UPDATE: Hey, I’m not the only one who noticed!
Just watched the most recent trailer for the new Tomb Raider. Which we have to call “The New Tomb Raider” because they didn’t see fit to give it a number or subtitle.
After viewing, I kind of imagine this is how the pitch for this game went at Crystal Dynamics:
Designer 1: “Okay, we’re going to make a new Tomb Raider game.”
Designer 2: “God, really? Even when we make a good one like Tomb Raider: Legend, all we get is flack from female gaming pundits about how oversexualized Lara is and how she’s a throwback and a male fantasy object and is holding back the progress of strong women characters in video games, etc, etc, etc. Do we have to go through all that again?”
D1: “No, see, I’ve got an idea on that front. We’re going to desexualize Lara Croft.”
D2: “You’re going to make Lara Croft less sexy.”
D2: “How do you intend to do that?
D1: “First, we give her more reasonable proportions.”
D2: “That’s not going to do it. Even if we reduce her breast size, as long as she’s fit and attractive, she’ll be considered ‘sexualized’. How are you going to get around that?”
D1: “Stay with me here. Second, we’ll make her a teenager.”
D2: “Okay. I guess that would desexualize her in the sense that not too many people would be attracted to her in that form.”
D1: “Right, so that’s a good start. Finally, we’re going to beat the living hell out of her. She’ll get shot, impaled, blown up, and beaten.”
D2: “In the death scenes? I remember that Tomb Raider used to be known for its interesting death scenes. My favorite was the Midas one from TR1…”
D1: “No, man, this’ll be during gameplay. Plus, she’ll spend the entire game filthy, with matted hair and ragged clothes, and bleeding from multiple wounds.”
D2: “O…kay. So we’re going to turn her into a completely different character, one that we deliberately construct so that it’s squicky to think of her in any sexual way.”
D1: “You got it! Isn’t it brilliant?”
Let me answer that for you, D2: no, no it’s not.
Let’s ignore the sex thing for a second. (Not just because it’s stupid; I have another point to make.)
One of Lara’s defining characteristics is that she’s always having the time of her life. She does what she does because she enjoys it. The real Lara is the one who purred “I’m such a lucky girl!” upon finding a new temple to explore in TR:L. This is the true root of her appeal – how can you not be attracted to someone who is so enthusiastic and having such a good time?
That aspect of her character will be destroyed – perhaps permanently – in the upcoming game, replaced by a shell-shocked teenager just trying to survive.
“But this is the origin story! This is WHY she -”
No. Frankly, the idea that a young Lara could go through what she’s being put through in this game and then decide to center the rest of her life around the experience is ridiculous.
Make her younger, okay. (And hey, it’s already been done once before in the series.)
Make her more realistically proportioned, I don’t care. (Although I personally think it’s a concession to snot-nosed, professionally offended people who would never have played the damn game anyway.)
But if Lara’s not having any fun in the game, how the hell am I supposed to have fun playing as her?