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Old 06-14-2012, 09:57 AM   #17
Ernst
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Interesting topic, I was thinking of making one on this too, but based on a different article. One by The Guardian, which I will put in this post. It raises the point that the scene is used in a throw away fashion to make Croft especially vulnerable and the enemy especially evil. You should all read it, it raises seem very valid points, but on the whole I disagree:

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The Tomb Raider video game franchise, and its heroine Lara Croft, is 16 years, nine games, two films and at least one amusement park ride, old this year. Although Lara was originally best known for the remarkable size of her breasts – and that's still probably the first thing to spring to mind about her – she's grown into an interesting character, with plenty of adventures under her belt. And at the recent E3 conference developers Crystal Dynamics revealed a new, gritty version of Lara Croft's history – one that sees her bloodied, bruised, badly wounded, and forced to fight for her life against mercenaries, one of whom tries to rape her before she blows his head off.

The inclusion of the attempted rape scene raises some difficult questions. If the scene is playable, what exactly happens should the player fail? If it is not, why show it at all? Lara is already going through a lot – shipwreck, major injury, a friend's kidnapping, the threat of death – and adding sexual assault to the mix might just be over-egging the pudding.

Then there is the fact that rape is not a naturally occurring event like a rockfall, or a transformative one like a radioactive spider bite. In too much media, its use is a lazy shorthand that allows a writer to paint a bad guy as particularly bad, and a woman as particularly vulnerable (the genders are rarely reversed), without dealing with the consequences or meaning of such an act for any of the parties involved. That doesn't mean no storyteller or video game should ever tackle rape – of course they should, where a story demands it – but if the only reason to include sexual violence is to emphasise a woman's vulnerability or a man's evilness, then it's fair to question why a threat of murder is not enough.

The bigger question, in the case of Tomb Raider, is why the game's designers decided to make Lara Croft so vulnerable. In a recent interview with Kotaku, executive producer Ron Rosenberg said players want to protect Lara, and that the new game would break her down, put her through awful experiences, and make the players "root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character".

His statements take some unpacking, and for fans of the Tomb Raider series they're not encouraging. As a player, I don't remember having many problems projecting myself as Lara – and I don't particularly want an avatar in a game that needs protecting. Players aren't expected to want to protect Nathan Drake in Uncharted, or John Marston in Red Dead Redemption, or Max Payne – so why Lara? Rosenberg seems to suggest it's because she's female – and it's hard to see that as anything other than a sexist approach, an assumption that men can't lose themselves in stories with female protagonists and/or that female gamers simply don't exist.

He also says she's forced to suffer such horrors that she "literally turns into a cornered animal". I hope it turns out that Lara's been a werewolf all this time – but I suspect he means that her character and spirit come under such attack that she's reduced to fight-or-flight responses. The Lara Croft of previous games has generally been intelligent, witty, resourceful and ingenious, as well as athletic, strong and skilful. Lara has always been a pragmatic survivalist with a keen sense of adventure; to decide that she needs to be tortured in order to be able to kill goes against what we know of her history and personality so far.

The idea that Lara – like Samus from Metroid – should have an origin story in which she is weak in order to explain her strength is difficult to swallow. Male characters are generally permitted to be strong without needing a back story in which they are broken – why should female characters be different? Why do we need to protect Lara through an awful ordeal for her strength to make sense? Judging by the comments on Kotaku and elsewhere, I'm not the only one who shares these concerns.

It is rare that strong women characters get to be protagonists in video games – and that's part of the problem. If there were a multitude of women whose stories were told well – flawed, brilliant, good, evil, strong, weak and everything in between – the mischaracterisation of one would not have such an impact. Lara Croft has never been without design problems (or presumably back pain), but to adjust her appearance while smashing her characterisation into smithereens would rather miss the point of all the criticism. I'm hoping, but not expecting, that this is a savage case of mis-marketing and that Crystal Dynamics has made a well-written, sensitively done story, that doesn't turn an iconic female character into a helpless wreck in the name of an edgy reboot. We'll have to wait and see.
Mary Hamilton, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...t-rape-attempt

Left a response in the comments, so I'll just paste it here.

I think what the video game industry can take from this article is that there's absolutely no point in trying to win over the press or the critics, because they're always going to reject something about what is being made, whether it's the integrity, content, or ambitions.

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The inclusion of the attempted rape scene raises some difficult questions. If the scene is playable, what exactly happens should the player fail? If it is not, why show it at all?
Are those really difficult questions? Let me try and address them. If the player fails to overcome the attempted rape, if it is playable (which, like in Heavy Rain, will probably be done via quick time events), maybe it can end in a game over screen. Because the game over screen isn't a metaphor, symbolism or subliminal message. It's literally a 'You did not progress in the way which the developers wanted you to, so you need to do that bit again' screen; it's not a 'You just got raped and rape victims are losers lol' screen, which I fear you may have been suggesting was the intent should that be the case. Secondly, you ask if the attempted rape scene is not playable, then why should it be shown at all. Probably for the same reason they're shown in films: to portray a particular type of heinousness in the character attempting the rape. The same reason you conclude, as you know, lazy (which I don't understand, personally, as these people are supposed to be isolated pirates or something, right, and isn't it typical of these types of villains as brutal and barbarian-esque?). You also suggest that this shows a woman as particularly vulnerable, which I also don't understand. Why does it show her as particularly vulnerable? I don't want to seem stupid or anything, but I really don't understand why this makes her seem vulnerable, or synonymously, particularly weak? That doesn't cross my mind at all. Yes, I think of the character attempting the rape as particularly brutal, immoral, etc, but I don't think of the character suffering the attempted rape as weak or especially vulnerable.

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Then there is the fact that rape is not a naturally occurring event like a rockfall, or a transformative one like a radioactive spider bite. In too much media, its use is a lazy shorthand that allows a writer to paint a bad guy as particularly bad, and a woman as particularly vulnerable (the genders are rarely reversed), without dealing with the consequences or meaning of such an act for any of the parties involved.
Well, murder isn't a naturally occurring event either, but you seemed to enjoy the other Tomb Raiders enough, without concerning yourself too much about the effect of Lara Croft's endless rampage of murder on the poor families of all of those henchmen.

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That doesn't mean no storyteller or video game should ever tackle rape – of course they should, where a story demands it – but if the only reason to include sexual violence is to emphasise a woman's vulnerability or a man's evilness, then it's fair to question why a threat of murder is not enough.
I mean, same point really. Should there only ever be murder when it's there to explore the effects of murder?

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The bigger question, in the case of Tomb Raider, is why the game's designers decided to make Lara Croft so vulnerable. In a recent interview with Kotaku, executive producer Ron Rosenberg said players want to protect Lara, and that the new game would break her down, put her through awful experiences, and make the players "root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character"
.

It's this particular paragraph that makes me suggest video game designers just stand firm and carry on. The problem with video games and the reason they've been endlessly lambasted by critics and journalists is because there is no realism to these hulking, cardboard characters. They are endlessly strong, endlessly heroic and always victorious. I suggest the reason they've made Lara Croft more vulnerable in this iteration is to fit with the obvious concept of a more realistic approach to tackling the character. Isn't it good that we get to see the character who thus far has been a boring demi-God in a more human way, where she doesn't fall through a tree and get right back up again brushing it off as a flesh wound, etc? I want to see her vulnerable and hurt, just like I do any character in any art. I want them to be a bit more believable.

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As a player, I don't remember having many problems projecting myself as Lara – and I don't particularly want an avatar in a game that needs protecting
.

Perhaps you and I want different things from the medium. If you want a throwaway bit of entertainment then I guess this is probably for you; I personally would like to see the medium evolve into an art, which it is striving to become.

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He also says she's forced to suffer such horrors that she "literally turns into a cornered animal". I hope it turns out that Lara's been a werewolf all this time – but I suspect he means that her character and spirit come under such attack that she's reduced to fight-or-flight responses. The Lara Croft of previous games has generally been intelligent, witty, resourceful and ingenious, as well as athletic, strong and skilful. Lara has always been a pragmatic survivalist with a keen sense of adventure; to decide that she needs to be tortured in order to be able to kill goes against what we know of her history and personality so far
.

This bit I really don't get. If she was just as powerful in this prequel adventure as she is when she's, what, 10 years older, then what on Earth is the point in doing a prequel? We want to see how she started out and how she developed into the master of, er, tomb raiding, that she is. I like that she's raw and untrained and has to turn to her instincts to survive. And quite in fact this does fit with the other games that have recently decided to explore their main character's origins. Such as Devil May Cry in which we see a reckless Dante acting like a very typical teenager stereotype, or how about Final Fantasy (the one for the PSP, can't remember what it was called) in which we see the beloved Cloud from Final Fantasy VII turned into a mere soldier of no particularly special attributes? I'm sure there are plenty more examples of more vulnerable male characters.

The attempted rape entirely fits with the context of the game. With a semblance of realism and a gritty approach, it seems authentic enough to suggest that these immoral, barbaric men would attempt rape under these circumstances. I don't believe the scene seems to be used to titillate the player or demean the character. I see no problem with it.

One point I would concern myself with though is indeed the developer's comments. They seem a little more controversial and harder to defend.

PS- I don't actually expect many of you to bother reading the entirety of this rambling post, but do read the article and comment, please.
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