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Tomb Raider reboot: Lara's new look.:

Right, I watched the trailer. From the reactions around here, I was definitely expecting much worse.

Attempted rape? Yes. Completely unambiguous. Helpless victim? Hell no. The first thing she does is administer a swift knee to the nads. She even has the presence of mind to go for the gun and manages to get her hands out in front of her from being tied behind her back. Appropriate response to (what I'm guessing is) taking her first human life? God, yes. I can definitely believe that this girl becomes a seasoned badass.

As I said before, it's not necessarily a bad narrative. It could make a lot of sense as backstory for Lara, and might even have made a good movie, at least by some measures. But it's not a narrative that I would find fun to play out. I don't want to take on the persona of a whimpering, scared little girl in an Action Survivor's body. That's just not the kind of thing I enjoy.

edited 14th Jun '12 4:30:45 AM by EdwardsGrizzly

<><
 278 Do Know Butchie, Thu, 14th Jun '12 4:47:41 AM from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Don't call me Hikaru.
They've already come out and said the "attempted rape" scene was already in the trailers and no one really noticed it.

Just the opposite, actually: in claiming that sexual assault is not a theme in the game, the developers have shown that they either don't, in fact, understand their own trailer or people's objections to it, because—HEY! There's your sexual assault, in plain sight!—or they're out and out being dishonest about the game they're making. This is why I don't trust them to make a game that deals with the issue sensibly: they've shown no evidence that they understand what it actually is.

By the way, please refrain from making assumptions on what people do or don't see. It's rude.

I would have understood if the PR response had been. "We hadn't intended to include sexual assault, but now that you mention it we totally see it, and since it's not what we wanted, we'll work to try to ameliorate it in any way possible within the time available." That would have been classy and respectful. Instead they said "Sexual assualt? There's no sexual assault here, we didn't intend there to be, and you're wrong for having seen it." Way to be dismissive, developers.

Say we take them at their word and believe them when they say that they did not intend Lara's climactic "kills for the first time" scene to involve sexual assault. There are hundreds of ways a scene like that could have gone; had the scenario played out with a male character, you can bet your ass that it would have played out differently. And yet for some reason they go for the one invoking rape and all its implications despite explicitly not intending to do so. How the heck does that happen?

What's more, we're explicitly told that sexual assault is not a theme they intended to explore, meaning that presumably, it will be ignored as the game progresses—hence, we have a game where sexual assault is presented as something you can just shrug off. How is this not deeply problematic?

And, maybe no one has told you this, but this is new continuity. Totally new story. Other M took a character that we thought was strong and independent and made her dependent on another character as well as giving her terrible dialog. This game is entirely new so that's not an issue.

No, I understand that perfectly. However, just like I expect any incarnation of Spider-Man to be about a geek who gains the proportionate speed and strength of a Spider-Man, or expect any incarnation of Superman to be about the super-powered last survivor of Krypton, who goes on to embody the best humanity has to offer, I expect Tomb Raider to be about Lara Croft, the 90's answer to Indiana Jones. This new Tomb Raider to me, deviates from the core concept in a way I find problematic and troublesome.

To be fair, I didn't initially interpret that scene as sexual assault when I saw the trailer myself. It was only after it was described as such by a reviewer (who I assumed, evidently falsely, knew what they were talking about).
<><
Does one scene change the theme of an entire work? If yes, then sure, they lied to us.

Alternatively, if this is a recurring threat, then yes, they lied to us.

I think a lot of people are missing one of the most pernicious aspects of this whole thing. Its not the attempted rape, per se, or Lara running around like a terrified, injured animal rather than being badass. Its the fact that the writers, self-admittedly, are writing the game to make the player want to protect Lara. Not identify with Lara, not submerge themselves in the game as a whole. . . but "save" Lara Croft, the newly minted meta- Damsel in Distress.
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 282 Saturn, Mon, 18th Jun '12 5:56:36 PM from On The Rings Relationship Status: I-It's not like I like you, or anything!
Hurr
I don't think that's it at all.

This article clearly refutes that.

This all said, I sincerely like the look and feel of this game, and the character that Lara is becoming seems interesting and personable to me. I'm considering a Day 1 Purchase.

edited 18th Jun '12 6:01:42 PM by Saturn

I could see an interesting arc happening where we see Lara progress from being an inexperienced adventurer to the badass we know from the classic games.

Jonah Falcon
Hey. When I played the original Tomb Raider on my PC back in 1995, I cared a lot about Lara simply because her death animations were frighteningly realistic (drowning, falling to her death into a sickening crunch and body crumple, etc.)
Jonah Falcon
[up][up][up] You miss my point. Never mind the exact context of the incident, if the writers and designers of the game are self-admittedly aiming to have the player want to protect Lara, they are turning her into a damsel in distress *relative to the player* even if she isn't one in the story. The hero in a video game shouldn't *need* the player to save them, not unless its a specifically meta-game like Contact.
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 286 Do Know Butchie, Tue, 19th Jun '12 11:08:10 PM from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Don't call me Hikaru.
I could see an interesting arc happening where we see Lara progress from being an inexperienced adventurer to the badass we know from the classic games.

Sure, that would be an interesting arc—it made for compelling stories in Batman Begins and Casino Royale, and there's no reason why this couldn't have been one. Of course, neither of those films required scenes in which the hero is sexually assaulted, and there was no reason why there needed to be one here. And yet, there it is, claims to the contrary aside.

You miss my point. Never mind the exact context of the incident, if the writers and designers of the game are self-admittedly aiming to have the player want to protect Lara, they are turning her into a damsel in distress *relative to the player* even if she isn't one in the story. The hero in a video game shouldn't *need* the player to save them, not unless its a specifically meta-game like Contact.

Shameless plug: I actually made that argument in a post I wrote about the subject on my blog, so it's not something that's gone by completely unnoticed.
[up]The latter featured the main character almost getting castrated. Does that count?

 288 Nicknacks, Wed, 20th Jun '12 1:46:00 AM from Land Down Under
Ding-ding! Going down...
Full disclosure: I've not got the time to read your article Do You Know Butchie — and honestly, I saw reference to both Moe and some anime series whose name I can't spell, and I tuned out when the relevance didn't immediately jump out at me. That's my bad, so if you refute some of these ideas in your article, just redirect me there. At which point I'll finally understand the relevance of anime, I'm sure — I'm not besmirching your writing skills.

But this, metaphysician,

...if the writers and designers of the game are self-admittedly aiming to have the player want to protect Lara, they are turning her into a damsel in distress *relative to the player* even if she isn't one in the story. The hero in a video game shouldn't *need* the player to save them, not unless its a specifically meta-game like

is a problematic reading. You're not wrong — Lara's a woman in distress. But so's every female protagonist and every other player controlled character beside in a game like this. It's a function of the genre.

Take the example of Pacman. Without player aid, it'd be unable to eat and be in turn eaten by those ghost jelly things. It needs the player to save him, and to give it agency, because it sure as hell doesn't have it.

So, when an exec claimed that you'd be guiding Lara, aiding her, supporting her, caring for her, he's playing up to paternalistic dogma, and perhaps even inciting it. I don't disagree. In fact, I strongly believe that the trend he was remarking on was a deliberate move on the game designer's part, in an attempt to invoke paternalistic impulses on the part of the audience.

But he's also fundamentally wrong in saying that it's specific to Lara. It's that this always exiting dynamic's been exaggerated, and that's where the problem lies.

I still feel that this game could be a very pro-woman and surprisingly feminist game.

Edited to improve the consistency of the terminology.

edited 20th Jun '12 1:47:25 AM by Nicknacks

This post has been powered by avenging fury and a balanced diet.
 289 Nicknacks, Wed, 20th Jun '12 4:26:50 AM from Land Down Under
Ding-ding! Going down...
Okay, so I've read your essay.

Let me say acknowledge upfront, several things. Firstly, that you sabotage your essay by riddling it with minor inconsistencies and problematic arguments. (For instance, you're ostensibly talking about video-game Lara here, not the one that Angelina Jolie played in the movies. Yet you mention that latter incarnation in a comparison with the coming game. I can see why you'd conceive of them all playing the same basic type, and why your allusion to Jolie could strengthen your argument through a readily conceivable allusion, but it's a semantically weak comparison. And, besides, surely your audience would be conceptually aware of Tomb Raider already, though you could argue with me on that one, I concede. You do drop in a reference to Haruhi Suzumiya with the expectation that your audience knows what's going on there.)

Secondly, as much as it might be possible to sell me on this game exploiting patriarchal biases and therefore strengthening them, it's not going to be possible to convince me away from this game purely on the strength of that argument. The trailer has sold me on an empowerment narrative, of a weak woman becoming a strong one. It promises me a power fantasy of shooting dudes and being kick-ass, but having to struggle in order to do it. If you can convince me that overcoming odds, odds that partially stem from the difficulty in being of a marginalised gender*, isn't a feminist narrative, then I'll be convinced entirely.

Regardless: that you draw a link between moe and western media looks at first a problematic connection, but I realise that a)anime's reaches critical saturation point already, given the existence of The Last Airbender, amongst other things and b)it's a convenient term to talk about the fetishisation of helplessness. However, it does muddy the waters — I reckon that if you want to draw any more a significant connection between the two then you're going to need to explore moe more thoroughly than a paragraph containing a single example and an allusion to an apparent debate. (Over what, exactly, I wondered.)You fail to sustain that line of reasoning even into your next example — is The Other M a moe influenced portrayal?

Again, these are technical issues.

The connection you draw between Lara's vulnerability and the need for player intervention is a good one, and one that partially answers my questions of genre raised above. You sabotage yourself again when you suggest that cutscene Lara is more competent* than her avatar counterpart, since a) that's a function of the genre and b) it's not true. She's really quite vulnerable in a lot of those clips, or at least I remember her being so.

I hesitate to add that we're not seeing the full picture here, and that if the arc of the game is as has been laid out by designers, as a movement towards competency and badassedom — and before anyone links that article, it might not be smooth, but does anyone have any doubt as to where its ending?

So, yeah, there are problems. Lara's character redesign comes definitely from an attempt to reign in the power the original had by limiting her overt sexuality. And there are other problems you suggest, and others I've thought of, and I agree.

But ultimately, you just can't convince me that

Sure, she was objectified to hell and back, but that wasn’t the character’s fault, and in spite of that, she was still someone you could pin a power fantasy on.

couldn't be a good description of this game in a couple of years. Different objectification, different power fantasy, that's all.*

edited 20th Jun '12 4:27:03 AM by Nicknacks

This post has been powered by avenging fury and a balanced diet.
The trailer has sold me on an empowerment narrative, of a weak woman becoming a strong one.
I have to say, this statement feels so WRONG.
Let me fix it:
The trailer has sold me on an empowerment narrative, of a weak person becoming a strong one.
My biggest worry is that they can't follow up with the "becoming a strong one" part.
If they can do it well, it would be the only story that I know were a person develops into a badass in a believable way.
The "attempted rape" may be a little unnecessary (and I wasn't really happy when I saw it), but throughout the trailer I never saw a Lara who was weak. Helpless maybe, but not weak. Always fighting, never giving up.
Pour y voir clair, il suffit souvent de changer la direction de son regard

www.xkcd.com/386/
 291 Nicknacks, Wed, 20th Jun '12 7:50:22 AM from Land Down Under
Ding-ding! Going down...
Your correction confuses me.

I think you might be implying that my statement was sexist because it used "woman" instead of "person, " as if I was linking being female gendered with being weak. As if there's something distinctly female about moving from weak to strong, and that weakness is the default state for being female. Or possibly something else, I can't say.

But I wasn't. I was just being specific. The game is about a woman, and the trailer implies an empowerment narrative that she is the protagonist to, one where she is in a weak position, and develops into a strong one. It is, in short, an empowerment story about a woman who starts out weak, and becomes strong.

Perhaps the confusion comes in my use of "weak", and if I had clarified as "weak position".
but throughout the trailer I never saw a Lara who was weak. Helpless maybe, but not weak. Always fighting, never giving up.
I see you agree.

Furthermore, I think that specificity in this case is important. Both to support the generic statement I'd preferred with a trill of accuracy — this game billed as being the story of a woman, after all — but also in reference to the narrative that the trailer suggests.

I mean, we're all reading her gender as important to reading this trailer, right? Why? If we substituted her with Nathan Drake, but had exactly the same things happen to him, would we notice the difference. I'd say we'd notice a strange discrepancy, but that's because her actions are coded as distinctly feminine. The threat of rape, the fear she experiences in the cave, the reaction to the dying dear, the way that the female friend reacts to her and the way that woman's experience is echoed by the protagonist's later encounter. The entire thing is codified as female gendered through semantics of genre. So the fact that this is a story of female empowerment is actually more accurate than a story of person empowerment.

That's what all out arguments are predicated on, on this story being a distinctly female journey.

Now, for the record. I'm saying that it's a genre expectation that women are likely to suffer from abuse and rape and experience fear. I'm saying that genre conventions and readings are inherently sexist, and that we're all inherently sexist because we innately understand these readings — because so many "tropes" are inherently sexist, and we all get tropes, don't we?

What I'm not saying, is that it should be like that, or that you, gentle reader, are a bad person.

edited 20th Jun '12 7:51:23 AM by Nicknacks

This post has been powered by avenging fury and a balanced diet.
"I mean, we're all reading her gender as important to reading this trailer, right?"

No, not really. All except me, maybe. Maybe I singled you out to represent my confusion, but I actually can't empathize with the focus on the main character's sex. It's someone who develops from the object of other people's action to an important actor. Assuming Croft becomes badass later.

From my point of view, the trailer would have worked with minor differences but otherwise unchanged (including the attempted rape) for a male character.

edited 20th Jun '12 9:05:30 AM by Uchuujinsan

Pour y voir clair, il suffit souvent de changer la direction de son regard

www.xkcd.com/386/
 293 Psyclone, Wed, 20th Jun '12 10:04:40 AM from Somewhere else
A Superior Spider-Man
http://chainsawsuit.com/2012/06/20/the-tomb-raider-reboot/
Any child can follow rules. True adulthood is knowing which ones to break and when.
 294 Maridee, Wed, 20th Jun '12 10:06:07 AM from the suburban jungle Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
I think we're not going to know anything about the context of how it's portrayed until after the game comes out. Maybe he'll just be that one jerk; maybe it'll be more objectification; maybe it'll be really neat commentary on the way previous games objectified Lara. But I won't have a problem with it, as long as a)there are other guys in the game who aren't rapists, and b) it contributes to the storyline.
ophelia, you're breaking my heart
 295 Saturn, Wed, 20th Jun '12 10:28:07 AM from On The Rings Relationship Status: I-It's not like I like you, or anything!
Hurr
It might just be known as "The one time in that scene where some guy tried to rape Lara so she killed him."

 296 Rocket Dude, Wed, 20th Jun '12 10:43:49 AM from AZ, United States
This hat doesn't fit!
Personally, while I don't hold high hopes for the game, I'm not being pessimistic about it. I mean, this is Eidos, they managed to sorta defy expectations with Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
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 297 Kostya, Wed, 20th Jun '12 10:46:18 AM from Everywhere
The Razruchityel
A friend who's a fan of the series just brought this to my attention so I figured I'd ask. So there's an attempted rape in this game? Anybody want to clue me in?

If we substituted her with Nathan Drake, but had exactly the same things happen to him, would we notice the difference

Ironically, I think what will happen is that people will actually start praising that, especially those who don't like Nathan Drake and always thought he lacked any actual human flaws or vulnerabilities.

  • shrug* I tend to me an immersionist. While you are playing the game, if the game is well designed, and especially if it has a strong narrative, you should "forget" that you are playing a game, and instead be engrossed in what the character is "doing."
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 300 onyhow, Thu, 12th Jul '12 6:06:25 AM from Thaddis Sabbah, still fighting Vaygrs Relationship Status: Singularity
Mothership online...also adorable
News: no rape...
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