About games and gaming thereof!

Tomb Raider

Roughly three weeks ago on an episode of The Big Picture, Bob talked about sexism in gaming and why feminists have such an issue with it.

Now, I’ve had issues with many of the things MovieBob has said in the past. (PC gaming is dead and anybody who says otherwise is in denial, the Hitman franchise is nothing but “flash-in-the-pan,” the entire first person shooter genre is bad for the games industry because of Call of Duty, Metroid: Other M wasn’t a pile of shit, etc.)

But I really like this video of his. He makes great points, and I think he did an effective job at summarizing why pandering, hyper-sexualized female characters are detrimental to games and stories in general.

To summarize: He basically stated that the main problem with female characters posing to look sexy for the camera is that it prevents any sense of meaningful characterization in their poses. While you can generally learn all about the personality and disposition of a male character by looking at a picture of him, with female characters all you can tell is that she’s supposed to look hot.

With that in mind, I want to take a look at Lara Croft.

What, exactly, does this picture tell us about Lara Croft’s personality or disposition? We can assume she knows how to use guns, but other than that, what is she doing beyond posing for some hypothetical camera? Nothing, really. This ultimately looks like the cover of a magazine, where Lara has been told to pose in such a way to make her look as enticing as possible.

This is how Lara Croft has been for a good long while. Supposedly she was originally written to be a sort of female equivalent of Indiana Jones, but it didn’t take long for her to become reduced to eye candy. The Tomb Raider series has basically become infamous for this, and it’s very unfortunate, considering the fact that she’s one of gaming’s only major female icons.

Now let’s look at the new Lara Croft.

This is a wallpaper for the new Tomb Raider reboot (or prequel, I forget which) coming out in 2012. Crystal Dynamics has sought to reinvent the character, and depict her in a different light. This light looks far more interesting.

The dirt, cuts and bruises imply she’s been through a lot of pain, but her facial expression implies that she’s confident and ready to push onward. Brave. Strong. This image is inspiring. Lara looks like a really strong, compelling character.

Let’s look at another wallpaper.

Incidentally: Damn, this shot looks really good. And it looks much better in its non-resized form. We haven’t quite hit photorealism yet, but we’re getting close.

This pose shows desperation. Lara is injured, but she’s doing everything she can to survive. She’s pushing onward in the face of death. Also note that the crashed ship in the background and the debris strewn across the ground imply the damage that’s been done and the situation she’s in. This is powerful visual storytelling. It tells us everything we need to know without using one word.

Neither of these shots, nor any of the other images from the new game, are using her as eye candy. She looks like a real character now. A person with motivations and ambitions. Somebody we can relate to.

I have no idea how good the gameplay and story might be in this new Tomb Raider installment, but just from what we can see about Lara Croft, I’m very excited about this. Color me interested, Square-Enix.


3 responses

  1. X

    You could also read this reboot as a shift in the gaze from Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition fantasies to one of violent rape pornography. The gameplay we’ve seen so far features Lara being hogtied, impaled by a stick and so on – all while screaming and moaning.

    October 18, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    • JPH

      I interpreted that as less of “violent rape pornography” and more of “survival horror.” It’s customary for unpleasant things to happen to the protagonist in a horror game; it makes the player feel vulnerable. But I can see where you’re coming from.

      October 18, 2011 at 2:02 PM

      • X

        Personally, I’m withholding judgement until I play the game. I just wanted to make you aware of a position that a few critiques have taken. In this iteration, at least, Tomb Raider will remain a game made, reviewed, produced for and played by men. For this reason we should remain suspicious of any ascriptions of feminism/sexism.

        October 18, 2011 at 2:35 PM

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