This post deals with discussions of rape and sexual assault, and may be triggering for some readers.
Last night, I read an article about the new Tomb Raider game. As a gamer, and a woman, Tomb Raider has always been on my radar, but as I’m more of an FPS/horror fan, it was never something that I played. That being said, Lara Croft being the gaming monolith that she is, it is almost impossible to NOT know at least the basics of the character, and series.
The article I read wasn’t linked to in a very flattering light. The article itself was written in an unflattering tone, and the comments obviously followed suit. Now the words themselves, what Ron Rosenberg was saying, weren’t inherently awful. How they wanted to make Lara more “human” and relatable. That you’d want to “protect” her. And one of the ways writers like to take a strong female character down a notch is to rape them and/or threaten them with rape. The first read, I wasn’t sure what to think. Other people seemed to be mad. And I definitely didn’t feel like it was a GREAT idea, but at the same time, I couldn’t quite articulatewhyit bugged me so much, until I talked with my husband about it and broke it down in to several basic parts.
First, I am mad because other people are upset. I don’t like people being upset. Ireallydon’t like it when people I love are upset. A lot of the people I love are women, some of whom have been in abusive relationships/situations. Making them upset makes me upset, which makes me want to punch someone in the face to make them feel better. Ron Rosenberg is not close enough for me to punch him in the face, and also, he’s not the one that deserves it. He did not create rape culture, although he seems to be intent on perpetuating it.
Second, I am upset because as a gamer, I don’t want my characters totally relatable in a lot of games. I am not threatened by Lara Croft’s body or skills. She is pixels and polygons* and is not a real person. When I play a game, I don’t want someone who has the same skill level as I do, because that’s effectively nothing and that would probably be a really boring game unless you are interested in a game about someone who changes a lot of diapers and folds the same blanket roughly 500 times a day. I want a hero! I want an expert! Nathan Drake is a funny, human, relatable character, but even after he’s been wandering in the desert for days and is on the verge of death, he’s still scaling buildings and walls like the freaking King of the Monkeys. It’s totally possible to make a character relatable and still ensure they are bad-ass. No one is saying “Nathan Drake is too unrelatable for men, let’s rape him and make him more vulnerable”.
Third, I don’t WANT to protect Lara Croft. I want Lara Croft to kick ass and swing from vines and shoot people or whatever it is she does best. I am not interested in babysitting a character, and that’s what it sounds like they’re doing with this franchise. Maybe I’m wrong, only playing this game will actually show me how bad or good it is, and I don’t have that chance yet. But to me, playing a game where the character is vulnerable or weak in any way feels like a total setback. I am scared to advance. I am scared to put my character/self in a dangerous situation, and as a result, the game isn’t fun for me. [Survival Horror is a strange creature, though, where the fear IS the point of the game, and you know what you’re getting in to when you play a Silent Hill or Resident Evil. There is no blind-side where you think you’re playing a puzzle game and suddenly someone’s trying to do you up the butt or something.]
Fourth and lastly, I am upset by this change because as a woman, I don’t want to be reminded that rape exists. Frankly, I don’t need to be reminded that rape exists. Statistically, I am more likely to be assaulted by someone I know than a stranger. Statistically, my daughter is more likely to be assaulted than your son, and that scares the ever-loving shit out of me. I already live in a world where I am made all too aware of the possibilities of rape and sexual assault, simply because I am a woman. Please, let me have a world where the go-to device to make a woman seem less powerful is to threaten her with sexual assault, because it’s lazy writing and it smacks of misogyny when you can’t think of something more creative. There are other ways to show a female character, or any character, is at a disadvantage without randomly trying to show penises at her and/or them. Maybe she can’t climb as well at first. Maybe her jump mechanic doesn’t work 100% and you have to retry. Who knows, the possibilities are endless, seriously guys.
In the end, what I want to know is this: Do you have a daughter, Ron? And if you do, how would you rather she sees herself? As a strong, kick-ass, undefeatable powerhouse? Or a woman who needs to be reminded on a daily basis, from all forms of media and her father included, that she can be raped? Come on, Ron, we’ve all had enough women in fridges.
*I think it’s polygons, I haven’t read up a lot on the latest graphics and whatever, don’t yell at me if I’m wrong. Polygons are what we used in my day and we liked it, damnit.
My thoughts on this are at the ABW, but pretty much mirror what is said above.