Following the publication of several online articles criticising Crystal Dynamics’ handling of the forthcoming Tomb Raider reboot, the developer has released a formal statement in attempt to calm the outraged, offended and disgusted.
The implied notion of attempted rape is the chief complaint journalists are making after seeing the ‘Crossroads’ gameplay trailer debuted at last week’s E3 Expo. During the trailer, one of Lara’s captors touches her shoulder suggestively before she intervenes, fights back and ultimately escapes the encounter. However, writers including The Guardian’s Mary Hamilton and The Kernel’s Mic Wright have attacked CD for the inclusion of this cutscene.
As a response to such articles, Studio Head Darrell Gallagher posted this on the official Tomb Raider website:
“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 later Tomb Raider games. One of the character-defining moments for Lara in the game, which has been incorrectly referred to as an “attempted rape” scene, is the content we showed at this year’s E3 [...] This is where Lara is forced to kill another human being 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.”
Another thing that has peoples’ backs up is Ms Croft’s portrayal as a ‘weak’ character. What these individuals appear to be forgetting however is that Tomb Raider 2013 is an origins title. The aim of the IP is to explicate Lara’s ascent from an ordinary young woman (and by ‘ordinary’ I mean someone who, in the event of being shipwrecked on an isolated tropical island inhabited by malevolent mercenaries, would naturally exhibit fragility and distress) to the strong, unafraid treasure-hunter she embodies in earlier games. Is it not both necessary and logical then that we must see and understand her at her most vulnerable to appreciate this evolution?
Personally, I feel the negativity being directed at Crystal Dynamics is a little OTT. The developer merely wants to discard the sexualised, stereotypical heroine we’ve grown tired of and create a real, human character we will want to protect from life-threatening circumstances – a narrative framework which most, if not all action-adventure games adhere to. And when you consider that you can pick up (and, ahem, ‘fool around’ with) prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto IV, witness a terrorist car bomb kill a mother and child in Modern Warfare 3, and see women brutally beaten and executed in Max Payne 3, a sinister touch on the shoulder isn’t all that scandalous.