Video games get a bad rep in the media these days. If I was to believe the tabloids, video games will make me violent. Despite it being a mainstream form of entertainment enjoyed by millions, when one gamer commits a crime, it is the video game industry’s fault.
I used to play Mortal Kombat and to this day I am yet to freeze someone solid and then punch their head clean off. I have completed every Grand Theft Auto and have resisted wreaking havoc on a citywide scale. I have even played Pokemon and have not tried to compress the neighbor’s cat into a tiny red and white ball.
But video games do have their faults and I am not referring to poor programming or the online gaming trolls who claim they have done unspeakable things to my family during an online game of Call of Duty. I am referring to the portrayal of women in games.
Women are frequently portrayed as damsels in distress, maybe in need of a chubby Italian plumber to come save her. If they aren’t helpless victims, they are often overly sexualized characters with breasts large enough to have their own gravitational field. I really believe some game developers spend a longer time creating a realistic breast jiggling code than they do writing the actual character. I am looking at you Dead or Alive with your armor that covers as little of the female characters as possible, yet is supposed to magically protect them from a sword strike to their overly exposed but realistically moving chest.
There isn’t exactly a wealth of strong female video game characters to choose from when compared to the number of male counterparts. A mega dad recently had to hack the original Donkey Kong game just so his daughter could save Mario playing as the female character, such is the gender bias.
There are a few notable mentions of leading ladies in video games. Ladies like Joanna Dark, Samus Aran and more dominantly, Lara Croft. But when looking for other examples of strong female characters, all I could find were divisive lists like “the hottest female characters”. Which brings me to the thrust of this blog as Miss Croft has recently received a makeover for the reimagining of the Tomb Raider series.
Lara Croft is seen by many as a sex icon with her impossible proportions and insane wardrobe choices for the job at hand. You’d imagine when going tomb raiding you’d choose something a bit more practical with pockets. But the new Tomb Raider game has brought her back to reality.
There is no denying the new Lara Croft is still attractive and gifted in the breasticle department, but she is now a real person. Video games rarely go for an average looking protagonist. Just look at Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series. Nathan is the male equivalent of Lara and with his chiseled good looks and physique… I digress. What I’m trying to say is, the playing field is starting to level out when it comes to gender bias in video games.
Despite my juvenile levels of maturity, I never understood the visual appeal of Lara Croft, if I wanted a cartoon lady, I may as well have gone for Jessica Rabbit. On the other hand, a lot of people liked Lara for being a gun toting bad ass. While that was definitely true, she was also a multi millionaire adrenaline junkie with little depth. Maybe some people don’t need character depth or even a storyline to enjoy a game, but I do.
The new game is gritty and realistic and shows us how Lara became a survivor, not an adrenaline junkie raiding tombs for kicks. At one point she even utters the line “I hate tombs”. On every level she is a real and believable character. She is a university graduate and scholar going on an expedition to prove herself within her field of study. Throughout the game she picks up life-threatening injuries and has to use her instincts just to survive. She even breaks down and cries after killing someone for the first time (in self-defense). And for anyone worrying about the action, yes, she still kicks ass, fights for her life, and could win the Hunger Games with a bow and arrow but now wears trousers. Putting the gender issue briefly aside, it is an outstanding game.
The new approach to the character and series may divide opinion, as some gamers may want to play just for the action. But with the growing number of female gamers today, I believe that the new and real Lara Croft is a progressive move. She was an unrealistic badass with no depth before and a realistic badass that you can actually care about now. Maybe it had to be done as video games strive for a greater sense of realism, but I like to think the makers of the game actively wanted to create a strong female character for the world of gaming today. And that can only be a good thing.
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