It’s been a controversial week for Crystal Dynamics’ upcoming Tomb Raider reboot – after one of the developers implied that there’s an attempted rape scene in the highly anticipated game. The game makers have since refuted the claim, asserting there is no attempted rape scene – since, even in a mature narrative, that kind of story beat would still hit too close to home for some players.
However, that doesn’t mean that Lara Croft won’t face a number of grueling and difficult to watch physical and emotional challenges – a set-up that could, as events unfold, cause players to identify differently with the character over time.
According to a recent interview with EDGE, one of the developers at Crystal Dynamics hinted at the approach the team is taking to a female-driven adventure grounded in a mature, and at times gut wrenching, character journey.
According to Brian Horton, Tomb Raider art director:
We’re making a game about someone who is inexperienced and who has to learn how to become a hero [...] Now, the fact that she is a woman is not lost on us, and that’s an important part of the dynamic of it being Tomb Raider, but it’s not our primary concern to distinguish that she is a woman. We are playing up the fact that she is human and believable [...] So far the reaction has been very positive from the people who have seen the game, they’re starting to care for her and I don’t think they’re as eager to objectify her, in fact I think they want to protect her.
It’s an especially interesting reaction – especially after the alleged rape comment caused a major stir for one 2013′s most anticipated titles. Crystal Dynamics’ approach to the character had, ever since the original announcement, been major source of encouragement for fans of the franchise – since Lara Croft is one of gaming’s most iconic characters (but has rarely been explored with a truly compelling character story) – and it’s good to hear that players have reason to be hopeful (even if the E3 gameplay reveal was mostly style over substance).
Horton, as well as the rest of the Tomb Raider team, is hoping that players connect with Lara in ways that might have previously been hard to imagine (especially back in the days when “nude code” rumors were all the rage):
I feel like some of those players might actually evolve their perspective. They might look at it in the beginning and say ‘I’m protecting her,’ but as they grow with her, become closer to her, they’d start to think ‘I am her’ giving them the fantasy and fulfilment of being Lara Croft.
It’ll be especially interesting to see if Crystal Dynamics can successfully create an environment where this kind of player/character evolution is possible – but there’s no doubt that the downright brutal events depicted in this year’s E3 Tomb Raider tease will go a long way in helping inform a more mature connection. Much like the footage presented for Sony’s The Last of Us, some developers seem to finally be in a position to ground violence in a meaningful (and evocative) context – not just to appeal to the blood and guts crowd.
For more on Tomb Raider, check out our E3 demo impressions.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates on Tomb Raider as well as other movie, TV, and gaming news.
Tomb Raider is set to release March 5th, 2013 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the PC.