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Published on June 20th, 2012 | by Jamie Lynn O'Dell, Contributor

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Editorial: Lara Croft: Rape Victim

Yeah. So this is a thing.

As a female gamer I’m supposed to be up in arms about all of the (alleged) female raping and start a fight against the man?  Right?

Meh. Wrong.

I will honestly say that I really really REALLY took some time (like 20 minutes) to think about the recent articles published on Kotaku.com, that started the rumor that there is an attempted rape scene in the upcoming installment of Tomb Raider.

In the first article posted by Kotaku writer Jason Schreier, he summarized his interview with Ron Rosenberg, executive producer at Crystal Dynamics.  The article skirted over the “rape scene” issue by simply mentioning it in one sentence. 

“She’ll get taken prisoner by island scavengers,” the article says. “And then those scavengers will try to rape her.”

The exact transcript of the conversation between Kotaku and Rosenberg went as follows:

RON: “And then what happens is her best friend gets kidnapped, she gets taken prisoner by scavengers on the island. They try to rape her, and-”

KOTAKU: “They try to rape her?”

RON: “She’s literally turned into a cornered animal. And that’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s either forced to fight back or die and that’s what we’re showing today.”

After Kotaku published the quote, the article caused a frenzy within the gaming community.  Quickly, the game creators went into damage control.

“One of the characters defining moments for Lara in the game, which has incorrectly been referred to as an ‘attempted rape’ scene is the content we showed at this year’s E3 and which over a million people have now seen in our recent trailer entitled ‘Crossroads,’”  Darrell Gallagher, studio head of Crystal Dynamics said.  

He continued, ”Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game.”

You can judge for yourself by viewing the footage of the newest Tomb Raider.

Initially I thought that it was odd that a game developer would tackle such a serious topic, especially in a series that hasn’t been taken very seriously in the past.  

It wasn’t until I read the Gawker article by Erin Gloria Ryan, entitled ”The Rapey Lara Croft Reboot is a Fucked-Up Freudian Field Day,” that I became engulfed in this story.  I’m not angry because of the scene (which is nothing more than a little sexual harassment), I’m angry because Erin Gloria Ryan jumped from zero to RAPE, before actually thinking about what she was accusing male gamers as being “torture porn” enthusiasts.

*sigh*

And all male gamers live in their parents basement, right? And they have no jobs, eh?

Bleh.

I recently questioned a few male gamers on twitter about how they felt about the “rape” scene and here are some responses:

From @THEMANSATM – “Isn’t it a realistic scenario in her situation though? Discovered on a deserted island by scum scavengers, and her a hot chick.”

From @TheOriginalPSP (blog)- “To me it still shows the gap between how games are looked at compared to films. ‘Attempt’ scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1, too.”

From @Mkerrigan7 – “I think they’re just trying to show how she had to over come something like that to become the badass she is.”

Nary a one of them said “I think it’s hot that she’s being manhandled”, or “who wouldn’t want to see Lara Croft get raped?”.

I first saw footage of the newest Tomb Raider during E3 week and the addition to the series looks amazing.  This coming from a woman who hasn’t liked the entire Tomb Raider series.

Big boobs, sexy body, hot moves, chick with guns, etc. etc. etc.  I get it.  It’s not as though you are going to have precious star in a video game (even though I secretly think that would friggin excellent).  I don’t have a problem with chicks being created as beautiful, hot, strong women in video games.  But has the newest Tomb Raider crossed the line?  Dun. Dunnn. Dunnn……

The Jezebel article continues, “She’s still a hero — sort of — but male gamers will play the game and think of themselves as Lara’s helper and protector.” – or “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.” – OR “The new Tomb Raider doesn’t give gamers the opportunity to play a compelling character, it gives them the opportunity to watch torture porn.”

Listen, I get it, I’ve been told by numerous people that I’m a feminist.  Hell, read a few of my recent articles (here and here) and you will probably feel the same. I don’t personally tag myself as a such but I get it.  Us women have been fighting an uphill battle since the beginning of time, a battle which I fully support, but I’m embarrassed by Erin’s article. There just isn’t room for this man-bashing in an industry where we consistently harp on about how men treat female gamers disrespectfully.

Why can’t we make a game where the female is respected, not just for her body but for her combat style, incredible intelligence and wit?  The truth is, I feel like women in games have been portrayed as such. There’s nothing wrong with making them uber-sexy. The gaming industry is DOMINATED by guys. Who in their right mind doesn’t want to make money?  I know I do.

I certainly would love nothing more than Daria as a protagonist in a GTA-type sandbox game.  She would fight the hipsters (but really she was the original hipster) and split cheerleaders faces open with a samurai sword.  That’s unfortunately not sellable–it’s just not.

Though hanging out with any of Daria's hipster friends will be a huge upgrade from Roman.

The creators of Tomb Raider have broke boundaries.  Tomb Raider is probably one of the only video game series that has been made into a movie that was actually GOOD. Don’t even pretend like “Mortal Kombat” was good.  Or “Street Fighter.”  Or “Far Cry.”  Or “Tekken.”  Or “Prince of (oh my god that movie was awful) Persia.” “Super Mario Bros.” was badass though (f’ing Dennis Hopper yo!).  Hell, the industry is scared to make a Halo film because video game movies suck so hard.  A HALO FILM!  They could just play cutscenes from all of the games and make a trillion dollars.  Needless to say, it’s incredibly difficult to sustain a series in the video game industry, especially with a female as the lead character.  Tomb Raider has been doing it for 16 years.

What I have wished upon every star is to learn MORE ABOUT LARA CROFT!  I want to know where she began, where she came from, why she’s a badass mother f’er and the newest installment has aimed to explain all of these things (wish granted!).  Finally! But in order to do this (as is the case with hundreds of other story-heavy games), there has to be an emotional tipping point for the character.  GIVE ME A REASON TO LOVE THIS SEXY BADASS!  Give me a reason to look past that fantastic ass and super awesome knife-wielding fanny pack. Give me a reason to shoot people in the face!  What else gives you that stomach gut-wrenching feeling of justified baddie-killing awesomeness? 

You don’t very well get pissed off at the Walmart cashier and then start mutilating m’fers on-site.  No.  That would be wrong (wouldn’t it?).  With Lara Croft there is a story; a story of a woman who battled through some rough stuff to get to the kickassness of what she is now.  And what she is, is a completely fabricated female protagonist who was kind-of-almost-not-really-at-all raped in a VIDEO GAME (*clutches pearls!*).

Could the newest installment been written so that her dad died by the hands of some tomb raiders, thus spurring the vengeance within Miss Croft?  Sure.  They could have wrote that her brother was tortured and killed by a group of Nazis, so Lara goes on a Nazi-hating rampage in the 20th century.  But does it really matter?  It’s a story. It’s a video game. Does Lara’s first encounter with killing, whether stemming from being captured or being touched inappropriately, make her any less empathetic? Does it make her any less of a badass?  No, it does not.

I’m looking forward to a new Tomb Raider game, but after all of these recent events, I have my doubts.  I don’t like the possibility that you will feel like you are protecting her, instead of BEING her.  I don’t want to protect my character, I want to BE my character.  But I will say that I’m excited to see how it pans out.

It’s fair to mention, this isn’t a video game aimed at 9 year olds, it has a mature-rating for a reason.  If you can’t handle it, then don’t play it.  I know I will and I’m hoping it’s the best in the series.

-Jamie Lynn O’Dell

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