What’s got people talking was one particular moment when executive producer Ron Rosenburg commented how her enemies would be savage in nature and try to rape her. After the debate raging for a few days studio head Darrell Gallagher has weighed in and stated that;
We were not clear in a recent E3 press interview and things have been misunderstood. Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game. One of the character-defining moments for Lara in the game, which has been incorrectly referred to as an ‘attempted rape scene’, is the content we showed at this year’s E3 where Lara is forced to kill another human being for the first time. In this particular section, while there is a threatening undertone in the sequence and surrounding drama, it never goes any further than the scenes that we have already shown publicly.
So there is not any attempted rape in the new Tomb Raider. Rape however is not the root cause of the discussion. We’ve already talked about videogame narrative here, and major mainstream publications such as The Guardian have even taken part. The whole idea of wanting to protect Lara is absurd. She’s able to handle her self, or we wouldn’t have a very compelling action game. If you dumped me on an isolated island filled with angry men with guns, I’d probably end up loosing my footing on some rocks, fall awkwardly and die of dehydration or something silly and suitably anti-climatic. Mary Hamilton’s article in the Guardian highlights this point beautifully, saying there seems to be a different set of rules when taking about male and female leads. Men are naturally talented and efficient killers where as Lara apparently needs to be broken down before she can shine.
While we have some spectacular stories being told within the medium, games still have a long way to go in that sense. David Cage wanted to change the face of game narration with Heavy Rain, but depending who you talk to he simply ended up with something akin to what you’d see at 2am on Channel 5.
Rape is an interesting issue to bring up. As the medium continues to mature and develop, there aren’t many subjects that it potentially couldn’t touch. What was wrong with Ron Rosenburg’s statements was that he was putting the sexual violence front and foremost, as if parading it in an attempt to seem mature and edgy. He didn’t present himself as giving the issue the respect it deserves. Rape has been present in games before now… Silent Hill 2 had a particularly disturbing scene featuring Pyramid Head which was a physical manifestation of the main character’s psychological frame of mind. F.E.A.R. 2 had the only instance I can recall of a man getting raped in videogames. This particular instance between your character and Alma had a profound effect among male gamers who are so used to controlling gung-ho manly men and those who talk about rape in such an off hand manner during multiplayer matches. Even Alice: Madness Returns, which dealt with some very dark subjects had the implied rape of Alice’s sister.
Looking at the above examples though, at no point did the developers go, “oh and there’s rape in our game. We pushing all the boundaries!” No, they kept quiet, it was a key part of the narrative and proved to be shocking, compelling and thought provoking when players stumbled upon it. There was no outcry from the press, but there didn’t need to be because it was handled with care. It wasn’t singled out. These are certainly discussions we need to have moving forward. It may be the only way to get writers to knuckle down and not use these subjects for a bit of free publicity.