The gamer site Kotaku has an interview with the producer of a new Lara Croft game that will apparently be a reboot of the Tomb Raider series. Now I haven’t played a videogame in ten years, probably more, so I normally pay about as much attention to videogame news as I pay to news about baseball, stained glass crafting or any other hobby in which I don’t partake. But this article caught my eye, when I saw it linked somewhere, because back when I still played videogames on occasion, I was very fond of the Tomb Raider series and Lara Croft. I even have a Lara Croft action figure.
So how are the powers that be planning on rebooting Lara? The new Lara will be less curvy and have less of a pin-up girl look, which sounds pretty good. She’ll also inspire the player to protect her, because apparently no player ever identified with Lara as a characters, which is news to me, because Lara Croft was one of the more relateable characters back when I still played videogames. And how do the producers of the new Tomb Raider game plan on making Lara more protectable and relateable?
By having her almost get raped.
Uh, what the fuck?
Yes, even Lara Croft who’s tough and awesome, who can blast away with two Desert Eagles and slug it out with all sorts of villains and wild animals and monsters, will now get raped (or almost raped), because she’s a woman. And everybody knows that women get raped. There is no other possible storyline for them. This goes double for “strong women”, because surviving rape is the only thing that makes a woman strong and angry enough to fight.
Pardon me, while I throw up in the corner.
Now the videogame industry is well known to have a misogyny problem. And the fact that female characters only exist in certain videogames to be protected and/or raped is not exactly new. For example, I remember playing Metal Gear Solid ages ago, where the hero picks up a young woman somewhere along the way. Then they’re captured and separated and he is tortured. In order to withstand the torture, you had to hit certain keys on the keyboard very, very fast, faster than I ever managed. If you didn’t hit fast enough, you were dead. If you gave in to the torture, you lived and could continue the game, but the woman died. Though you’d later pick up a male geek stereotype of a computer programmer to act as your sidekick for the rest of the game. However, I didn’t want the geek stereotype as a sidekick for the hero, I wanted the woman. And there was no way to save her, unless you managed to hit on those two keys very, very quickly. I must have spent two weeks or so trying to hit those bloody buttons fast enough to save the woman, then I gave up and never finished the game.
This example demonstrates exactly the role that women played in most mainstream videogames when I still played them back in the 1990s. They existed as a prize for the hero to save or as an NPC to impart information. I liked Lara precisely because she was different. Sure, she still looked like a teen boy’s wet dream with those pneumatic breasts of hers, but at least she was a woman who did her own heroics and wasn’t just some male hero’s sidekick or object to save. And what do the producer of the new Tomb Raider game do? They take away what made Lara different and turn her into a passive prize to be saved just like that red-haired woman sidekick from Metal Gear Solid.
What makes this even worse is that back Lara Croft was one of the very few videogame characters who managed to break out of the videogame ghetto and become genuine mainstream icons. No other videogame character with the exception of Super Mario was ever as recognizable to non-gamers as Lara. My cousin was even less of a gamer than me, but he played all three Tomb Raider games. My Mom never played a videogame in her life, yet even she knows who Lara Croft is.
What is more, Lara Croft even got to guest star in this hilarious video clip for the song “Männer sind Schweine” (Men are pigs)* by the German punk band Die Ärzte. I wish I could see the producers of the new game getting a similar treatment at the hands of Lara.
So they’re not just turning a formerly strong female character into a potential rape victim who needs to be protected, they’re doing it to one of the very few recognizable mainstream icons that the videogame subculture ever produced.
*Before anybody starts screeching about misandry, song and video are obviously tongue in cheek.