Culture Fail: Gaming Developers Win, then Fail

The Tomb Raider series, long bemoaned by the feminist movement for it’s objectifying design of Lara Croft, took one step forward before tumbling- face first- down a staircase of epic failure. Originally they were given props for redesigning the protagonist to be more realistic and less of sexual object. This was a huge step in the gaming culture, which is rife with degrading imagery of female characters. Then later it was announced that the “new and improved” Lara’s storyline will include kidnapping, torture and attempted rape. Why? Why is this necessary? The developers state that this is a prequel, and it will show Lara’s ascension from a fragile, frighten young woman to the tough-as-nails hero she becomes in later games. Also later establishing that the attempted rape is supposed to sympathize the player to her character, and make them want to protect her. After the huge backlash from this announcement, Crystal Dynamics attempted to back peddle saying, “”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…” which came unfortunately too late, as the Executive Producer Ron Rosenberg had already gone on record in an interview with stating:


“RON: “And then what happens is her best friend gets kidnapped, she gets taken prisoner by scavengers on the island. They try to rape her, and-”

KOTAKU: “They try to rape her?”

RON: “She’s literally turned into a cornered animal. And that’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s either forced to fight back or die and that’s what we’re showing today.”


Apparently Crystal dynamics doesn’t understand, like many writers/developers, what exactly rape is, and how big a problem it is. And that in itself is a symptom of a greater issue. They don’t see what’s wrong with it. Why does the player need more motivation than not wanting to repeat the stage? It seems to work for every other game ever. That also means Lara is no longer the hero, the -presumably male- player is. They’ve effectively turned one of the few female gaming heroes into a damsel in distress. Crystal Dynamics redesigned her character to be less sexually explicit, only to put her into a torture porn and declare it “all the name of the plot”.


Crystal Dynamics, you do not understand feminism. You do not understand the very real threat that women live with every day. That rape is real, it destroys lives, and it’s an epidemic in our American culture. When you make the choice to include sexual violence in your media, you contribute to the normalizing of rape, and the desensitization of people to rape. You had a chance to do some good in a medium that is desperate for change, and you failed. And you should all be incredibly ashamed of yourselves.


By Magdalen O’Reilly