Where to start with the Tomb Raider ‘rape’ controversy which has taken over Twitter, gaming sites and a fair number of mainstream sites too?
The story goes that Tomb Raider’s executive producer Ron Rosenberg, when speaking of why you’ll feel the need to look after a new look Lara Croft in the upcoming game, mentioned that ‘She is literally turned into a cornered animal (when some of the game’s enemies have her hostage). It’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s forced to either fight back or die.’
That interview was first posted on Kotaku.com who also state within the same piece that:
‘In the new Tomb Raider, Lara Croft will suffer. Her best friend will be kidnapped. She’ll get taken prisoner by island scavengers. And then, Rosenberg says, those scavengers will try to rape her.’
Note the lack of quotes around the words ‘rape her’ there, is that because of paraphrasing, did he really say those exact words? If he did it would be surprising, particularly as spokespeople are generally very well trained on speaking to the press, and are policed by advisers which stick with them at all times.
There’s no denying that if Ron Rosenberg did say (and now I’m paraphrasing) that the threat of rape is used as a device to toughen Lara up, then he’s quite rightly being chastised for it. I wouldn’t be so quick to raise the alarm bells though, he no doubt spoke to 50 journalists that day, and anyone can say a dumb thing after a day like that over such a hectic schedule.
Interestingly half the commentators on the original Kotaku piece seem incensed because Lara is no longer the “Ripley” type character, or else are mortified that she might actually be vulnerable in the game, albeit before slowly growing and realising her potential.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone who makes such a comment is incorrect but can we have some perspective please? First the video in question doesn’t feature a rape scene of any sort (nor does the game as the below press release states). Rather her would-be attacker approaches Lara with murder in mind above anything – at least that’s what I saw when watching the E3 behind closed door trailer (which expanded on the “Crossroads” trailer released before last week’s E3 showcase).
Second, Lara is meant to be a 21-year-old young woman, stranded on a strange island, alone, isolated and unsure of how to fend for herself. She isn’t meant to be the hero of later games (as popularised by Angeline Jolie’s turn in the film series), this is the tale of her emergence – her Private Benjamin or GI Jane progression in general terms.
Even Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley character, as first seen in Alien, undergoes a similar metamorphosis as her journey progresses and heroically selects fight, over flight, when most mere mortals would be running at full speed in the opposite direction or sobbing quietly in the corner.
Other scenes in the footage we’ve seen show Lara hunting deer with a bow-and-arrow (before butchering said carcass), another shows her visibly shaking as she goes to light a fire – aware that she has just three matches and no margin for error in the hostile night (a task she accomplishes with her first attempt I might add). While others depict, more-or-less, the Lara we know from previous games, as she takes out assailant after assailant with the kind of ninja reflexes and strength that would make The Matrix’s Neo wince.
Here’s hoping that the next big “positive” games story is treated to such wholesale coverage.
For the record, here’s that official statement on the matter courtesy of Crystal Dynamics’ studio head Darrell Gallagher:
‘We had a great E3 with Tomb Raider and received a fantastic public and press response, with the game picking up numerous “game of the show” awards based on the new direction taken with the franchise. Unfortunately we were not clear in a recent E3 press interview and things have been misunderstood. Before this gets out of hand, let me explain.
‘In making this Tomb Raider origins story, our aim was to take Lara Croft on an exploration of what makes her the character she embodies in late Tomb Raider games. One of the character 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”.
‘This is where Lara is forced to kill another human for the first time. In this particular section, while there is a threatening undertone in the sequence and surrounding drama, it never goes any further than the scenes that we have already shown publicly. Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game.
‘We take great care and pride in our work and are focused on creating a release that will deliver meaningful storytelling, drama, and exciting gameplay. We’re sorry this has not been better explained. We’ll certainly be more careful with what is said in future.’