Image is of a young, battered Lara Croft with a bow slung over her and tying a bandage on her upper arm using her teeth to tighten the bandage. She is dirty, bruised, and the background is bleak and foggy.


Trigger Warning: Reference to Sexual Assault


Like many people, I think Susan Arendt blows 90% of the commentary on this game right out of the water. What she says is not a reactionary evaluation, or an inflamed knee-jerk reaction. I like that a lot.
Reading what Susan wrote helped me iron out my thinking on the Tomb Raider reboot. While we aren’t saying the same things, you won’t be able to understand my points until you understand hers. Further, in the discussions populated everywhere else people seem hyperfocused/stuck on the implication of rape/sexual violence. While it’s an important point to address, the rape issue stands out so much that everyone else has talked it to death, so I think you have to see what else is there or you’re just scratching the surface.
Before going further in order to keep up:
You should be familiar with Susan’s article: Escapist Magazine Op-Ed: Get Back Up (Trigger Warning: Reference to Sexual Assualt)
You should be familiar with the Trailer. (Trigger Warning: Themes of Sexual Assault)

Three things about Tomb Raider so far stand out for me:
1. Lara is being hardened. Like in a kiln. Many fiction authors use a formula to get you to care about their characters and it goes like this: Make a character, then do terrible awful things to them so that your audience will know their virtues and strengths because of how they handle them. Once they see their mettle, the audience will love your character and follow them with a song in their heart, quiver at every pain they endure, and cry for their losses. We have never had anything bad happen to Lara Croft, she’s been in control, overachieving, and multi-talented since inception.
2. Gaming is a difficult way to communicate internal narratives, unlike books you can’t read her thoughts on the page. The way Crystal Dynamics seem to have chosen to communicate Lara’s thoughts/feelings is through her responses. You can tell she’s scared, or in pain, because she cries out.
3. It is not clear that her “narrative” is meritorious. I am always skeptical of attempts to show vulnerability in women’s stories because we live in a world that tells very limited women’s stories and in general people don’t think outside of a few stereotypes when it comes to women. So in order to appeal to a mass audience either you have to address those stereotypes and turn them on their head (without the right finesse you either do the story injustice or alienate your audience), or emulate those stereotypes as puppetry for the masses. I sincerely hope it will be the latter that is produced, but this isn’t my first rodeo.
Overall, with these thoughts in mind, I’m not really looking forward to this game. I don’t think it’s necessary to torture a character this much for us to see how hardcore they are, I think showing someone’s strength is done better in careful moments rather than blitzing them profusely. Instead, I see the suspension of disbelief challenged here. Based on what I’ve seen, Lara Croft is not going to be hardened like the developer intends, realistically she’ll be crippled by PTSD from all this overstimulation and would require years of hardcore therapy. I mean, therapy IRL can make a person terrifically hardcore, but I can’t see that being converted into a game. I’d believe this story a lot more if it weren’t being presented in such an over-the-top extreme way.
This originated as a comment on but ended up a little longer than I expected, so I took all this text and replicated it on my own blog because for some reason there are people who read me who don’t click links. Thanks again to Susan for continuing to write great op-eds even though right now it’s kinda dangerous to write game opinions while being female.

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5 Responses to “Tomb Raider Reboot E3 Trailer Raises Eyebrows”

  1. Jordan Says:

    Most videogame characters would be crippled by PTSD stuff, but I think they did a pretty good job in making me feel like she SHOULD be crippled by PTSD. Most characters do not seem afraid or even in the world that they are in, they sort of just slug through them. I wonder what kind of response this sort of game would have if it had come out 5 years ago when facial expressions were just so much less.

    I felt more concerned for her because she seemed concerned for herself. For instance take Leon, from resident evil 4, a similarly ‘action horror discovery’ sort of thing. I really don’t feel afraid for him ever because they didn’t do a good job making him seem afraid even in scenes where they wanted him to be. I just didn’t buy it.

    Lara seems much more ‘real’ of a character than many in action/horror games and that’s pretty cool.

    Also suffering from PSD would explain that ‘Laura Croft- Tombraider, cannot leave her own house until she finds her own house key that she has stored in the attic.’ puzzle…


  2. Jordan Says:

    Never is a pretty hard word to throw around. Yes, there are a lot of way overdone tropes. Women getting raped/pregnant is basically all women can do in media. However, game stories are still real stories and they should be allowed to be about anything that can happen in real life. I think if they gave women all the same amounts of stories as men, the occasional rape or pregnant based story wouldn’t be too awful depending on how they treated it.

    As for torture, that’s not really a gender based argument- just a matter of taste. If you don’t want violence that reminds you of the real world in games you play that is your choice. Playing games for escapist reasons is well and good, but I don’t think it’s right to limit the choices of others who don’t. Their stories are valid too.

    Also, I know this doesn’t change the way that they used the rape/implied rape scene in the advertisement but I am willing to make a good bet that she escapes and kicks someones ass before it happens.


    Tiffany Martin Reply:

    Jordan, I think you make a good point when you say “Women getting raped/pregnant is basically all women can do in media.” I think it’s sadly the only kind of story conventional writers think women are interesting in, ironically in both tropes the real “story” is about what is done to women’s bodies, not really to women themselves or anything that women do.

    Whether she escapes isn’t what’s bugging people (I think most people know she will). What bugs me, and hopefully other people is that we have to do this much horror to Lara Croft in order to make her interesting.

    I’ve played games where torture was a theme, but I think it loses it’s appeal with too heavy a hand. If their goal is to craft a narrative to show how Lara became unstoppable and hardcore, why was this their choice? To me that question is interesting.


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Posted by Cake-Pie
Dated: 15th June 2012
Filled Under: Games