First, I’d like to clarify that I am not a gamer. I’m going to try very hard not to slip up and sound like a newb, but I can’t make any promises. That being said, my love for all things Angelina Jolie has made me a long-time fan of the Tomb Raider series, even if that just means watching the films and the occasional game-play walk through on YouTube.
In November of last year, Crystal Dynamics & Square Enix put out a new Lara Croft video game entitled “Rise of the Tomb Raider.” I’ve heard the gameplay is fun, but more interestingly (to me, at least) is that the game is getting complex, ambivalent reviews from female gamers, critics, and feminist activists in the gaming world.
Depictions of women in games have come under serious fire lately, and rightly so, for everything from flat characterization, to problematic body proportions, to sexually objectifying–and frankly impractical–clothing. This examination of sexism and misogyny in the gaming world has expanded to include a conversation around the unfriendly, and frequently downright nasty and dangerous, treatment women are subjected to. A leader in the conversation is a media critic named Anita Sarkeesian who, among many things, runs a web series called “Feminist Frequency” that addresses representations of women in pop culture.
What I gleaned from Anita’s review of Rise of the Tomb Raider, is that the game took some important, though halfhearted, steps in the direction of humanizing Lara. Video games are violent–even those of us that don’t really play know that–but apparently this game at least made some semblance of an effort to make it seem like killing people isn’t the most totally awesome thing to do in one’s free time. However, Lara still kills the “bad guys” in all kinds of creative ways–interesting point: the bad guys are after the exact same thing she is… so…they’re bad because they’re different…somehow..? Anyway, the game makes a lackadaisical swipe at complicating violence.
The GOOD NEWS (yes, feminism is actually FULL of good news!) is that the artists actually put Lara in PRACTICAL GEAR. Her boobs are no longer her primary accessories. She wears winter coats when it’s cold. AND PANTS. I know, groundbreaking.
For a much better, more in-depth review of Rise of the Tomb Raider, go here.