Treasure hunter Lara Croft has been a stalwart of the videogaming landscape ever since Tomb Raider exploded onto the short-lived Sega Saturn in 1996, but developers have decided to make some pretty big tweaks to her origin tale in an upcoming reboot of the series—including an attempted-rape plot point that is really pissing people off.
In an interview with Kotaku, the game's producer Ron Rosenberg said Laura is taken prisoner in the new version of the game, and a group of men attempt to rape her before she escapes.
"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," he said. "We're not trying to be over the top, shock people for shock's sake. We're trying to tell a great origin story."Rosenberg added that players will "want to protect her," which sounds like a change tonally from the typically badass version of Lara Croft portrayed in previous incarnations of the series.
Not too surprisingly, Rosenberg's comments quickly set off an online firestorm, with many folks voicing frustration that the sub-plot was added at all. Guardian columnist Mary Hamilton tackled the issue in a recent piece, saying:
"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.Lara Croft's tweaked origin tale has also been trending on social media, with many fans poking fun at the change.
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."
Guys, sorry I can't talk today, I'm busy protecting Lara Croft, then I'm going to swaddle Wonder Woman and teach Black Widow boat safety.— GailSimone (@GailSimone) June 13, 2012
The idea that Lara Croft needs to be a woman you want to "protect," to engage male gamers, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the game.— John Gholson (@gholson) June 13, 2012
If the Tomb Raider designers want to try something truly controversial, they should switch Lara Croft to an A-cup and watch the geeks cry.— Scott Weinberg (@scottEweinberg) June 13, 2012
I don't want to protect Lara Croft! Half the fun of those games is throwing her onto spikes or drowning her when you get frustrated.— Scriblit (@Scriblit) June 13, 2012
Ask gamers to identify with a female character? Too hard. Let's just beat her up so they can get off on protecting her. kotaku.com/5917400/youll-...— Ben Bateman (@AksysGames_Ben) June 11, 2012
Once the story went viral, Square Enix studio head Darrell Gallagher went into damage control mode and said those comments were misconstrued, and the potential "rape" never develops beyond veiled threats.
"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."Sound off: What do you think about the alleged origin tale changes?