Last month Amazon had a $19.99 deal on Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition for X-Box One, and I snapped it up eagerly. I’ve had my eye on this game since it came out two years ago. As you know from my Divergent posts, I have a habit of being late to most parties, which is funny since in real life I show up uncomfortably early to parties…

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Lara Croft being a BA

As a kid I never had one of the Tomb Raider console games, but I did have the Game Boy Color Tomb Raider game. I loved tumbling and rolling and shooting down bad guys while hunting for buried treasure. It was awesome! And clearly I’m not the only gamer that feels this way. Over at FemHype, Jillian reminisces about playing Tomb Raider II for the first time (and also writes very well about Tomb Raider III’s problematic themes).

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Before and after the new version of Tomb Raider was released I closely followed discussion online regarding it. Controversy flared up over a rape scene hinted at in an early trailer, but thankfully the actual game turned out to be pretty cool. And I’m here to corroborate the evidence using the Her Story Arc Scale of Inclusivity.

Not offensive to women = 0 pts

While the scene originally thought to be a rape scene ends up with Lara shooting her assailant (or being shot if you fail to punch the buttons correctly) it still is a very uncomfortable moment to play through. The villain runs his hand across Lara’s lower thigh, and it did bother me. I have not finished playing the game yet, but based on this scene alone I unfortunately cannot award the game the point for this category.

Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2 pts

You play the entire game as Lara Croft. The story revolves around Lara’s search for traces of a maybe historical, maybe mythical kingdom of Yamatai which was ruled by the Sun Queen Himiko (who is a real historical mystery). Samantha “Sam” Nishimura is Lara’s friend, and we see her in video clips as well as hear her voice when she reads us her diary entries.

Passes the Bechdel test = 3 pts 

The game passes the Bechdel test right in the beginning when Sam and Lara have a discussion about a couple subjects, including the trip.

Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4 pts

This game freaks me out. In a good way! But it still FREAKS ME OUT. The action can really sneak up on you, and if don’t have quick reflexes you’ll get crushed by rocks, potentially eaten by a cannibal, have your throat torn out by a wolf, shot, stabbed, etc. etc. etc. I jumped, gasped, and tensed up many many times while playing. The story is interesting, and I have gone out of my way to hunt down all the story documents in each area so that I know more about what is going on. I personally find the historical side of it fascinating, which is partially due to having studied Japanese language and culture in my undergrad years, but is mostly due to it being well written and plotted out. So it will not come as any surprise when I tell you that the game’s writer, Rhianna Pratchett, is on the MCV Brit List: Women in Games Top 100.

Outside of the main story line Lara has a lot of mini quests to find relics, search through tombs, and hunt animals for food. In the area by the first base camp I spent a lot of time feeling like Katniss Everdeen hunting deer in the woods. Especially when I changed Lara’s outfit to the “Aviatrix” one, which gives her a pretty sweet bomber jacket.

Overall the game play is fun (although not having any good melee in the beginning kind of sucks), the graphics are stunning, and the setting of the game ranges from lovely to eerie. Lara’s portrayal is also a HUGE step up from the huge pixelated bust of yore, and you have multiple options to choose from for practical, survival type clothing.

Above and Beyond General Media = 5 pts

I entitled this post “I can do this” because Lara says it a lot in the game. At first it kind of took me aback. Why is she doubting herself? But the further we got into the game, the  more I appreciated her attitude. When she was scared, apprehensive, or just overwhelmed with the, well, overwhelming task at hand, she says out loud “I can do this” or something similar. In a world where women are all fluent in the language of self doubt, humility, and non-confrontation we see Lara openly fight that battle with herself. There are a few scenes where she is mentored by Conrad Roth, an older friend of her father’s, who pushes her to move beyond her comfort zone. Lara’s self doubt is also noticed by Dr. James Whitman (another character along for the adventure), who says in a private letter to his wife that he plans to take all the credit for unraveling the mystery of Yamatai and Queen Himiko.

In a very timely fashion a friend of mine posted a Pscyhology Today article on my Facebook feed this week entitled “The Trouble With Bright Girls”. The article discusses the findings that “bright girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice” and hypothesizes this is because of the differences in how we verbally praise boys and girls. Lara Croft is undoubtedly a bright girl, and given how she talks about her work and how she vocally helps boost her confidence throughout the game, I imagine she suffers from the same self image problem the article discusses.

So all in all, I award Tomb Raider Definitive Edition a 14/15.

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And BTW did you know there is a Tomb Raider comic book? Me neither! But my fellow Her Story Arc writer Jen Stayrook included it on her top ten list.

One of benefits of playing these games two years late is that I end up playing them right before their sequel comes out, which means I only have to wait a couple of months compared to those suckers who bought it right away. Amiright? And what a sequel it will be! Entitled “Rise of the Tomb Raider”, it is set to come out later this year around the holidays.

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15 thoughts on ““I Can Do This” – Lara Croft

  1. LOVE this game! I’ve been with it since its inception, used to spend hours playing the second installment. I, too, was bothered by the whole assault thing, but let me say: Lara gets here revenge. The developers’ choice in language was great. I mean, who climbs an icy pole in the wind and doesn’t take a deep breath and say “I can do this”? In fact, who on earth would do that anyway?? Only Lara Croft, the heck with James Bond and Indiana Jones (though I like the later :p). Wonderful post! Can’t wait for the next installment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m asking this question out of genuine desire to understand where you’re coming from, but: if you are made uncomfortable by a female character being treated nastily in a story, does this actually count as offensive to women? I mean, if I was watching the scene, I can probably bet I’d be disturbed too. Maybe clarify exactly how the scene plays out, because it sounds more like just a general case of ‘unsettling villain moment’ that has nothing to do with any subtext about women.

    Not trying to pick a fight, of course. But I do scratch my head sometimes at the mentality that, in fiction, any sort of ill treatment toward a woman character is equivalent to a secret misogynist agenda. I’ve seen people react like that elsewhere, and I’m not accusing you of being like that, but I’m again just seeking clarification.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not being made uncomfortable by a woman being “treated nastily in a story”. What I am uncomfortable with is that she is being treated nastily, in this instance, in a gender specific way. A whole lot of stuff happens to Lara in the game that sucks, but so far this is the only instance in the game where something bad happens to her solely because she is a woman.

      I’m also not saying there is a secret misogynistic agenda. I’m no conspiracy theorist here. But there is a culture of violence against women that self-perpetuates through hundreds of thousands of small instances everyday, and as a woman playing a video game as a leisurely activity, I would like to be able to enjoy that game without being reminded that solely because I happen to have been born with breasts a portion of men still see my body as something they are entitled to. I have many real world instances of being groped and assaulted, and would rather not be reminded of this very real problem in a very fictional game. So for me, this is offensive. And since I’m a woman, it is also offensive to women. And since the goal of this post is to inform other women about the content of a game (which I’ll point out I spoke mostly about in admiring language) I feel it is incumbent upon me to inform them of this moment. Because for some women, that moment could ruin their day. It could trigger in them a memory of something far worse, and seriously impede their enjoyment of the game.

      If you check out the scale of inclusivity page it goes into more detail about the point system and how it works. https://herstoryarc.com/her-story-arc-scale-of-inclusivity/

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Also, I would add, there’s an island full of men and only three women (?) from the ship wreck. The whole attempted rape scene is actually pointless in the story, it’s not like they’re trying to make a point with it and it doesn’t happen ever to Lara’s friend who is being held captive by an even crazier guy.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thanks for elaborating Lindsay! I think what I’ve learned from these comments (and from comments on Reddit) is that I didn’t spend enough time on that category clearly explaining why I chose not to give the game points for that category. I’ll definitely be more careful in the future.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m starting to learn to hold out on Square Enix games for definitive editions long after game of the year editions. Oh wow she had a Game Boy Color game? I like your points system and I like to hear what women think of not just Lara Croft, but other female protagonists. I’m a male, so I’m always wondering what’s the female take on things. Some games I pretty much know what the consensus will be, but games like this where Lara is someone so mainstream its a toss up. Thanks for your perspective and points system 🙂

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    1. You’re welcome! I’m glad you found it informative. 🙂 Myself and the other contributors of the site spent over a month going back and forth on the point system to nail something down that was both flexible and quantitative, so I’m relieved readers are responding positively to it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I’m with Skye. That really isn’t much better at all.

      Lindsey, I’m glad you enjoyed the game. While I haven’t played it, I have read the comics – and they’re pretty great, actually.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent article. I’m a bigger fan of the older games (the latest game was too gory and shooter-centric for my taste) but I do applaud Crystal Dynamics’ efforts to revamp the franchise and incorporate a lot of real historical elements and art into the game.

    One correction, however: The game writer’s name is Rhianna, not Kathleen, Pratchett. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for the correction! I have no idea where I got “Kathleen” from, lol. I definitely was shielding my eyes at some parts. I am NOT a fan of gore either, so it definitely says something about the compelling-ness of the story that I overcame my aversion to it. I wish I had more opportunities to play the older games when they originally came out, so I might have to try hunting them down sometime 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think they’re all on Steam these days so if you ever feel curious enough to check them out, go right ahead. The graphics of the 1990s and early 2000s ones are obviously outdated but the gameplay’s relatively straightforward and they have a nice balance of puzzle-solving and combat (more of the former than of the latter). 🙂

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  5. God, I love this game. I brutally murdered Lara several times (Sorry about that horrific trip downstream, Lara!), but I love her as a character so much I can’t properly put my affections into words. Her journey felt so natural and real that I couldn’t help but latch on to her. Bonus: I freaking LOVE that she is the hero rescuing a damsel in distress. BOOM.

    Oh, and definitely read the comics.

    Liked by 1 person

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