A new revamped version of the iconic Tomb Raider aims to explain how Lara became the scantily clad badass fighter teenage boys rubbed one out to in 1997, but if you were expecting a similarly fun romp of Croftian ass kickery this time around, you'll be sorely disappointed. One executive at the studio behind the new game explains that in this reboot, the men who play Tomb Raider as Lara Croft will be subjected to an emotionally harrowing attempted gang rape scene. It's not gratuitous, though. It will help players care more about the character. It will make players want to "protect" her. Oh, for the fuck of shit.
Jason Schreier of our sister site Kotaku spoke about the reboot with Tomb Raider producer Ron Rosenberg at last week's E3 convention to see if Rosenberg could give fans a sneak peek into the upcoming game. And sneaky peek he got. Rosenberg told Shreier the days of Lara running around being a terrifying badass are gone. Gone also are her giant protruding breasts and short shorts; Lara's midriff will be covered and she'll more or less have the proportions of a normal woman who is in excellent shape rather than a Barbie masturbation fantasy body. In addition to dressing her in less sexy digs, this game will show Lara in a much more weak and rape-able light. That way, Rosenberg explained, men will care more about keeping her safe from the big, bad scary things that want to put their penises into her. She's still a hero — sort of — but male gamers will play the game and think of themselves as Lara's helper and protector.
Um, so players get to be her dad? That's weird and awkward.
According to Kotaku, Rosenberg says that the game will build a rapport between Lara and the gamer by showing a ton of terrible shit happening to Lara, culminating with a scene where a group of "island scavengers" try to rape her all at once and she has to fight them off "like an animal." (Today, Crystal Dynamics, the company behind Tomb Raider, released a statement clarifying that Lara Croft absolutely is not almost raped in the new game, which is especially weird because Rosenberg expressly used the word "rape" in an interview with Kotaku. So, rape testimony recanted?)
Freud would have a fucking field day with this. First, including rape in Lara Croft's backstory is an expression of the abject clueless dudery of a dismaying number of mainstream video games. Do the people behind Tomb Raider think that the way to get men to care more about a female character cover her up and then threaten the integrity of her vagina? Whore, meet madonna. Madonna, meet whore. When Lara is a sex object to the gamer, Rosenberg seems to think that she's seen by the gamer as less human. But when she's a sex object to other characters in the game, or when someone who isn't the player attempts to control her sexually, she's someone to "protect" and worry about.
Aside from the creepy paternalism in their approach to Lara, trying to create female heroes by give them a rapey backstory is "lazy storytelling," according to a female video game designer I spoke with today. The designer says she's disappointed with Crystal Dynamics' decision to fall back on "bullshit" in a misguided attempt to make a two-dimensional tits n' ass-heavy character into a complicated three-dimensional one. Earlier versions of Tomb Raider already contain enough compelling details from Lara's past, she explains, and the inclusion of a rape scene in this new version of the game doesn't even make sense. Flashbacks in other games show that Lara was a precocious, curious, bold young woman, not a shrinking violet victim. The new Tomb Raider doesn't give gamers the opportunity to play a compelling character, it gives them the opportunity to watch torture porn.
Not only does it look a lot like torture porn, it sounds a lot like, well, actual porn. After it was first demonstrated in public a year or so ago, Kate Cox urged Croft fans to play the trailer with the sound turned up and their backs to the screen. She writes,
I hear the victimization of a young woman. I hear a vulnerable girl breathing heavily, in pain and in fear. I hear unpleasant overtones and associations. And what I hear makes me squirm in my seat uncomfortably, cringing, while I watch it to write this post — because the way I hear it, I can't tell if the player is meant to feel the desperation of Lara's position, or to fetishize it.
Cox also argued then that while she understands that game designers may want to present Croft as a damsel in distress who rescues herself, the whole sexy victim thing is played out. And I couldn't agree more. It's insulting to male gamers to assume that they're unable to relate to Lara Croft unless they want to fuck her or keep other dudes from fucking her — that if she's not a digital rendering they'd like to bang, she's not interesting unless she's their sister or their daughter and they must avenge her besotted vagina. It's insulting to female gamers to assume that there aren't enough of them to give legs to a game that features a female hero who doesn't have a weird history of sexy rape. It's insulting to the character of Lara Croft to rewrite her as a weaksauce victim who is constantly screaming a la Indiana Jones' love interest from Temple of Doom. And finally, it's insulting to boobs to imply that they get gigantic after you fight off a bunch of would-be attackers on a desert island.