Children, and rapists.
I promise this is my last bit of commentary on this issue. At least, until something more redeeming comes forth regarding the new Tomb Raider, or someone else at Crystal Dynamics says something stupid.
The icing on the recent shit cake that's been the handling of some questionable content in the latest Tomb Raider
trailer is a series of statements from global brand director Karl Stewart, denying that anything about Lara's creeptastic, touchy-feely encounter with a soon-to-be-dead sleazeball is remotely sexual. According to Stewart, in regards to Ron Rosenberg's use of the term "rape" in his own comments, "[Rosenberg] said something which is certainly a word that is not in our vocabulary and not in our communication," as well as describing things as "close physical intimidation." A Crystal Dynamics PR rep even stepped in at one point during Stewart's interview with Kotaku to state, flat out, that "nothing sexual occurred."
Man, do I ever look forward to the Forced Hickey becoming the new Teabag in first-person-shooters. I wonder if Assassin's Creed 3's
Connor's going to lay down a little thigh-touching before some of the more personal target eliminations.
As if these denials weren't ridiculous enough, Stewart's admission that this sort of thing would have played out differently with a male character on the receiving end comes into conflict with the idea that this "intimidation" wasn't sexual. If a man's threat methods differ based on the sex of the person he's threatening, what basis is there for such a difference besides sexuality? Concerns about cooties? Optimal scare factor based on her difference in center of gravity? It may not be the most comfortable topic to address, but it would be better to tackle the concerns regarding sexual undertones in this case rather than trying to completely shut inquiries into the topic down. I mean, consider other organizations who've been well-served by completely ignoring matters of sexual import. It's done wonders for the Catholic clergy, never mind the altar boys serving beneath them.
It's not as if Crystal Dynamics doesn't have defensible points to work with here, either. Or at least they did, before everyone providing a face for the company decided to pound tallboys of silly juice before talking to the press. One of the clearest and easiest arguments that can be made is that, while an implied sexual assault is initiated, the game's protagonist doesn't let it come to fruition
. Emphasizing the fact that Lara clearly takes command of her situation, and explains to her captor that the end result of trying to force yourself on a woman is a quick dose of lead-based sinus decongestant, would have painted this whole thing in a much better light than trying to say Crystal Dynamics wants you to feel bad for Lara Croft and be her adventure buddy because someone tried to rape her. Asserting the scene as a demonstration of Lara's taking back of power, rather than another near-tragedy to throw on the pity pile, could've saved a lot of face, and stopped any potential "Give Back Lara's Pants" fan backlash that may eventually force that sequence to be removed from the game.
I, for one, am legitimately saddened by all of this stumbling, because Karl Stewart then went on to say something that actually sounded fairly impressive and intelligent. To summarize, he stated that, via Tomb Raider
they're trying to "raise the bar in immersive storytelling," by throwing all of these graphic and impactful stimuli at the player, giving them a lot more to think about and interpret than the series' traditional questions of "How do I solve these puzzles?" and "Did I shoot all the dudes yet so I'm out of trouble?" They're clearly trying to push the envelope in the game itself, and it's a shame watching them collectively stumble so much as they try to remain within the envelope of social and media acceptability whenever they're asked to discuss things.
That, along with several other reasons
, is why I don't think games are a medium yet equipped to address issues of sexual violence, implicitly or explicitly. The bulk of games that have dealt with sexual themes, even on a consensual level, tend to treat the subject as a throwaway in already mature-rated games, and do little more than attempt juggle and justify the addition of such content rather than actually legitimizing it as an element of story or gameplay. Watching the reactions all of fifteen to twenty seconds of footage from a teaser trailer grow into a PR circus is a pretty solid indicator that, while they wanted to push some buttons, and maybe even sincerely address a serious, real-world issue in Tomb Raider
, no one at Crystal Dynamics was actually ready to discuss
it. It's a damn shame, too, because aside from all this nonsense, the game looks pretty good.
If you're not prepared and equipped to to defend a choice to include a hot-button issue as a key element in your game in the face of inevitable scrutiny from fans and media, or you're simply ignorant of the likelihood of such inquiry and/or backlash, then maybe, just maybe, you should reconsider including that content in the first place. I, for one, am all for games trying to do new, different, and possibly controversial things for the sake of progress and expression, but if such things are being done without genuine concern for the topics at hand and lack cohesive support from the creative minds trying to do those things, then it's all for naught.