I have a confession to make: I’m kind of a hardcore Tomb Raider fan. I played a super glitchy CD ROM of Tomb Raider 2—back when they used to come in comically large boxes—when I was fourteen, and was instantly in love. Not with Croft herself (that came later) but with the game itself, of the experience of being a professional adventurer, of the freedom of exploring the world.
Now, I understand that, to a modern gamer, this seems like an everyday thing. We have everything from Uncharted to Call of Duty, from the Cabela franchise to Endless Ocean, where every corner of the world can be yours to explore. But as a poor, suburban gamer in the ’90s who only had a Super Nintendo and a family PC running Windows 95, I had never played anything like Tomb Raider before. It opened my mind to a whole new universe of gaming diversity.
To this day, I still play Tomb Raider. I mean, I replayed Legend like six months ago. Yes, the modern TR games are kind of crap, especially compared to the originality of the older ones, but I still love them. They’re fun, and playable, and don’t take themselves overly seriously. Yes, Croft herself is blatantly sexualized, but I sort of don’t notice that, because she’s just so badass and independent. She doesn’t raid tombs because she has complex daddy issues or a vendetta against society or any of that other overused dribble. She does it because it’s fun as hell. Oh, and the money. That’s also nice.
See, that’s what makes her so bloody amazing. Her actions are just that—active—something I see so rarely in female characters in any medium. Remember that one time when she thought that chick killed her mom and, instead of crying about it and going on about her boring feelings, Croft started shooting at her head and then pistol whipped the sh*t out of her? Yeah, that was freaking awesome. This scene is also an example of how Tomb Raider, of all things, passes the Bechdel Test, something that happens in no video game ever.
Sorry for sneaking that feminism up on you, there. I wanted to ease you all into my point: Old-school Tomb Raider, despite Croft’s blatant sexualization—is actually kind of feminist. To me, feminism means a woman can live, essentially, as a man does: independent, and free of the influence of other genders. That’s what Lara Croft did. She was completely independent, both financially and emotionally, from any man or even any other person; she was motivated only by herself and what she wanted to do, not by what anyone had done to her; and, most important of all, she was active—she participated in her own story, and was always in control of her environment.
So this Tomb Raider reboot? I’m not really about it. Initially, I was stoked to see the redesigns of Croft’s appearance, as she no longer looked like a mutated, comic-book human approximation. Turns out the surface really is just that, though, as we suddenly have this rape subplot. Now I *might* have been okay with that, except producer Ron Rosenberg said, of the new Lara, “[Gamers] don't really project themselves into the character. They're more like 'I want to protect her.' There's this sort of dynamic of 'I'm going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.'"
Producer Ron Rosenberg, I just want to tell you, from lady gamers everywhere… NO. Stop examining everything from a male perspective. Lara Croft is not awesome because, as you so tragically put it, we “want to protect her.” She’s awesome because she kicks a ton of ass, and some of us actually do project ourselves into her, not just onto her. I feel like, if someone tried to get rape-y with Croft, she would kick him in the face and ride away on her motorcycle, laughing hysterically because she’s going to go home and take a swim in her Scrooge McDuck vault. Then she would promptly forget about it, because NO ONE F*CKS WITH CROFT. And no one tells her what to do.