No matter what you think about the reboot of the Tomb Raider series, the one bit of credit that must be given to the lead writer on the two games is that Rhianna Pratchett actually took games media to task for being the two-faced, rage-bait hounds that they are.
Recently Pratchett had departed from Crystal Dynamics and the Tomb Raider franchise to pursue other goals in life. She had a rocky time working on the two Tomb Raider games but I’ll get to that in a bit. During her interview with PC GamesN she brought up something that was lost in a sea of noise back during 2012: her perspective on the whole ordeal.
Pratchett’s voice was lost in the games media attack on Tomb Raider during the whole “rape culture” phenomenon that was sweeping the media at the time. This was just before the “rape culture” myth was eventually debunked along with the credibility of Rolling Stone when the lead cases involving “rape culture” turned out to be fabricated.
Well, Pratchett explained to PC GamesN that the media got Tomb Raider all wrong during the small clip that showed a helpless Lara at the mercy of a wilderness man. Pratchett says…
“Once you play it in context, it makes a lot of sense and isn’t her ‘bitten by a radioactive spider’ moment. This isn’t when she turns into a tomb raider – this is when she happens to have to deliberately kill a human being for the first time.”
It felt like an important debate to have, because it felt like a scene that would not have caused controversy in any other medium,” […] “This is an 18-rated game, and you could probably see worse in a soap opera.”
It’s true. Rape scenes are a heck of a lot more common in movies and no one bats an eye. It’s a frequent topic in plenty of Netflix, Hulu and cable TV shows, and was the centerpiece of an entire story arc in Outlander, but they get a pass for “reasons”.
The whole scene in Tomb Raider that the media lost their heads over is actually quite benign compared to everything else out there in various other mediums.
A lot of misinformed culture critics have labeled games as heightening sexism in young boys and contributing to rape culture, but the reality is that rape is rarely ever featured in a game, unless we’re talking about H-games but that’s completely different category of titles for a completely different niche audience. Regardless, the scene in question can be viewed below courtesy of The Doctor.
That little piece of media spawned headlines for ages. There’s a Google search of all the websites having their take on rape culture and Tomb Raider, which stretches on for pages at a time. Each of the clueless gaming sites out there chimed in on their opportunity to virtue signal as social justice warriors.
However, according to Pratchett, the whole thing was misconstrued and then blown out of proportion…
“We talk about the wider media pointing at videogames and saying, ‘They’re killing our kids’. But that’s exactly what [the games press] did to Tomb Raider. They didn’t have context, they just decided what this scene meant. And I thought, ‘If you can’t even hang back and wait for the whole game rather than pointing fingers, then we’re never going to get that respect from the wider media.’”
The games media have become little more than a joke amongst most discerning gamers. They’re quick to call any and everything sexist, lambast developers for what they perceive as a lack of “diversity”, and throw around the word “misogyny” like an actual misogynist throws around domestic abuse.
The interview snippet actually makes Pratchett come out looking like she may have had Lara’s best interests in mind. She gets a lot of flak for the piss-poor narrative and characters in the Tomb Raider reboots, but the whole thing could have boiled down to lots of headbutting taking place in during production. If Pratchett really did want to bring back the heroine Lara and Crystal Dynamics wanted weak and whiny Lara, then that would explain some of the huge issues that people brought up with the characterizations in Rise of the Tomb Raider.
After realizing that she had to cobble the story together for the first Mirror’s Edge at the eleventh hour (and I thought it was serviceable), and I found out that they scrapped her stuff for the absolute mess that was Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, I’m a lot more forgiving toward the narrative woes of the new Tomb Raider games. In fact, she may be carrying more of a burden that’s less of her fault than what some of us may have thought.
Part of me wishes we could have seen what Pratchett’s take on the two Tomb Raider games would have been like without the meddling of the design team, and part of me would have liked to have seen what the design team would have come up with without the meddling of the writers. Obviously, the butting of the heads did not work out too well, and despite Rise of the Tomb Raider having better platforming segments and playability than Uncharted 4, the rest of the game felt like an incohesive mess.
On the upside, at least Pratchett is aware of what went wrong and hasn’t completely given up on games. I’m also glad she was able to call out the nonsense of the media given that it was a complete and utter embarrassment how they dragged the game through the mud with their “rape culture” narrative, which was almost as bad (but not quite) as the media’s obsession with #GamerGate and the debunked harassment narrative.
(Main image courtesy of Otis_Inf)