Posts Tagged ‘Lara Croft’

Lara CroftFor a few years now, I’ve been raving about Crystal Dynamics’ reboot of Tomb Raider and their reimagining of its protagonist, Lara Croft, from a scantily clad, hypersexualized, adolescent male fantasy to a more realistic, appropriately dressed and anatomically restrained, tough, gritty survivor (see my earlier post here). I applauded their depiction of her as an imperfect woman forced by circumstance to make difficult choices and carry out some fairly gruesome acts in order to stay alive and save her friends. Lara’s not proud of what she does, nor does she take pleasure in it. She does it because she has to, because her only other option is to give up.

That both gamers and critics praised Tomb Raider came as no surprise. At long last, the franchise had a game that looked stunning, played beautifully, and featured a tough, intelligent heroine that both men and women cared about and could believe in. Here, at last, was the Lara Croft we’d all been waiting for.

And now, Crystal Dynamics has done it again. At Microsoft’s E3 press conference this past Monday, they revealed a teaser trailer for Rise of the Tomb Raider, slated for a late 2015 release. The trailer features all the energy and excitement of the first game, including a few very tense moments of Lara in peril—no surprise there. But it features something else, something unprecedented in the history of gaming.

Rise of the Tomb RaiderThe video begins, not with Lara escaping death or brutally overcoming an attacker, but with her in therapy. You read that right: therapy. We see her on the edge of a chair, cloaked in a hoodie, head downcast. As the therapist talks, Lara digs her fingers into the upholstery, clenches her fist, bounces her leg. She can’t sit still. She’s clearly anxious and uncomfortable. This is not the bulletproof heroine we’ve come to expect, casually shaking off the death she’s dealt. Lara has experienced horrors the likes of which most of us can’t imagine, and she’s been deeply affected by them. But neither is she a broken woman. Battered and scarred yet alive, she’s found away to exist in between. Her therapist continues:

For many people, these traumas become a mental trap. They get stuck, like a ship frozen in ice.”

Lara HoodiePTSD. That’s what he’s talking about. This is classic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Lara is suffering from something that affects nearly eight million American adults, that’s all too common among veterans of war and survivors of abuse, that can strike at any age, and that can tear families and communities apart. She has PTSD, and she’s dealing with it. That a video game is so directly dealing with this is extraordinary. And that Lara is working through and recovering from the trauma of her ordeal may provide hope to those facing traumas of their own. I’ll leave you with the experience of a young woman suffering from PTSD who, while playing Tomb Raider, discovered just that:

It didn’t hold any punches, but it didn’t need to… it affected me in a way years of therapy never did. It healed me in a way that no one’s physical comfort, words, and condolences could ever do. It made me realize that, much like Lara Croft, I survived as well—and that I had my own path to walk. That my experiences were real and tangible and yes, they defined me, but that I’d have it no other way. I am a survivor and I am alive.”

After years of buried trauma and hidden pain, this young woman had found solace and salvation by her own hand, through Lara Croft and the game. By reimagining Lara, Crystal Dynamics has done the impossible: from a game heroine, they’ve created a human being.

It’s Monday. I’m a little tired and not feeling too deep, so I thought I’d share one of my favorite recent videogame discoveries with you: the trailer for the upcoming re-launch of Tomb Raider.

The First Lara

Lara Croft c.1997

Many of you may know Tomb Raider’s anatomically-exaggerated heroine, Lara Croft, from earlier games in the series, or from the 2001 film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie. For those of you who don’t, she’s roughly a tougher, grittier, female Indiana Jones. She’s widely recognized as one of videogaming’s first strong female leads, but her skimpy outfits and enhanced “assets” drew a fair bit of criticism from those who questioned why a strong female character had to look like a stereotypical teenage male fantasy in order to appeal to serious gamers. And it’s hard not to agree with them. I’ve been a gamer most of my life, and was once a teenage male, and I can tell you two things: First, I care more about gameplay than the main character’s appearance, and second, I always preferred my fantasies to be more realistically-proportioned.

More to the point, though, as a male I don’t have a problem playing through a good game as a female character—and she doesn’t have to defy gravity to keep my interest. Gameplay comes first; character gender isn’t all that important—and I suspect most gamers would agree with me.

The new Lara

Lara Croft, 2011

Which is why I’m so excited about the new Lara. Yes, she’s designed to be attractive, but not unrealistically so. She’s a gritty, determined survivor—everything she was supposed to be initially. This time around, though, she has a wider emotional range and is far more vulnerable—and not in a stereotypically weak female way. She’s a young woman reacting realistically to an unfamiliar and dangerous situation, relying on strength, intelligence and self-reliance to survive.

But I digress. I said I wasn’t going to get too deep, and didn’t want to delve into gender stereotypes or the perception of women in media. Here’s the point: Videogames are big business. 2010 domestic videogame sales alone rang in at $18.58 billion—nearly twice Hollywood’s $10.5 billion box office gross. And the best games now attract A-list talent, from voice actors and musicians to writers, directors and composers.

Videogames have come a long way since the ‘80s. Story, character, plot, visuals, audio, gameplay—all are more sophisticated and engaging than ever. Budgets for games rival those for Hollywood movies, and game releases are now high-profile events, involving massive press coverage and trailers that look as good as, if not better than, anything Hollywood puts out.

Don’t take my word for it, check out the new Tomb Raider trailer here.

If you’re as amazed as I was (remember, this is for a videogame), you can see how it was done here.

And if you’re really interested, you can surf over to the official Tomb Raider website here.

Pay attention, Hollywood, ‘cause you just got schooled.