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Ron Rosenberg Of Crystal Dynamics Proves That Sexism Will Continue To Rule The Lara Croft Reboot

Ron Rosenberg Of Crystal Dynamics Proves That Sexism Will Continue To Rule The Lara Croft Reboot

[Trigger Warning: Discussion of rape in the post and possibly the comments]

I know I shouldn’t be surprised to find misogyny rampant in the video game industry. But to find it rampant, unashamed, and proud of itself? I guess I still shouldn’t be surprised.

Yesterday gaming site Kotaku posted a short interview with Tomb Raider executive producer Ron Rosenberg. Crystal Dynamics, the company behind the game, was eager to get the word out about it at the E3 gaming convention last week and to let the world know that the Lara Croft we’ll see in the series reboot isn’t going to be as buxom as before. Instead, she’ll be at the beginning of her career and the player will get to see her grow into the badass she’ll become. But until she does, the player will “want to protect her.”

DANGER, JILL ROBINSON.

It gets worse. Not only will Lara exude helplessness and the need for the invisible man at the controls to protect her, the creative team is pulling out a not-so-creative old hat trick for female character development: rape.

In the new Tomb Raider, Lara Croft will suffer. Her best friend will be kidnapped. She’ll get taken prisoner by island scavengers. And then, Rosenberg says, those scavengers will try to rape her. “She is literally turned into a cornered animal,” Rosenberg said. “It’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s forced to either fight back or die.”

Yeah, turning women into animals who have to fight for their sexual purity is awesome. Am I right?

I just want to facepalm over and over again until this leaves my brain forever.

Rosenberg’s language reveals him to be the skeezy sexist he pretends not to be with all this bullshit here:

“The ability to see her as a human is even more enticing to me than the more sexualized version of yesteryear.”

You can tell he’s going for the female-positive cookies. He promptly loses him in the very next breath:

“She literally goes from zero to hero… we’re sort of building her up and just when she gets confident, we break her down again.”

Yeah, you can’t have those women getting too confident.

In general, this narrative of the hero building and building toward being a badass who is then cut down just as she gets too confident is a pretty common one going all the way back to mythology. The problem arises when you consider that male heroes are almost never “broken” by rape or the threat of rape, but female characters almost always are. And that’s misogyny.

Why can’t Lara be captured and almost eaten? Sure, that has some sexual overtones to it, but is something different. Or hey, how about she’s captured and beaten up or nearly killed, just like a male character would be, then overcomes this to escape?

Nah, that would be something like right.

Beyond that, what is this business about the player feeling a need to protect Lara? Why is that necessary or needed? Oh right, because she’s a girl.

Though I’ve seen no media from this new game, I’m going to guess that the characters who attempt to rape Lara will be black or brown peoples. It’s just a guess since fail seems to be the default setting for this game company.

This is one of the many reasons why I’m glad I’m not a gamer.

14 comments to Ron Rosenberg Of Crystal Dynamics Proves That Sexism Will Continue To Rule The Lara Croft Reboot

  • So much rage…so much rage….so much rage…

  • John P.

    This is why I play games like Minecraft instead.
    I don’t need to deal with excessive bullshit, I just need to fend off zombie hordes while also fulfilling my lego fantasies.

  • farhan

    This one sounds like you’re reading too much into it…

  • Jellyfish

    I’m a woman who games and Tomb Raider was the first game series I played regularly when I was a teenager. I’m a fan of it even though I’m also well aware and critical of its problematic elements. I agree with you that the use of rape as a trope in this way is deeply disappointing and rage inducing. The comments from the developer made my skin crawl as a woman and as someone who has invested time and money in the franchise.

    What a great way for them to say they value people like me as fans [/sarcasm]

    In the game Lara and her friends are stranded on an island with a mysterious cult what’s hunting and trying to kill them. How that’s not enough in terms of peril I just don’t know.

    I’m also really offended that the developer appears to be assuming that the player will be male (and one with a white knight complex at that), when Tomb Raider’s core fanbase is one of most diverse in gaming. Surveys at the largest Tomb Raider discussion forum regularly show that there is an almost 50/50 split in terms of gender when it comes to the game’s most long term fans. When we take more casual players into account it’d probably skew things towards there being more male players, but the female fanbase is still substantial. The makers of the game damn well know this because they have close ties with the core fanbase! So to see them reverting to the male-default so mindlessly is really irritating.

    When I play the older TRs I care about Lara to the extent that I like the character and want to keep her alive to finish the game. I root for her and enjoy playing as her because she’s strong and capable. But what I do not feel is the need to coddle her. I’m annoyed that the developer feels that the best (only?) way to get players (read: male gamers) to feel attached to her is to descend to the level of torture porn and that he talks about this as if it’s all fine and normal instead of something to be questioned. Male characters from similar franchises, such as the Prince of Persia, Nathan Drake, Alan Wake or the protagonists of Assassin’s Creed, are popular and critically acclaimed but have never been exposed to such high levels of violence.

    “Though I’ve seen no media from this new game, I’m going to guess that the characters who attempt to rape Lara will be black or brown peoples.”

    No, that’s not the case as far as we know. If you watch the most recent trailer from the E3 gaming convention you’ll see that the person who attempts to sexually assault Lara is a white man. In the trailer Lara fights him off and shoots him. He’ll apparently be her first human kill.

    From what I’ve seen so far, I think it’s most likely that this one scene is the attempted rape the developer mentioned (his comments were released at the same time as the E3 trailer) and that the in-game sections and rest of the story will not include sexual violence. This is not a defense of the developer’s decisions and comments though. I just wanted to point out that the black/brown man as sexual predator trope has not been shown in the game’s content so far.

    Where race is concerned, all I know at this point is this: from what I can remember of the trailers I don’t think I caught a single glimpse of a POC character (as an enemy or ally or anything). All of the named characters and speaking roles I’ve seen have been white characters. So my prediciton is that the major race issue with this game is going to be whether we’ll have any POCs at all.

  • I’m curious, had you heard much about the new Tomb Raider before reading the Kotaku interview? I remember the first time I heard about it was when I saw a 5 minute trailer that basically amounted to watching the new realistically proportioned Lara wade through wreckage in a cave or something, all the while bombarding my speakers with sobs, wails and screams. None of the people I know saw anything wrong with it; but I don’t remember Nathan Drake curling up into a ball and bawling when he was assailed by zombies or what-the-hell-ever else. That was basically all I needed to know the story would be no good, so this whole business with the rape scene was absolutely no surprise.

  • I saw something about this earlier in the week and I just wanted to cry. I have never played the games, but the lovely thing about the Tomb Raider movies was the complete absence of sexualized violence. (There are definitely other flaws, but I’m just making one point here. :)

  • Gamer

    yes. This is so sad. I was very interested in buying the game but now ? I’m heartbroken.

  • Although Tomb Raider has had racial overtones in the past, I don’t think that it’s fair to accuse the latest offering of being racist so far. I think that the man who menaces Lara is white and possibly Russian, which may be a form of racism but probably isn’t based on the colour of his skin.

  • I’m not a gamer either, incidentally, but there seem to be a lot of places to focus your rage. This just doesn’t seem like one of them. Now, I agree, it’s a weak character engine, but these games aren’t known for their literary appeal. Bad art is bad art. Is it douchey for the promoters to be summarizing Lara Croft’s character development like that? Without argument. But it’s douchey because he doesn’t understand how weak a storyteller his people are. He’s pumping up a product that just isn’t that exciting.

    Salesmen always piss me off.

  • I wish that you were a gamer. The industry needs more critical consumers and players. The more critical we are, the better it gets… be the steps ever so small.

  • Tyrannus Evisceratus

    I wasn’t gonna get the new laura craft game, but damn it sounds awesome.

    Totally getting it thanks for the review I’ll just have to make sure my sister doesn’t play it.

    • Yeah, sure. After all, wouldn’t want Lil’ Sis to know her big bro is a asshole who thinks scenes about raping a woman in a video game is “awesome”.

      Somehow, I have the feeling she may already know.

  • [...] this, “Come on, it can’t be that bad”.+ The executive producer for Tomb Raider talks about the decision for main character Lara Croft to be threatened with rape in the latest iteration of the game, so that players will feel protective of her. There is nothing [...]