A tumblr to record and recount any and all video games with a (playable) female lead.

The Video Game Heroines Project

MIGHTY MAIDEN... THE BELLS TOLL FOR BATTLE

Game: Tomb Raider

Heroine: Lara Croft

System: Playstation

Year: 1996

Developer: Core Design

Genre: Action

Etc: Lara Croft has since starred in every other Tomb Raider game. A new Tomb Raider game set to release March 2013 serves as something of a ‘gritty’ reboot. A lot of controversy is currently surrounding the game’s choices in depicting Lara and the situations she will face, including assault and repeated emotional breakdowns.

(screenshots from FantasyWalkthroughs and gametrailers)

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Guest Commentary by Greg Mustache

Lara Croft is, to me, this hyper-condensed icon of the extremes of what female primary protagonists in video games will (hopefully) not always be.

On the one hand, she’s a jumping, climbing, running, gunning badass adventurer. Positive, active, capable, all around awesome.

On other hand, the only reason anybody paid attention to her in the first place is because she has enormous tits. It was the only part of her design that the creative team that produced her agreed should stay  (Changes the creative team didn’t like:  making her muscular, making her a Nazi-styled militant, and making her South American).

Lara’s existence as a female was a stab at originality, because female protagonists who didn’t serve as doe-eyed ingenues and anime babes were still a Bigfoot-like rarity in gaming culture, but her sex appeal served as a way to keep the male target audience staring at the Tomb Raider display long enough to actually think about spending money on it, and get to experience the innovative 3D approach to the 2D platformer. And boy howdy, did it work.

As much of a forward step as Lara represents in our history of gaming, because she is one of the most recognizable characters in geek culture even 25 years since her original appearance,  the concept she was built on is the same one we’re slowly arm-wrestling into our embarrassing past where it belongs:  that no matter how amazing a female character is in practice or concept, her primary reason for existing is to keep the heterosexual male interest where the business wants it.

The next evolution of Tomb Raider supposedly focuses on Lara as a figure of empathy. Personally, my previous experiences have left me some doubts; having a young Lara Croft shrieking, struggling in the mud, and fighting off a sexual assault in the trailer gives me great hope for the soundtrack, gameplay and graphics, not so much for a non-fetishized, non-horror-movie bimbo approach to what makes us feel for an imperiled lady. (The clip of Lara’s dad reassuring her she can do it because she’s related to him doesn’t help matters; thank you, Dad-Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer, your virility is a credit to women everywhere. I don’t think we need to wager on whether Lara’s mother makes any similar assertions.) Time will tell on whether or not the light at the end of the tunnel is the golden light of day or just another oncoming train.