Tomb Raider is a 2013 release, re-inventing a classic adventure series with a grittier, more survival-based mood. It depicts heroine Lara Croft as a younger, more inexperienced, more vulnerable character and details her transition from a "normal" girl to a hardened killer as depicted in later games. Through the game we see aspects of her character that we took for granted in previous games explored from a more human element, giving them extra weight and allowing for the kind of character development that prior games sorely lacked.
All of this is fucking bullshit.
Tomb Raider 2013 is a change, yes. It is a transition from one genre to another: a transition from "action-adventure" to "action-survival". Which is to say, a transition from a genre where female protagonists are incredibly rare to one where they're actually really common. Here is a list of survival-horror games that have female protagonists:
- Silent Hill (3 only)
- Fatal Frame (series)
- Resident Evil (series)
- Clock Tower (series)
- Parasite Eve (series)
- Haunting Ground
Now compare that to the list of action-adventure games with female player-characters:
- Tomb Raider
- Beyond Good & Evil
The difference between the genres is pretty clear. Women are "allowed" to be in survival horror games (not exclusively, but in a far more balanced ratio than any other genre) for the same reason women are "allowed" to be the leads in Slasher flicks - because it's part of the appeal. One could give a reason like "men have natural survival instincts to protect women", but if that was the only reason you wouldn't get detailed gruesome deaths combined with fanservice (Haunting Ground especially was absolutely HEINOUS for this). Action-adventure games have a certain dignity to them, a certain empowerment. Protagonists in action-adventure games do not die horrendous, upsetting deaths. They get shot a few times and their ragdoll kicks in and that's it. They do not get impaled. They do not get assaulted. Their corpses are not lovingly panned over once the deed is done.
I can't say what that is on my own. But anyone who remembers the initial E3 debacle remembers things like a PR executive mentioning "rape", or the exaggerated ways in which Lara squealed and cried (rather than grunting and yelling like an actual woman in danger would). Things that make it seem less like "this is just a serious action game" and more like "there's something really creepy going on here". Yes, they eventually brought in Rhianna Pratchett to write the game based on her writing on games like "Overlord" and "Heavenly Sword", but that doesn't exactly match the tone they were going for, does it?
But here's what I do know: they took a female protagonist out of a genre where she was one of the few representatives of her sex. Then they put her into a genre where women are incredibly common and sexualized despite being horrifying and gory. They put her into the same genre as THIS FUCKING BULLSHIT. They reduced her agency and capability, ostensibly for the sake of telling a more realistic story. But that hasn't happened to a male character, has it. That hasn't happened to Nathan Drake. That wouldn't happen to Indiana Jones. No, he's fine. He's cool. Everything's cool.