Recently I’ve been playing my way through the new Tomb Raider Reboot! This incarnation of the series is supposed to look at a younger, pre gun toting, dual pistol wielding T-Rex shooting badass Lara. This new Lara winds up trapped on a desert island, and has to learn to survive using Bows, a Climbing Pick Axe and an absolute shit tonne of luck. I’ve been really enjoying this game. The exploration and collecting aspects are two of the biggest things that I love in games. However, I found myself asking, only an hour or so into the game, am I meant to hate this new Lara?
The reason I ask this question, is because everything about the game seems to be rigged as if I already don’t like this character. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then yes, it’s the classic Violence against Woman argument that we’ve been discussing in lectures this week. The deaths Lara gets put through in this game are brutal (This video comes with both a Trigger and a Spoiler Warning). I was pretty shocked when some of these deaths happened to my character in the game. They seem to just be exaggerated violence, and these deaths to the protagonist are easily among the most gruesome I have seen happen to any protagonist in any video game I’ve played in recent years.
What I find most disturbing about these deaths though, is that the game is tailored in such a way that they have to come up. The scenarios that some of these deaths occur in don’t necessarily contribute anything to the game play, nor to the story. I get that they wanted to show Lara struggling to survive the perils of the deadly island. That’s the whole story of the game. But a majority of these deaths occur in scenes that aren’t avoidable, and basically just act as a segue from one area to the next. I don’t get why? Is it a punishment? Is it my punishment for not doing the game right, due to my lack of attention or your annoying tendency to stick QTE’s in the middle of what I assumed was a cut scene? Or do you think I like this? Is this supposed to be a reward? Like some disturbed, “See all the available grim deaths” achievement that I’m meant to unlock. Am I meant to hate the character this much that you just want to show me her dying over and over in increasingly gratuitous ways? Personally I just don’t get it. I like the character, and to have the game show me her lower half cut off by a boulder, only to have her head crushed by another boulder just felt like the game designer was saying “Look at all the cool ways we can Kill Lara?! Wasn’t that fun!” While the player sort of stands on watching awkwardly waiting for them to finish.
As a bit of interest I thought I would look at some of the deaths in the original Tomb Raider games (again, slight trigger warning) to compare. I guess the deaths have always been there, but I feel like with the old games they created the scenarios first, and had the deaths come organically from that, where as with the new Lara it feels as though they wrote about 60 different extremely visceral deaths, and then wrote a game where they could fit them in. Like they just assumed that I would hate the character, so would naturally just enjoy watching her die over and over. She does very quickly turn into a mass murdering psychopath, so I guess that’s not exactly a like-able trait. Karma maybe? I dunno. Crystal Dynamics may have a lot of work to do for their already planned sequel.