Developer Avers Tomb Raider Villains Murder Lara in Respectful Manner

Just prior to E3, Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics released a trailer showing, among other action, a bad guy getting a bit fresh with a captured and bound Lara.

Lara knees him in the nuts, bites him in the face (after he doesn’t seem to take the hint) then shoots his dumb ass.

This scene (which starts at about 2:15 in the video), in addition to executive producer Ron Rosenberg’s comment to Kotaku that the bad guys will try to rape Lara, was apparently enough to put the internet into a bit of a tizzy, prompting studio head Darrell Gallagher to issue an apology 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 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 the future."

In other words, they may tie her up and beat her.  They may blow her up or shoot her.  They may even chase her down, tackle her to the ground and stab her in the face but they won’t cop a feel.

That would just be inappropriate.

Source: G4TV

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Contributing Editor Andrew Eisen

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  1. 0
    Elle says:

    The whole "rape" thing in a fictional setting just isn't a hot-button issue for me. Maybe that would change if I had different life experiences. Who can say?  I won't dispute it as lazy writing, but it doesn't inspire me to pick up a torch and pitchfork.

    Though yeah, that one producer's comments were pretty creepy.

  2. 0
    Samster says:

    I don't know if your female perspective is actually all that alternate. You're arguing a slightly different point. Most people who are upset by this aren't upset because she's not an instant badass, but that 'earning' your right to declare yourself brave, heroic and independent is a far cry different when you're a female character than a male character and usually includes sexual violence. You only have to look at something like the elven origin story in Dragon Age to see it holds true (if you're female, you're threatened with rape. If you're male, you're rescuing helpless female NPCs from rape).

    Lara's original origin story was no less a story of survival and rebirth. Nobody had a problem with that one to my knowledge. Becoming a hero from nothing isn't a problem full stop, but defaulting to female = threat of rape is, for all sorts of reasons from ethical ones to plain lazy, bad writing.

  3. 0
    Elle says:

    Alternate female perspective here.

    Ok, so Tomb Raider has never really been a series I've been into. I was a kid during the PS1 days but I didn't get into gaming until I was introduced to JRPGs in middle school.  That said, from the trailer alone, I'm kind of interested in picking this up.  I don't see the immense amount of thrashing about that Lara's getting handed to her as a bad thing…what matters is the end result.

    To butcher a quite from Skyrim, Which is better? To be born courageous and strong, or to overcome your weak nature through great effort? (And lets face it, the average modern girl who has not been trained to deal with a real survival situation is going to start out pretty weak. So will the average guy, but possibly weak in different areas.)

    True courage isn't about being fearless in the face of a scary situation, it's about being scared out of your wits but pushing through anyway. My favorite female heroes of the (mostly fantasy) books I read had to fight across that barrier, and some of them went through a hell of a lot of pain to get there. The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon probably has the closest parallels to the bits of Lara Croft we've been shown.  Moon is female of course, but also a retired Marine and licensed paramedic. The protagonist, Paks, comes to seek to be a paladin. She actually starts fearless, but through one horrible experience she basically has her spirit broken and has to, with help, rebuild herself again And as a sort of ultimate test, she gives herself as a hostage in exchange for the lost king she's trying to save, and is subjected to three days of pretty brutal public torture at the hands of an evil god's cult, including actual (if fade-to-blacked-out) rape. She persists through it by holding to her faith, and in the end her gods reveal themselves through her to show that fear and torment have not triumphed, effectively breaking the cult.

    For me (even as someone who had by that point abandoned religious faith), that's a much more powerful statement than having someone who can kick ass and take names from the beginning. And indeed, the big theme of the last book is pretty much what I said about the nature of courage…"Courage is moving forward".

  4. 0
    thatblack1 says:

    I'm not saying to go off and say "how dare you be offended."  What I am saying is that when people rage about it. Remind them that the process goes through months of planning, consideration, what does it do for story, etc, THEN we create it.  So at the end of it all, you like it or you don't.  You don't have to watch it, you don't have to buy it, and nobody is forcing it on you.  Leave us and our craft/product alone.

  5. 0
    Samster says:

    Unfortunately, the way the developers and producers of the game think about the game affects the way they've designed it and designed the characters. It's not as simple as just dismissing them as idiots.

    For me this topic has been a double whammy of seeing a character very near and dear to my heart exploited, and gender issues in games rearing their ugly heads again, so I'm . . . a little enthusiastically passionate about it 😉 Thanks for hearing me out though.

  6. 0
    Mastermune says:

    However . . . people involved in the new TR's creation explicitly stated that "people" cannot "project" into Lara Croft. They have explicitly removed from her any status as a protagonist

    Then the development people who expressed those comments are being idiots, that's all,because from what I have seen from the game there is no difference from controlling Lara from Nathan Drake, how does one remove the protagonist from being the protagonist? they said we can not "project" into Lara Croft but I have seen no evidence of this,and even if it somehow true that they tried to do this, I doubt people would see it or care they would still at least try to "project" into Lara.

    This is just my opinion and I respect yours, but for me one of the best female role models will allways be Samus from Metroid (maybe even number 1,also ignore Other M)

  7. 0
    Samster says:

    1) It's simple. When you a play a game, for the most part, the protagonist is your avatar in the game world. When they fail, you fail. When they kick ass, you kick ass. However . . . people involved in the new TR's creation explicitly stated that "people" cannot "project" into Lara Croft. They have explicitly removed from her any status as a protagonist – she is your escort mission. You have to 'help' her. You have to 'protect' her. This concern and this viewpoint is never voiced about various male protagonists, so what does this mean? The worrying but obvious implications are that CD either thinks female characters are difficult to empathise with or root for when they are strong and confident (or at all), and/or that when Rosenberg says "people", he only really means "male gamers", and is professing his belief that male gamers cannot possibly identify with or like an unbroken, empowered female character.

    2) Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time there was a little girl who liked action figures and video games and other "little boy" things and as she grew up, she stubbornly clung to the things she loved in spite of the fact that they continued to be produced primarily for men, and all the girl characters were mostly princesses to be rescued or submissing romantic sideplots. She was 11 years old when Tomb Raider was first released. Visually, Lara Croft was 'designed for men', but when that little girl picked up Tomb Raider for the first time? She was awed. Here was a protagonist who was female but IN SPITE of that, she was smart. Educated. Successful. Stood for no bullshit. Could hold her own. Was independent. She had a mansion and she rode a motorcycle and she scaled mountains and explored tombs alone and she didn't even need a romantic subplot until the abomination that was Angel of Darkness rolled out of the muck.

    That little girl was me, and I thought Lara Croft was awesome, inspiring, and I wanted to BE her.

    And you know what? I wasn't alone. Male developers may not have INTENDED for Lara to be any kind of female role model. But she became one. And male developers may have continued to try and wrestle her in the sex appeal direction. Crystal Dynamics may have ruined her by giving her annoying male sidekicks and stereotypically female motivations and dilemmas and oldfashioned plots. But in spirit, Lara Croft was the first and the best female protagonist the gaming industry ever got. They broke the mold when they made her.


    3) What happens then? Well, with the industry and gender perceptions as they currently are, I don't believe it WOULD happen right now. A male character would not be presented as a victim who needs the player's protection, and would simply not be subjected to clear sexual assault as part of his origin story, and most importantly, this would not be lauded proudly as a 'character defining moment' and 'gritty realism'. It just wouldn't happen.

    But if gender representation were truly equal and Lara was really Larson Croft and it wasn't the sexism that was the problem? I still don't feel the sexual content is necessary, I'm still not convinced writing in games is strong enough to handle a topic like rape in a sensitive and meaningful fashion, and even as a horror fan, I'm still not convinced this dark, violent direction is in-keeping with Tomb Raider's inherent spirit of exploration and adventure.

  8. 0
    Mastermune says:

    There's a few things I do not understand that you mention and if possible would like some clarification:

    1:the comment about input from the player to save Lara, I don't really get this,I mean this is a game almost every input we do in any game is for the advancement in it,avoid dying etc,so why should this scene be excluded from input? nowadays they want to make us part of the cinematic action and not let it be just another cutscene this is just part of it (btw I hate QTE's)

    2:I read your link and I don't buy the Lara Croft is a good role model,no offense, but from the very beginning Lara was seen as a sex symbol, the action girl with huge breast's, tiny shorts, and an "attitude" I don't see that as a good role model for anyone.

    3:Let's suppose that this game was exactly the same including said scene that's the cause of this whole debacle but swap Lara with a man,what happens then?

  9. 0
    Neeneko says:

    I am actually often surprised at how few males are offended by that meme actually.  Maybe they see it as a way to differentiate themselves from other males.. or maybe they just like that it gives them an excuse to tell girls they can't have to cover themselves up and stop acting 'slutty'…. sour grapes can be a powerful tool.

  10. 0
    Samster says:

    Not to mention that treating rape as an inevitable force of nature that is bound to descend on women in certain situations does nothing but play into rape culture. Rape/sexual assault are not anonymous phenomena that just happen – they are actions undertaken and choices made by actual human beings.

    The related problem with this approach is it infers that when placed in a position of power and faced with a vulnerable female, a male will always want to rape her because that's just the way it is. It's just a male thing to do. Male gamers should be just as offended by that as so many feminist gamers are offended at the way Lara has been handled in-game and in interviews/marketing/conversation around the game.

    If this had been a true survival story focusing on character and environment, NOT gender, it could have been great. As is, based on the uncomfortable tone of the trailer and the lurid, obliviously misogynistic way the game and character have been described by their own development team, I currently have very little faith that CD can pull this off.

    They are, of course, welcome to surprise me – though it's gonna take more than that lame backpedalling 'apology' to achieve it.

  11. 0
    Neeneko says:

    I have to agree with Samster here… there are all sorts of narrative methods for portraying a character as having gone through hardships without having to go the 'weak, nearly raped victim' route (which is almost exclusively used for female characters.. and before you say 'but females are the ones who tend to get raped, if you look at warzone statistics, male rape is only a few percentage points behind).

    So beyond being a bit sexist, it is also kinda lazy in the same way skinner box mechanisms are lazy.  Effective at triggering that 'white knight' thing in a lot of males, but pretty trite at this point.

  12. 0
    Samster says:

    Thanks for putting a heck of a lot of words in my mouth. It's exactly the reason why even trying to raise a discussion about these issues gets tiresome as hell.

    At no point did I mention that I was opposed to "realism", "mature content", a survival story. The simple fact of the matter is that if Lara had been a male character, this would have been a very different game. There wouldn't have been a sniff of sexual content. There wouldn't have been this idiotic belief stated by the game's own producer that an iconic, tough, female character like Lara can't be 'projected into', or that 'people' (meaning male players, of course) don't want to be her. They want go 'aww, poor dear' and protect her and help her.

    Nathan Drake is a vulnerable, human character who goes through a HECK of a lot of hardships. He gets hurt, he gets betrayed, people he cares about get hurt, he winds up in very dire survival situations – but at no point is he ever at risk of sexual assault. At no point is his power as an active protagonist stripped from him. At no point is he portrayed or talked about as a poor, hopeless victim of circumstance and only we, big strong player, can 'save' him.

    Lara's original origin story was no less traumatic (plane crash in hostile terrain, she is the lone survivor, her parents and fiance all die in it) but it contained no sexual content, no unnecessarily sensationalised violence. It was gender neutral. It was fine.

    I discuss all this and more right here, if you're interested in my actual opinions instead of imposing your own on me.

  13. 0
    Mastermune says:

    So if this game was all about rainbows and sunshine you would be fine with it? Think about it, this game is an origin story, how a young woman from college had to toughen up to survive and how she had to kill to do it. You often times see stories in real life on how people get lost for days, even weeks in some remote location and have to survive with just your wits so what's so bad about representing that in this game? sure they don't encounter mercenaries and the like in those situations but hey it's a game suspension of disbelieve.

    Also why is it important to know who is behind the controller? be it male, or female anyone can enjoy a game if you don't like it don't buy it or play it simple as that.

  14. 0
    Samster says:

    The scene itself was unnecessary and bad enough, layered on top of an already unnecessarily brutal and uncomfortable gameplay tone. THEN the people in charge went ahead and painted Lara quite deliberately as a weak, vulnerable 'cornered animal' who desperately needs the player's (implied male, not female) help, stripping away any power she had as an active protagonist. Rosenberg even leapt in pretty directly to brag about all the hardships CD are going to put her through, INCLUDING the rape scene.


    It's gonna take more than "we lied, there is no attempted rape after all! Conveniently!" to convince me this game has been developed with non-hetero male players in mind at ALL, or in a direction that is healthy for the franchise, and healthy for already-struggling female protagonists in gaming overall.

  15. 0
    Neeneko says:

    I don't know, I think we would, as a community benefit a great deal from more 'I am sorry we offended, it was not our intent, we are listening' and less 'how dare you be offended! I am going to be more offensive now because you suck!'

  16. 0
    thatblack1 says:

    I'm sick of game developers apologizing for stuff they put in their games and for people feeling offended by what they perceive whether is is correct or not. Yes, I know you want to make games that are for a wide audience but dammit you're not going to make everyone happy all the time and if you keep catering to everyone game will never "grow up" because people will be afraid to tackle certain subjects.

    TL;DR Stop apologizing and just make games.  People will find things offensive in everything.

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