released showed a younger Lara than we are accustomed to battered and bruised following a shipwreck that has left her stranded. It looked a little darker than the Tomb Raider games we are more accustomed to, and the battered Lara made a change from the invincible Croft that we have grown used to seeing.

Everything seemed to going without a hitch and excitement was growing with each snippet we saw. The game was looking good. Then E3 came along and all hell broke loose.

The game they showed at E3 was darker than expected, and the Lara Croft that we saw had little of the competent, confident young woman that everyone wanted to see. Instead we saw a terrified woman fighting for her life as she is preyed on by near feral men. Worst of all though, we heard that Lara’s enemies would be trying to rape her.

Cue shitstorm.

Now I’m not saying that I condone rape in any shape or form, even in games, but I do feel that we are not qualified to comment before we have played the game. I personally feel that Crystal Dynamics should be applauded for taking risks with a series that had become stagnant and insignificant, but I also feel that they have perhaps gone too far.

The main designer of the game told us that when we played the game we would want to protect Lara, but surely that’s not what we want from a game? We don’t want an experience full of rape and violence, nor one that makes you uncomfortable, and it seems that they’re straying into that ground. They’ve argued that this is the reality of the world, and that if you’re a young woman stranded on an island with dozens of men then chances are that someone will try their luck, but I’m not convinced that’s a good excuse. Do games really need to reflect reality?

To me games are an escape, and no one is a better example of that than Lara Croft. Her fantastical adventures literally ripped you from your bedroom or your living room and drew you in. There was nothing realistic about her adventures, and that’s what this game is changing. Everything just feels a little more real, something I don’t think is necessarily a good thing. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing either, and it may well result in a fantastic game, but some of the magic may well be lost in the process.

What I don’t think though, is that they have done Lara Croft an injustice as a character. She has long been held up as the ideal example of a strong, well written female game character. She wasn’t. Now make no mistake, I love the old school Lara Croft, but she was all breasts and no brains. She was written as a typical character of her time, designed to let the player take centre stage. Just because she was nigh on invincible doesn’t mean she was strong. She wasn’t all that well written either.

Games have changed since Lara was brought to life, and the focus is now on strong, interesting characters that people are actually interested in, and by the looks of things an effort has been made to bring her into the new age. Time will tell if it was the right decision or if this new Lara will be the end of the franchise.

Whether or not the game is successful, Crystal Dynamics have found out just how fickle the industry they work in is. For ages fans have been calling for a new Tomb Raider that does justice to the legacy of the original games, and though they haven’t asked for this new Lara Croft, they may find that she provides the spark that the most recent games have been so desperately lacking. If Crystal Dynamics had announced yet another Lara Croft they would have been heckled and ridiculed for it. They have been shouted down for their re imagining of the franchise. Now it’s up to them to prove the doubters wrong.

I for one hope that they do, and this new game is as good as it’s proved to be provocative.

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  • Ostercy

    It’s precisely because Lara Croft isn’t irrelevant but is a bit of a cultural icon in the real world outside the tiny world of fanboys that there’s such a shit storm. It’s not just the “rapeyness” debacle that gets peoples’ backs up, but statements from both Crystal Dynamics and in articles like this one about the “datedness” or “cultural irrelevance” of Lara Croft that makes people furious. You guys just don’t get Lara Croft at all, do you? You’re basically a bunch of clueless philistines.