As long as there have been Tomb Raider games, there have been male games writers writing embarrassing prose about Tomb Raider games. This ranges from the forgivably horny, "drool still on the keyboard" variety, to the casually sexist, to the frighteningly misogynstic, and everything in between.
Here's a representative selection, from 1996's Tomb Raider all the way through to 2008's Tomb Raider: Underworld.
This year's model?!
Tomb Raider is bound to stir up lots of trouble with the feminists. Lara Croft's unrealistic proportions can only lead to further gender stereotyping and objectification of women. OK, I'll give you that, but don't forget that's a woman doing what most men couldn't. If that's not a strong woman, I don't know what is.
Good point. Those feminists will have to take that into consideration.
Lara, to this point, has been defined by her extraordinary physicality, which never ceases to amaze even the brightest of plastic surgeons.
It's true. Someone asked the brightest of plastic surgeons about Lara's extraordinary physicality and they were unceasingly amazed by it.
You get the idea.
A new Tomb Raider game, apparently the best in years, comes out in a week, and there have been some important changes. Developer Crystal Dynamics has made a very big deal about its redesign of Lara's appearance, and many in the games press have faithfully reported on the courageous decision to turn our heroine from this:
The new Lara Croft isn't just less battle-hardened; she's less voluptuous. Gone are her ridiculous proportions and skimpy clothing.
For fun, try substituting in Croft's current male equivalent, the Uncharted series' Nathan Drake. "The new Nathan Drake isn't just less-battle-hardened, he's less handsome. Gone is his roguishly proportional face and well-defined pecs."
GamesRadar's Ryan Taljonick, for one, is happy about the change:
In the stead of a dolled up gunslinger is a do-what-it-takes female lead who's intelligent and capable.
Yes, that is the sound of the game industry congratulating itself on updating its standard of female beauty from Hustler to Perfect 10.
Reviews of the new game were published today, and while we appear to be some distance from all-caps ejaculations, we're still a long way from writing that you wouldn't be embarrassed to show an actual, you know, woman.
So, Ben Kuchera at Penny Arcade has this all-time cringer:
On the other hand, if you like to watch a woman get impaled by all sorts of sharp and nasty objects, fail a few of the quick-time events or environmental sequences. When Croft dies, she dies in spectacularly brutal ways.
Only do this if you like to watch a woman get impaled, though.
Other writers seem to have sublimated their physical desires into something more acceptably technological:
Lara herself is remarkable to behold. Her model is incredibly detailed, her animations fluid, and her textures elaborate.
And then, there is my personal favorite, from Evan Narcisse over at Kotaku:
I never wanted to have sex with Lara Croft. And I didn't want to protect her either.
That's the first line.
(I should mention that Narcisse's review, despite the line, does engage with the issues of sexual power that define the series. Then again, he illustrates his story with this GIF. Also, many reviewers, like Polygon's Phillip Kollar, wisely chose not to mention Lara's appearance or her womanhood at all. )
Is there a lesson in all of this? Maybe stop letting us near Tomb Raider games, at least in public.
Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
Contact Joseph Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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