The Tomb Raider walkback begins

Tomb Raider Creators Are No Longer Referring to Game’s Attempted ‘Rape’ Scene As an Attempted Rape Scene.

Now as much as I detest Kotaku’s editorial practices this isn’t about them, this is about Crystal Dynamics and their latest escalation of double-speak. As I said in my previous post, Executive Producer Ron Rosenberg, as part of his now-infamous “You’ll want to protect her” interview stated quote “…she gets taken prisoner by scavengers on the island.  They try to rape her…”

Well that seems pretty clear, Ron, not that I didn’t pick that up in the trailer.  Scene by scene lets break that sequence down a bit more.

2:15 into the trailer, Lara has her hands bound behind her back, and is trying to sneak out of this camp.

2:18. creepy voice saying “Noone escapes!” as Lara slips into a little hidey hole.

2:20. Her attacker discovers her, heavy breathing.

2:24. Now is when you can tell that this has definitely been selectively edited, as Lara is out of the hidey hole, and her attacker has one hand on her shoulder preventing her from running.  Her hands are still bound.

2:25.  Cue dramatic tension in the music as her attacker examines her lecherously.

2:26. The attacker’s arm wanders down from Lara’s shoulder to her hips before being kneed in the groin at 2:28.

Less than a second later she is trying to flee but caught by the arm and pulled back.  At 2:30 Lara is forced against a wall by her attacker, who then proceeds to fondle her and nuzzle her neck.  Her terrified face blocks any view of what he’s doing, the repeated smash-to-black edits further serve to obscure the events.

I have to point out that the editing is so jarring in this sequence, with noticeable gaps between logical progressions of events.  Lara eventually struggles on the ground against her attacker at 2:35 with gun in hand, fighting his grip to turn it on him and fire.  Note that they do not show how she escapes from her bonds, as her hands have until this point been tied behind her back and she has been unable to use them to fend off this attacker.

The pace of editing and smash-cuts in this particular sequence tells me whoever cut the trailer is an idiot seeing as this style of editing trailers with several smash-cuts to black every second is terrible, but also that they are hiding the full sequence of events from the viewer.

In other words, this sequence is much longer in actual gameplay than depicted.  Based on the events shown, and the manner in which they are timed I think I am safe in the assumption that there is a quick-time-event around which this entire sequence is based.  Which means it is not just brutal, it is interactive.

Today, the head of Crystal Dynamics released a statement saying the following:

“…Unfortunately we were not clear in a recent E3 press interview and things have been misunderstood.  Before this gets out of hand (Too fucking late! -ed), let me explain.

In making this Tomb Raider origins story our aim was to take Lara Croft on an exploration of what makes her the character she embodies in later Tomb Raider games.  One of the character defining moments for Lara in the game, which has incorrectly been referred to (by your own employee, the executive producer on the game -ed) as an ‘attempted rape’ scene is the content we showed at this year’s E3… This is where Lara is forced to kill another human 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.  Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game. (emphasis mine -ed)

…We’re sorry this has not been better explained, we’ll certainly be more careful with what is said in the future. (again, emphasis mine -ed)”

-Darrel Gallagher, Studio Head – Crystal Dynamics

Well fuck me sideways, Darrell, that sure clears that up, thanks!  Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game.  Well I guess that footage was from another game because there was some pretty clear sexual assault in it!  And how could it possibly go further than what you showed, what with a good chunk of the sequence being excised for the trailer.  I guess its non-interactive as well, seeing as that would be “going further” as well.

I’m not saying a game cannot use these themes to profound effect.  They can, and I’m sure one day they will.  To say that Tomb Raider has no sexual assault in it, when high-ranking members of your production staff have said that enemies will try to rape Lara Croft in this game, and video evidence exists to the contrary, certainly takes some balls, I’ll give you that one.

So what was that attacker doing in that scene if not sexually assaulting the protagonist of the game?  Did his hand wander down her body as he leered down her shirt because his arm was tired?  Did he pin her against a wall and begin necking her because she got bit by a snake and he needed to suck the venom out, quick?  It’s not rape, its a struggle-snuggle!  Give me a break.

This is cowardly, dishonest, and leads me to believe that whatever the intent of the developers, they have tarnished their efforts and their names with this increasingly absurd PR carnival.  First there’s attempted rape.  Then, there’s lots of attempted rape!  It’s edgy, it’s cool, buy our game!  Now there is no attempted rape nor sexual assault of any kind, and shame on you and the media for perpetuating the myth that there is!

I know there is an internet furor with many forum and comment fights between both defenders of the game as presented and those who find its content objectionable.  I defy you to find any defender of this scene, however, that has denied the existence of sexual assault and attempted rape as part of the trailer.

So I have some advice for you, Darrell, given freely by someone who wants to see your game come through and have the solid narrative I imagined it could carry.  Don’t just be more careful with what is said.  Be more careful with what is done.  Start by putting a gag order on every member of the development team.

Then, since the scene is all about when Lara is forced to kill another human for the first time, rework the scene.  If that is the narrative impact, the defining moment you are going for, why complicate it?  Have Lara be caught in her hidey hole, tossed out onto the ground, QTE to wiggle out of the rope in time to grab the gun and turn it on her attacker.  All that juicy gore and character definition, no pesky rape!

Crystal Dynamics must in any circumstance be honest with their fans and those who wish to see this game succeed.  If they cannot justify the scene as is, it should be changed not just to avoid controversy but to avoid detracting from the story of the game.  That’s not “political correctness” that is good design.

As it stands, they’re simply making fools of themselves, and showing how little they really think of the intelligence of the gaming community.

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