There's been a lot of talk lately about the forthcoming, new Tomb Raider
title, particularly in regards to the attempted rape of lead femme Lara Croft by one (or possibly more) of the male antagonists in the game. The topic's become volatile to the point that Crystal Dynamics' own people can't seem to agree on what's going on, with executive producer Ron Rosenberg saying that island scavengers will
try to rape her, and global brand director Karl Stewart stating that "[rape] is not a word that is not in our vocabulary and not in our communication." Dismissing the outright silliness of the latter statement for now, the interview with Rosenberg that brought rape into the discussion in the first place seemed to be lighting the foiled sexual assault as an attempt to handle the reality of rape in a somewhat mature manner, and validate it as a trauma Lara overcomes to gain strength and grow as a heroine.
Fear Effect 2
kind of had its heart in the right place by introducing a lesbian relationship, but even they had to tack a gratuitous scene in an elevator onto things that smacked of something from the USA Network's "Up All Night" offerings.
And, for the record, I'm not even working things like Leisure Suit Larry
, Conker's Bad Fur Day
, and other games where sex is part of the humor, since they're clearly not even trying to be mature and are therefore moot in this conversation.
What it comes down to is that, despite myriad stabs at the subject, we've yet to see a game that legitimately
handles the role of sexuality in a character's existence, even on a level akin to the sort of implausible, unrealistic relationships you see in other media, be it literature, cinema, or television. You've got at least as much play time as it takes to read a book in a lot of today's games, nevermind multiple times the length of your average film, so it's not like there isn't room for this sort of thing. Give me relationships that build over a slightly more realistic in-game timescale. Make things unplanned pregnancies something to worry about in sandbox games (which could, in turn, make abortion the next big taboo someone tries to address, which I'm not sure how I feel would work out). If you really must make a mini-game out of intercourse, throw some disappointment on the part of your partner in there if you perform poorly. Give us a protagonist who can't get it up after drinking too much. Make the player feel awkward when he wakes up the next morning beside a character he's not that into, or rushes into things without taking a second to remove his socks.
If games are going to address sex in a truly mature fashion, they're going to have to start implementing it more as an actual aspect of characterization and plot development, rather than just a tool to shock or entice, or as a "reward" for certain choices or behaviors. Then, and only then, can developers begin to be taken seriously when taking on sexuality's darker aspects.
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