The Vagenda

No Womb Raiders in Tomb Raider, Please

The world of video gaming has always been fraught with controversy. Does GTA encourage casual street crime? Are our menfolk getting fat and useless because their tree-climbing days have been redirected into Call of Duty 3 and LAN parties? And what about that dude from Japan who married a virtual wife? Yep, with technological advancement comes a whole host of new problems for us to moan about – but if you grew up in an age where video games were only just becoming the go-to method for filling your child’s head with random crap, then you might have just started pining again for Lara Croft.Ah, Lara. I remember vividly the discussions that went on between my brother and his friends when graphics improved enough for her boobies to graduate from pointy to ‘realistically’ rounded. That truly was a defining moment in a young boy’s life, according to various semi-reliable sources of mine, so you can see why the latest launch of a Lara-tastic adventure might get them all weak in the knees. After all, the appeal of Tomb Raider was always questionable: while Lara’s various adventures did attract a substantial female audience, the vast majority of players remained staunchly male. She wasn’t consigned to the same pile as Curious Clarissa and Fifi’s Chocolate Kitchen. Men genuinely wanted to be Lara, to navigate worlds where they were represented by her – and why?

The latest development in the Lara Croft story has answered this with an unexpected twist. According to, er, their own words, the video game’s creators reckon that what always attracted male players to the game was Lara’s perceived vulnerability. ‘Vulnerability is sexy,’ commented the graphics guy. ‘Guys want to protect Lara, and they kind of get off on the impending threat of sexual assault. That’s why we stuck in a storyline that includes attempted rape this time.’ OK, he actually only said that in his head – but it was heavily implied.

So this time around, Lara is going to become a more three dimensional character not by having her breasts more rounded, but by being beaten and almost raped by an ‘evil’ male character. The male holding the controller – who is apparently her ‘protector’ – will ‘save’ her by helping her through this very tough time, and preventing actual penetration from occurring. Because rather than have to solve difficult puzzles and all that, it’s much more expected of Lara to merely avoid getting sexually assaulted by every dude who sees her. Shouldn’t spend so much time walking around in that tight little tank top, should she? Luckily, it’s exactly that tank top that’s endeared her to the male gamer who has the power to stop her from being defiled. Phew.

Much has been made over the last couple of days of the fact that the game’s creators described Lara as ‘literally a cornered animal’ over this surely soon-to-be-infamous sexual assault scene, as well as the fact that she is viciously and repeatedly beaten and loses her best friend in the next installment of Croftianism. The fact that this has been touted as what a male viewer will enjoy makes me think that video games now come from an increasingly dark place. To crack the world of routine, constantly available violent sex, creators of a game that once made a tough and clever woman desirable have explicitly decided to reposition her as helpless, vulnerable, and objectified. Is this really what the grown-ups who played Lara as a teenager want nowadays? Is this what they thought she would become?

Most disturbingly of all, one journalist’s review of the game described the sounds of Lara being beaten to a pulp as ‘sexual’ and ‘pornographic.’ Which is just about as depressing as it gets. As Jezebel kindly mentioned, it’s downright insulting to male players that they’re now expected to not relate to Lara unless they want to fuck her or stop other people from fucking her – so why has the gaming world wrested this judgement upon them? Just because fourteen year old boys are getting increasingly adept at making their ‘dancing’ Habbo Hotel characters look like they’re humping virtual women’s legs, doesn’t mean that they’re all growing up into twenty four year olds with creepy complexes about protecting a damsel in distress from orgies. So can we stop fetishising battered women and second-guessing men for one second, please? Because if even the virtual world is getting depressing, where are we supposed to turn?

3 thoughts on “No Womb Raiders in Tomb Raider, Please

  1. What annoys me most about this is that equivalent male characters are not given back stories where they are broken down and made ‘vulnerable’ so that gamers can relate to them. Only Lara. Male protagonists might be given stories that make them mad, bitter or angry, but they are never put in a position where they’re expected to be ‘saved’ by the gamer.

    Lara was my absolute hero as a kid, she was athletic, intelligent, assertive and a really refreshing break from Disney princesses who spent all day hanging around waiting for princes and heroes – Lara was her own hero and had a utility belt full of weapons to prove it. I (and doubtless most of the guys who play Lara Croft games) have never wanted to save Lara, I wanted to freakin’ BE Lara.

  2. This is very true. I know Lara was always designed to be a sexy character, and she was, but that was always an aside to the actual gameplay. While you were playing as Lara you weren’t ogling her breasts, you were trying to gun down the horde of scorpions advancing across the floor at you, or timing your next jump to avoid the spinning blades of death. My only explanation for why they could possibly have thought this was a good idea is that they’ve spent too much time trying to over-analyse Lara’s impact on gaming society and not nearly enough actually playing the damn game!

  3. “My only explanation for why they could possibly have thought this was a good idea is that they’ve spent too much time trying to over-analyse Lara’s impact on gaming society and not nearly enough actually playing the damn game!”

    EXACTLY! people who haven’t played the games are often surprised when they find out I am a huge Lara fan-girl, what with my being an outspoken feminist. But damn, I don’t care about her boobs when I play, or the marketing crap I ignore, I love playing as a kick ass larger than life heroine, I love her witty action hero style quips, I love the way she’s so British and eccentric like those old style upper class brit toffs who took all their furniture and servants off on jungle expeditions, I love the ‘tomb stuff’ the whole ‘boys own’ adventure feel except she isn’t a boy, she’s a woman. As a teenager girl who loved (and as an adult with an archaeology degree I must admit is a teensy bit inspired by lara, I still do, even if she is a terrible archaeologist with no ethics) all that stuff, I watched Indiana Jones and kept thinking ‘I wish there was a woman who did this’ and then Lara, I was hooked. All the overt sexualisation is 99% in the marketing imho. I resent the way over the years she has been turned from a woman who chose her career despite it meaning her parents disowned her, to being a hollywood daddy’s girl doing her thing to please her dad and acquiring male assistants, and now this? Erg. All it says to me is crystal/eidos/square are too beholden by sexism to realise they can have a strong, female character without having to manipulate her, essentially toning down her strong, independent streak by having it explained away as an anomaly as the result of a horrific experience and making her appear weaker so male gamers want to ‘protect’ her (no mention of the fact the tomb raider series has always had a lot of female fans too, apparently we don’t exist or are not worthy).
    Gyyahah RAGE!