Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Return of Lara Croft

March 5th marks the release of the new Lara Croft adventure aptly named "Tomb Raider".

As a long-standing gaming icon, whatever the outcome of the game, the journey will be an interesting one.

With a long checkered history of classic games and feminist issues, this is always an interesting subject to broach. I even wrote about Lara Croft in an college essay.

So, what is this game striving to do to be seen as "different". First and foremost, it's an origin story. Ding-ding-ding! Originality signal!

Origin stories can go one of two ways; be compelling rich stories that look into the character that we are exploring OR try to refresh everything, make it gritty and modern, therefore losing the elements that made it successful in the first place.

Lara Croft is one of, if not the most famous gaming icon of the 90's, whether she is a Feminist Icon or Sexual Fantasy is not a easy question to answer, and in many ways I think the answer depends on who you ask.

So therefore creating a brand new story for the world famous Gaming Icon which is an origin story is interesting for many reasons, but mainly how different gaming is now.

When the first game arrived on the scene in 1996 it was revolutionary for lots of reasons. The main two being the 3D environment and the female lead. Quickly becoming a gaming icon and sex icon within days of the release this character changed the way games were played and perceived.


Now fast forward to 2013 with the potential to change the gaming world yet again.

It's interesting with the highly debated scene of Lara's first kill. The developers have brought this monumental part of the game up time and time again as it is the first time Lara kills someone. Now the debate and confusion over the "sexual assault" is a whole different subject. But the fact that they are exploring Lara's reaction to killing is giving me a sense of optimism for the character and the game as a whole. If you refer back to a past post of mine about Violence in Games, I mentioned how video game characters are often killing blindly with no backlash; but if Lara does have backlash this could be a step in the right direction for games handling mature subjects with honesty and with a sense of humanity.
"Lara was fighting dude. When she got him to the state where he open for a put-down attack, Lara grabbed a rock from the ground and lunged forward smashing the rock in the guy's face, putting him down for good. It was shockingly brutal, but also a surprisingly realistic  In such a dire situation, I could definitely see the reason for this kind of an attack. It's a desperate grasp at survival by all means which I think adds a little bit of depth to Lara's character. If the character is going to encounter an army of bad guys, I think he/she would use any tool at their disposal to survive. Considering Lara is supposed to be college student at this point, the act of using a rock as a weapon strikes me as the sort of reckless, messy move a normal person would do. It doesn't have the glamour of something a skilled assassin would do." - Ninjimbo at [about the first kill scene]
It doesn't have the glamour. People are referring to violence in videos as glamourous.

Going onto the sexual assault confusion, it was said way back when the first trailer was shown at E3 that Lara would go through the terror of sexual assault in the game. This set a lot of tongues wagging as it was a bold move to make, and within such a high profile game. However the developers quickly backpedaled on this controversial subject to tackle in a game which is a bit confusing. If they did tackle such a subject I think it could pave the way for games being held with more esteem and less sarcasm and dare I say immaturity?

And I haven't even touched on the feminism element that this character undoubtedly has.

Feminist theory in film definitely has weight, but it seems the gaming industry seems to still be struggling to catch up in the 21st Century. And with 40% of gamers being women, it's something that cannot be ignored.

Lara was obviously a huge step forward in feminist gaming in '96, but now she has to stand up to live up to her iconic role as a woman hero. 2013 is a different environment for women in games and Lara has to reflect that.

The game play being immediate, fast and hectic makes you feel right there with Lara as she tries to survive on an island as a fresh faced 21 year old. This game seems to have encorporated the narrative and gameplay to make them match.
"Like John McClain in the first Die Hard, young Lara Croft takes a beating throughout the course of the game, and each and every wound she suffers in the course of the story is accounted for. Her abdomen remains a bloody mess from where a rock spike pierces it in the introduction. Her bicep is bandaged to help heal a cut." Jeremy Parish
Overall, what the developers seem to be trying to achieve in this reboot is make Lara real. Human. And that's a great thing to strive towards, and achieving it will make for a very interesting game.

Will Crystal Dynamics achieve this? We'll have to wait until March 5th to find out.

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