In 1996, the original Tomb Raider was released. I first went on an expedition with Ms. Croft shortly after the game's initial release while at my uncle's house. Like any young girl, I was captivated by Lara's bravery and strength. I may not have had oppressed thoughts at the age of seven but I had already sadly grown to accept a lack of female leads. Lara was not only first character to give my younger self a chance to feel like an independent woman who didn't need no man, but she planted the seeds of inspiration. As a young aristocrat, she held a sense of enchanting elegance that blended fantastically well with her inquisitive mind and strength. She was beautiful, acrobatic, intelligent, British, and desirable. While men wanted to be with her, I wanted to be her. (The fact that she happened to also be a brown-eyed brunette only fueled that aspiration to become a extraordinary woman such as her.) I use to get in trouble for jumping on furniture in the living room when I tried to practice rock climbing; when I visited Mayan ruins in middle school, I made sure to wear khaki shorts and a light blue tank top.
Then I grew up and I realized something: She is kind of a bitch.
Lara Croft might have been an autonomous woman but her character was rather bland when you truthfully analyze her. In essence, she was nothing more than a cold-blooded gold digger. She was an archeologist who did not hesitate to slaughter any who stood between her and the treasure she so desperately wanted. Not because if these artifacts fell into the wrong hands the world would be put into peril, but because she wanted money. Suddenly our beloved heroine does not seem so admirable, now does she?
Her origin story morphed over time from game to game before recently settling on her wishes to discover the truth behind her mother's disappearance. (Defined in Tomb Raider: Legends and in [/i]Tomb Raider: Underworld[/i]) Recent Lara has somewhat broken away from just a girl who wants a lot of money into a woman searching for answers. However, the new reboot is out to set her early past straight and personally, I think it is for the better.
The new reboot is taking Lara Croft back to her roots. Players will get to experience the early years of her life as she endures the hardships of her first adventure. The development team wanted to focus on turning her more human. Not only has she physically been toned down to more realistic proportions, but she has also lost her confident heroism personality - which is causing an outcry from the gaming community.
In the trailer shown at the passing E3, we are given a glimpse at the life threatening obstructions the young Lara must endure physically and emotionally. We idly watch as she is bruised and bloodied before our very eyes as she stumbles and struggles to survive. Quietly, she pleads for help as she stares vacantly into the flames and growing darkness that surrounds her. Then whispers a soft "sorry" before butchering a deer for food. She is lost, confused, and shows little signs of her strength that we had grown to know. Many took offense to the less harsher Lara but I feel it is a necessary step into defining her as a character.
We cannot forget that this is a re-imaging of the very beginning. Her hesitance to want to kill is reasonable. For the most part, she has lived a sheltered life; or at least we can assume based on the collection of personal information the game manuals have offered over the years. According to her array of childhood tales, she spent most of her youthful years in private boarding schools including a Swiss finishing school. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a finishing school is a private institute that does not expand upon knowledge but instead, focuses on defining etiquette and social education. Their purpose to is to mold young women into proper ladies for marriage. In other words, Lara Croft was suppose to be a delicate flower meant to sit quietly and raise a family. Then the plane crash occurred, and our story begins.
Her skills are far from defined because she is inexperienced. Having grown in an upper-class environment, she would have had no need for the skills she would acquire later in life. Therefore is it perfectly within reason that she is struggling as hard as she is. No one seemed to have complained about the flustered way Nathan Drake leaped from ledge to ledge with his arms flailing. Yet, it seems that it is unacceptable to have Ms. Croft follow a similar suit. It is understandable the gaming community has grown to admire the graceful way she soars as it adds onto her estimable image, but her latent abilities deepens her overall. She now goes from being a tyro to a connoisseur while both her development and the series progress making her seem more realistic and interesting than instantly being a badass. After all, this is how she was.
(Tomb Raider manual, page 5)
According to the first game's manual, she had to "learn to depend on her wits to stay alive in hostile conditions away from her sheltered upbringing". This is exactly what the reboot is letting us witness. Not only is she being pushed to her limit but everything she knew is crashing down around her.
The gaming community has begun to throw a fit over a weaker Lara but Crystal Dynamics is truly capturing the image of a young girl who has lost everything. Her reactions and feelings make her feel human; she feels defeated because she is which is what I would believe anyone would feel in such a situation. However, do not go giving up on Ms. Croft just yet. She may come off as softer than we like but in reality, she still is as strong and as brave. Even after the crash and losing her friends, Lara does not just curl up on a cave and cry herself to sleep every night. She pulls herself together and begins evolving.
When analyzing the trailer, we can see moments that start to define her trademark personality. At a minute and fifty seconds when Sam is captured, Lara does not immediately fall to her knees to beg for her friend to be freed. She threatens the man with her bow only to fail by her own stupidity. The trailer shifts to her being captured along with the rest of her crew. Even with her hands tied behind her back, Lara continues onward before finally becoming more of her "older self". She has a brief moment of doubt before realizing that she has the power to survive. The rest of the trailer is full of adrenaline filled action. Her hesitance depletes as she fights back hard and strong, progressing her to badass self eight years later. She emotionally and physical grows the way any human being would.
(Don't f*ck with her friends.)
"After crafting the biography, our goal was to make her as believable and relatable as possible," Brian Horton, senior art director of Crystal Dynamics, told GameInformer last January. "We wanted to make a girl that felt familiar, but still has a special quality about her. Something about the way her eyes look and the expression on her face makes you want to care for her. That was our number one goal. We wanted to have empathy for Lara, and at the same time show the inner strength that made clear she was going to become a hero."
Crystal Dynamics has done a phenomenal at creating a believable, likable heroine. Having felt a connection to a character before, I admire their desire to want to make us feel something for Lara. It recalls my days of playing through Indigo Prophecy and feeling a heavy sense of sympathy for Lucas as he struggled with his torment to the point of purposely throwing Tyler and Carla off his trail to protect him. (Of course my decisions did not matter. Thank, David Cage!) You know a character is well developed when you have an emotional attachment to him or her but their work has been overshadowed by wrongful accusations both from the community and even their own executive director.
In an interview with Kotaku, Ron Rosenberg ruined Lara's new image by wrongfully describing her and their motives. Rather than supporting their beautifully crafted new vision for Lara, he gives off the impression that the reason why we should care for Lara has nothing to do with legitimate compassion but simply because she is a woman. "When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character," he states. He then slips up and mentions an attempted rape scene:
Rosenberg: "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?"
Rosenberg: "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." (Kotaku)
("Attempted" rape scene)
Darrell Gallagher, the game's lead designer, quickly denies the attempted rape scene (which can be viewed at two minutes and nine seconds) by explaining that its intention was not to highlight or glorify sexual assault but to deepen the dramatic tone of the game. "This is where Lara is forced to kill another human being for the first time," Gallagher explains. "In this particular section, while there is a threatening undertone in the sequence and surrounding drama, it never goes any further than the scenes that we have already shown publicly. Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game."
The scene goes no farther than a scavenger rolling his hand down Lara's side before aggressively shoving her against a wall, upon which she bites his ear off, kicks him to the ground, and breaks free. All of which flow in a way that feels natural for the situation and setting. It is not like Lara was sleeping soundly in her bedroom when a man burst through her door and violently pounded her in a safe setting.
I am no supporter of using sexual assaults or rape in media for the sake of painting a grimmer picture, but we have to admit that every once in awhile someone is going to attempt it. The content is rather risky to use but w I feel that despite accusations, Crystal Dynamics has remained tasteful with addressing a serious theme which, they promise, we never see again in the game.
Regardless of the dark image that has spawned from this thirty second of video, I hope people realize that it's an incredibly small part of the game that does little to hold Lara back. So why should we let it holds us back from welcoming this more realistic woman into our hearts and our systems?
(Think Lara is still weak and helpless? Just wait till she burns down your house and jungle, then walks away.)