Since it was revealed to the world on the cover of Game Informer magazine, the genesis story of Tomb Raider and our favorite adventurer Lara Croft has set the world on fire for a multitude of reasons.
People have weighed in on her new look, her new abilities or lack thereof in her early years, and how strong vs. how weak a woman can be portrayed in a video game. Until last week, reporters, pundits, bloggers, and podcasters were all talking about Lara, her game, and how it would play.
I guess it was only a matter of time before someone had to make the entirety of Crystal Dynamics look like a big horse’s ass.
Rob Rosenberg, in the middle of an interview with Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, began to detail the company’s new vision for Lara in what is to be her construction into the Tomb Raider we’ve known for over fifteen years. Asked about the difficulties of writing a female protagonist, Rosenberg loaded the gun by saying “…When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character. They’re more like ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of ‘I’m going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.’”
Rosenberg, already stepping in shit, cocked the gun and took aim at his foot. “When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character.” At this point in the article, I’m sure Schreier had everything he wanted for a good article and could have published it with enough controversy ready to ensue. Alas, both he and his interviewee had to take it a step further.
“And then, Rosenberg says, those scavengers [Lara’s attackers – Anystrom0] will try to rape her” is how the article reads. Rosenberg’s quote after this is “She is literally turned into a cornered animal. It’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s forced to either fight back or die.” Whether Schreier was looking to unleash the trolls from the dungeon, Rosenberg wanted to start a fire or there was a misunderstanding, misquote or general fuckery doesn’t matter. There was now blood in the water, and the sharks were hungry.
In the days that followed, I remembered why I typically don’t bring up my video game-playing habits to people who have no involvement or are not even familiar with gaming in general. The mere mention of “Tomb Raider,” “Lara Croft” and “rape” in the same article allowed non-gaming websites to once again look down on the industry and remind their audiences why games should never be taken seriously. I understand that Rosenberg’s point is to make an origin story for Lara and, misguided as his point may be, I’m not going to give an overall opinion on the new Tomb Raider entry until I have the final, finished copy in my hands next March.
My opinion, however, is that Rosenberg is a rube who doesn’t seem to remember the world in which we live. Thanks to not just the internet but Facebook and Twitter, one phrase can become the most talked-about topic in the world within seconds. Rosenberg managed to get everyone discussing Tomb Raider again, but not for the reason we should be. I’ve been looking forward to the new style that people claim is inspired by the Uncharted games…which is ironic, considering those games themselves were a take on the Tomb Raider entries since Tomb Raider: Legend, which themselves owe a great deal to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – sorry, tangent averted.
Now I find myself weeding through renewed arguments from 1996 – what kind of a symbol for feminism is Lara Croft? How does she stand up to her attackers as the scared little girl we have been shown in the beginning of the game, which are no longer wild animals and dinosaurs but human beings? And this doesn’t even begin to touch the supposed “rape” angle, which is now vehemently denied by Crystal Dynamics studio head Darrell Gallagher as being the focus of any scene in the game. This is where the story gets interesting for me, and has been lost in the fuss.
After the denial, Kotaku published another story where Rosenberg contradicts this new statement from Crystal Dynamics and included a direct transcript of the previously published interview with Rosenberg. This new article contains the direct quote where Rosenberg says “They try to rape her, and…” followed by the original quote about Lara being a cornered animal. So, rather than just quoting Rosenberg originally and giving him no way of backtracking, they paraphrase and end up playing whole week of he said, he said.
If Crystal Dynamics is attempting to, as they say, tell an origin story for Lara, that’s fine. You’re not going to sell copies by putting in dramatic and supposedly shocking scenes, you’ll do it by making a good game that people want to play. Teasing a rape scene is somewhere underneath Nintendo’s Wii Vitality Sensor in terms of marketability. Custer’s Revenge, even with notoriety on its side, managed to move a paltry 80,000 copies. RapeLay, which caused a media and political frenzy for its gameplay objectives of groping and molesting Japanese schoolgirls, was not sold outside of Japan. Were Jack Thompson still allowed to practice law, he likely would be on all media fronts at this point accusing Crystal Dynamics of blatant misogynism and citing a non-existent scene in the game where Lara gets penetrated in five places by tentacles.
My point in all this is that the new Tomb Raider is a game that deserves hype and looks to be a hell of a lot of fun to play when it’s released in March. I hope that all the bullshit that has sprouted since Rosenberg opened his stupid gob fades away and we can go back to evaluating this game on its own merits. I also hope Square-Enix does not pressure Crystal Dynamics into toning down the final product in order to appease the masses. Electronic Arts is beginning to piss off a lot of people with the new direction of Dead Space 3, and there was no public outcry to even warrant such a change. If it becomes obvious that the game’s content has been mellowed out so that controversy does not rear its head once again, Square-Enix will continue to alienate their customers even more. Developers, take note: SHUT THE FUCK UP.