Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New Lara, New Issues

This morning the Internet made me angry.

I checked my Twitter feed to discover that quite a ruckus was being made over the new Tomb Raider reboot. Since I am looking forward to the game I took notice and then saw that the controversy was over a supposed attempted rape scene.

What now?

Yup, apparently Lara Croft is kidnapped by men on the island she crash lands on and is forced to fight them off under threat of rape.

I’m sure I don’t need to explain why this upsets me but I will anyway.

Here we have this new vision for Tomb Raider, a series that infamously stars a ridiculous caricature of a woman who pretends to be rough and tough all the while wearing next to nothing – sometimes even high heels. Yet, in all those games Lara is allowed to be as she is; we know she’s there as a sexual object.

In the new game we get a new Lara – a strong, more realistic Lara. She gets her ass kicked by Mother Nature and suffers for it. She is covered in blood and dirt and cries out in pain. She wears pants and a tank top. Although her appearance is definitely still an ideal, she seems like the type of person you could possibly, maybe run into.

So now this new Lara is confronted with rape, a very real, serous issue. Almost as a reminder that she is still a sexual object. Lest we forget.

But I did just say that this is a more realistic Lara, in a more realistic environment and rape is a reality. The creators of the game mean for Tomb Raider to be taken seriously and in this new world, potential sexual assault fits in. What's more is that there is certainly no hint of the rape myth; Lara does not get persuaded. She fights the man off and eventually puts a bullet in his face.

That all being said, I am still bothered by it though admittedly not nearly as upset as when I first heard about it. In a response to the controversy Darrell Gallagher, of Crystal Dynamics, said that there is a threatening undertone to the scene but it goes no further than what is shown in the new trailer and that, friends, you can see here:

He goes on to say that he finds that players often do not see themselves as Lara herself but rather as her protector : "[the player is] more like 'I want to protect [Lara].' There's this sort of dynamic of 'I'm going to this adventure with her and [try] to protect her. She's definitely the hero but you're kind of like her helper. 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."

Quite honestly . . . I think his response bothers me more than the actual scene. Like I said before, sadly, a sequence like the one above fits within the world of the game. It’s tragically realistic. However, the idea that it would help endear players to Lara . . . what? Because she fights off a rapist male players will be more moved to help her? What about the women who play Tomb Raider games? As a girl I sought them out just so I could play as a woman and accordingly pretend I was Lara. Now in addition to looking over my shoulder when I walk home alone at night I have to confront those same fears with the only female video game character I remember from childhood.

Basically, I’m upset that Lara has to deal with what millions of women deal with every day, but it is a reality. I can’t argue with reality and because of that I can’t really fault the developers for including this scene but I still really just don't see the necessity. Why not just beat the hell out of her like you would a man? Why must we be reminded that for women to be tormented they must be sexually assaulted? 

So I guess I get it but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Remember when the release date for Resident Evil 6 was moved up to October 2 from November 20th? Remember how the new trailer revealed that Ada Wong was back? Remember when the aforementioned trailer also showed Chris and Leon indeed engaging in epic fisticuffs?

That was a great day.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Boys and Girls

Well, Friends, the time has come again: PAX East is upon us.

I tore myself away from the disappointment that was Silent Hill: Downpour (I know, I know) and headed out to the Boston Convention Center Friday to surround myself with likeminded enthusiasts and to get a glimpse of some upcoming titles.

That’s all well and good but it’s really not what I’m going to talk about here. Instead, I’d rather focus on an issue that’s been floating around in my mind for a while now and that was exacerbated by the panel I attended that first day called, “Press X Y: Transgender Issues in Gaming”. While on the whole I found the panel to be very interesting what really stuck me was the conversation on games wherein the player is given the choice to play as a male or female character.

More specifically, it made me think of the people who play female characters when given the choice and why. Personally, I will always choose to play a female in a game if the playing field (see what I did there?) remains constant and equal with the male choice. To elaborate, if I play a woman I expect her stats to be equal to that of a man and I also expect the world around her to react the same as it would around him.

Given that the above it true, I play a female character whenever I can because it’s not an opportunity I’m often afforded. It made me think of when I was in high school and my mother walked by me playing Silent Hill 2 and she glanced at the TV, stopped walking, and asked, “why are you a man?”. Knowing nothing of video games, my mother found it strange that I was manipulating a male avatar. She naturally assumed that her daughter would play a digital version of herself.

What’s even more interesting to me though are the number of men I’ve met who say they also play female characters when given the chance. When I ask them why though, I almost always get the same response: “if I’m gonna spend 40-something hours playing a game, I wanna stare at a nice ass.”

Really, guys?


I’m not a man and I don’t know what it’s like to be a man but I’m calling bullshit on that.

I’ve played hundreds of games with male avatars and cannot remember ever thinking, “thank God this dude has a nice ass or this game would be a total bore”. Well, except for when Cole got his “hawkshaw” vest and holster in LA Noire. That was pretty nice to look at from behind but you get my point, right?

The jaded sociologist in me thinks that men who say that do so as a sort of socially trained response, as if playing a female character for anything other than sexual enticement makes them less of a man. Going further, it could even been suggested that if given the chance to stare at a man or woman the seasoned male gamer would select a woman out of a need to objectify her in order to refute the possibility of homosexuality.

A stretch? Meh, probably.


And so, dear gentlemen who have found their way here, I ask you to please think on this and tell me: do you play female characters when given the opportunity to choose? Why? Really . . . why? Think about it.

UPDATE: Not 10 minutes after posting this on Facebook, a male friend of mine (who hadn't actually read the post yet) responded with: "Female. If I'm going to be staring at the backside of a character for hours, I better make the most of it."

I do get this stuff from somewhere, folks.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Of Fog, Radios, and Stockholm Syndrome

Those who know me also know of my love for Silent Hill. After all, it’s my favorite series. I get excited whenever a new game is announced, thrilled when it’s finally released and, ultimately, disappointed when the final credits roll. If I even make it to the end.

You see, despite the fact that I would call the Silent Hill series my favorite, I often feel like a wife who comes crawling back to her abusive husband begging for forgiveness and promising she’ll never slip up again.

The fact of the matter is, Silent Hill hasn’t been good – I mean, really good – since Silent Hill 3.

There was Silent Hill 4: The Room which could have been a good game if it weren’t supposed to be a part of the Silent Hill franchise. Silent Hill: Origins which was just plan bad. Silent Hill: Homecoming which had good intentions but strayed so far from what made the games great that it instead seemed like a game adaptation of the Silent Hill movie. And Shattered Memories which was . . . decent; it at least attempted to breathe new life in the original game but failed to keep my interest long enough for me to want to finish it.

So my question is . . . why? Why do I keep getting excited for the release of new Silent Hill games when it’s been so long since the series was great? When I go in to pick up my copy of Silent Hill: Downpour (which I preordered of course) on March 13th I’ll tell myself it’s going to be terrible in the secret hope that maybe it will be mediocre.

How about you all? Is anyone else out there a slave to a series which has long past its prime?

Friday, January 20, 2012


What would it take to coax this blog out of a three-month hiatus, you ask?

The announcement that Leon S. Kennedy and Chris Redfield would be teaming up in the next official installment of the Resident Evil series.

Oh my God.

Honestly . . . I’m not totally sure I can handle Leon’s incredible one-liners and Chris’ magical triceps together. I sincerely hope at one point they piss each other off and engage in an epic battle of fisticuffs and that we’re treated to some more boulder-punching action. People are generally pretty split on how the Resident Evil series is developing; its certainly strayed away from traditional horror into more action but I certainly wouldn’t say its forgotten its roots. In the trailer we see Leon creeping down very familiar looking hallways, streets of the undead sauntering about and hints of a plot that is already way too ridiculous. However, instead of the tank controls and fixed angles of past games we’re now given more freedom. Hell, it even looks as though the ability to move and shoot will finally be included. Remember how awesome it was to be able to strafe in Resident Evil 5?

It’s the little things folks.

So yeah, I’m pretty damned excited about how this game looks so far. They’ve given Leon a more butch appearance but I was relieved to discover his jazz legs are still fully functional. My only real apprehension? I think that’s Ashley’s voice. In fact . . . I'm pretty damned certain. Instantly, I flashed back to “help me, Leon!” and “catch me, Leon!” and “Ahhhh! Leon!” and nooooo, don’t make me escort her through this game too! No, no, no! But wait a second, if that is her (it totally is) not only does she appear more independent but working with what appears to be a Wesker (Alex?). So . . . Ashley could be back and now working for the dark side. Interesting. I wonder if she goes off the deep end after Leon kills her zombie daddy?

I’m also curious if the “bitch” Chris’ is screaming about is Ada. I’d love to see more of her.

So thank you, Capcom. Good to know there will be something to look forward to after Bioshock: Infinite is released.