Objection! The Shrinking Boobs Of Lara Croft

Welcome to Objection! This is where we take the time to go on-depth on gaming issues, and let you guys continue the discussion in the comments section.

This week we’re talking about Lara Croft's new reboot and female characters in video games – is the new Lara a sign of maturity in the games industry? Is it a sign of anything at all?

Helping us out today is Tracey Lien. Some of you might know Tracey Lien as 'Rei' from Good Game. Some of you might know her as 'Tracey Lien' from real life. Tracey writes awesomely for a number of mags such as Hyper and is aware of the existence of many, many big words.

MARK: Hey Tracey, you're a girl, right? What did you think of the new Lara Croft character 'reboot'? Does it say something about the representation of female characters in video games? Does it say anything at all?

TRACEY: Checks inside pants* Well what would you know, I am a girl. SOMEBODY NOTIFY MY PARENTS!

There hasn't been a whole lot of information released about the "new" Lara Croft character aside from what has been published by Game Informer, so I think that until I have seen more and actually played the game I can't confidently say "HERE ARE MY FINAL OPINIONS, LET ME SHOW THEM TO YOU". But let’s give this a go anyway.

From what I have seen, I think she looks... inoffensive.

Crystal Dynamics have said themselves that this new game tells the story of how Lara came to be the strong adventurer that we have known for years, so it's really looking at the same Lara Croft at a different point in her life and, understandably, she's going to be different and she's going to look younger. But what has pleased me so far about what I have seen is the tasteful direction they’ve taken in portraying her.

I say she looks inoffensive because when you talk about a 'younger' female character, there is so much room for the character design to just turn into smut, and from the images that have been released, there appears to be less of a focus on her tits and arse and more on the gritty nature of her job and the strength she has to develop to go the distance. This isn’t to say I’ve got a problem with Lara’s tits or arse – I think she’s got great assets and I’ve never taken issue with the fact that she flaunted them in previous games – the games were always a bit ridiculous in that way, but no more ridiculous than James Bond.

I’m glad they went down the strong, practical, and independent woman path rather than the youthful smut path, because I think this will probably lend itself to a more interesting character that people will take seriously and want to get to know more of. But for all I know there could be a section in the game were young Lara bursts out of the water in a stringed bikini, armed with a machete, which will still be interesting, but perhaps in a different kind of way.

MARK: Great. We’ve established that you are a girl. That was important. We’ve also established that there is still the possibility that Lara may burst out of the ocean, lathered in soap, in a string bikini, wielding a machete. That is also important.

Lara Croft is such an interesting character though – and is sort of this feminine portrayal of the woman the broader gaming audience ‘wants’ to see in their video games. As a 14 year old, I was the target audience for the original Tomb Raider - at that time I wanted boobs like you wouldn’t believe, and that's what I got. Now that the role of boobs play a diminished role in my gaming life, it seems like the boobs of Lara Croft have also diminished.

Do you think that the changing shape of Lara Croft represents a change in gaming’s demographic (more women, older men) or do you think that it’s simply a functional change that comes solely from the developers themselves.

TRACEY: I think there could be a number of reasons as to why Lara’s shape has changed. Whenever I’ve interviewed industry analysts or academics who study videogames in cultural studies departments, the subject of female gaming characters often comes up and they nearly always attribute the seemingly immature and sexist portrayals of women to the fact that the game development industry is male-dominated, and so many developers create their fantasy women. Apparently that's how we end up with Dead of Alive Beach Volley Ball. So if the analysts and academics are right, then I can only assume that the new generation of game developers entering the industry – males and females – may have different views on beauty, sexuality, and desirability, and we are slowly seeing this come through in videogame characters. (Although I should stress that there is nothing wrong with Dead of Alive Beach Volley Ball – I love sports and jiggling boobs as much as the next person.)

Another thing to consider is society’s changing perception of beauty. Consider that in 1993 Anna Nicole Smith was Playboy’s Playmate of the Year who most teenage boys pined over, whereas now you’re more likely to find a young guy crushing over Zooey Deschanel or Felicia Day. While there’s definitely room for physics-defying, perky G-cups, I get the feeling that kind of 'beauty' isn’t as in vogue as it was a few years ago.

Then of course there’s the changing demographic, and I don’t think it’s just a matter of 'Oh there’s more women playing games now and women don’t like seeing jugs flapping in the breeze', because we don’t necessarily know that this is true. I think it has more to do with gamers expecting more from their games. If they’re going to invest money in a blockbuster action-adventure then they want great gameplay, they want an interesting story, they want characters with depth, and you could argue that when you make a character more realistic, give her a pair of chinos and a supportive bra, it makes her that little bit more relatable and draws the player’s focus to her story, her struggle, and her life, rather than her 'schmexy bawdy'.

What do you guys think of the new Lara – and what do you think about female characters in general? Are they changing for the better? Are they changing at all? Let us know in the comments below.


Comments

    I think there are lots of things at play here.

    1) In the 'old days' you didn't have a lot of option for big cinematics, story etc. games were pretty basic. Graphics were also very basic, and extreme types were in vogue. Look at any character designs from that period, male, female, monster, they were mostly very over the top and extreme. 100 polygons (the limit for characters when we were doing Cyberswine in the nineties) doesn't leave a lot of room for subtlety.

    2) The world has become more PC (politically correct), so it may not be a maturity in the gaming industry, or even in producers and designers as much as games are now big companies with shareholders and don't enjoy lawsuits. It will be interesting to see if Duke Nukem will fly as a character this year or whether the world is too PC for it.

    3) Gaming has moved towards realism with better graphics, more polys, photo-real backgrounds etc. and stylised characters don't fit in as well with that. I personally thing the over-steroided male characters now look out of place in the almost-real settings they are in. The same is true for gravity defying female forms.

    I'm not sure if big bosoms are out of fashion or not, the music video scene would seem to indicate they are still popular, but I think there is a maturity in the industry now, not necessarily that the people working on the games wouldn't put megboobies on a character if they could, but that there is a drive to have gaming taken seriously as an artform, which places constraints and rules on designers and producers to develop title that look 'more serious' and artistic.

    All characters need to change a lot more, I think the female ones have had more positive change recently than the male ones, and I'm hoping both will change more. There is always a place for fantasy characters, curvy women and megamuscled men, but I think more titles could have more everyday looking people, it would be much easier to relate.

    *coughBayonettacough*

      *cough Japan cough*

      Also the game informer boxout on the new Lara was quite interesting, especially when it revealed that they had done research with eyetracking and more time had been spent looking at her face then her curves.

        the only thing bayonetta had was her walk, she didnt have the gravity defying Tits that lara had nor the arse of megan fox. Even then I personally never found bayonetta sexy due to how bloody thin she was. to put in perspective, the female angles in the game had more "meat" on the bone and even then they were using the same skeletal system as bayonetta.

        Dead or Alive Volleyball doesn't exist because the industry is imature... it exists because japan is full of perverts.

      I think Japan is the exception to all this. Love +, Gal Gun,Dream Club Zero and this
      http://www.kotaku.com.au/2010/12/sm-toy-removed-from-popular-rpg/
      all aimed at 45+ year old men and no one seems to bat an eye.

    The fact that we're still so obsessed with Lara's breasts that there are still entire articles being written about them suggests to me that very little has changed.

    I think it just shows the growth of the industry and the consumers. I'm kinda repeating Mark here, but fifteen years ago it pretty much was just 12 - 16 year old boys dominating the market. Tomb Raider was aimed at them and they lapped it up. It almost became a parody. The thing is 15 years later the 12 -16 year old boys are still playing but don't make up the whole market. With Tomb Raider now considered a "mainstream" game they would have only catered to a segment of the market had they focused on T & A. The reboot helps to remove any stigma this legacy may have on new gen gamers.
    Also love the clarification "Now that the role of boobs play a diminished role in my GAMING life" LOL

    If there was a lack of articles, then very little would have changed.
    People will always be interested in things of a sexual nature, we are designed/evolved (choose yr poison) to replicate half of our helical ladder, so it would be odd if we weren't at least partially obsessed with the male and female forms.

    But each artform/industry goes through phases. As soon as graphics were good enough to get aroused over, then fantasy forms of the male and female bodies were created, then slowly have become more subtle and complex.

    One question I like from the article, (paraphrasing here) is are we just making slimmer less busty characters now because that is what male gamers now find 'hot', or is it because of a genuine shift away from exploitative imagery?

      if we still weren't obsessed with lara's boobs, we wouldn't have put Angelina Jolie in the movie.

      Personally, I'd rather she have her "assets" the same way they were before, when I really enjoyed them :P

    Heh heh, "great ASSets" *giggle*
    [Insert donkey-related pun here]
    (I have nothing insightful to contribute to this discussion :( )

    Lara is one of my favourite characters. I thought she was well portrayed in the recent Tomb Raider games. She was a more interesting character, her relationship with her mother was an interesting thread that added depth to why Lara does, what she does. But at the same time, as all rich archaeologists, was unable to afford a shirt that covered her stomach...

    I think the industry has changed. But I don't think it's quite enough. All this GOTY talk and some cheap DLC prices over the Holidays made me revisit Mass Effect 2.

    Miranda Lawson is a pretty outrageous looking character. It sticks out really bad too in Mass Effect because the rest of the series has real maturity. Characters like Garrus Vakarian and Mordin Solus have a lot of depth.

    But Miranda is stick thin, she has big breasts and her jumpsuit is skin tight. I know they explain this away as "She's genetically perfect." But it still felt cheap to me. The same as how the Asari, a race of gender neutral, but female looking aliens seems to be a clever way of putting some girl-on-girl action in the game. I don't feel pandering to a male audience becomes more tolerable just by adding a back story.

    The portrayal of women in games can be really stereotypical, falling into one of two archetypes: Princess Peach or Trinity from The Matrix.

    But blokes can be just as bad. I too wonder how Duke Nukem will be received. I'm sure 15 year olds everywhere will love him. But I personally find that character to be dated and uninteresting. He's like an action hero from the 80's. Over sexed and spouts nothing but one liners. This was clever in the mind 90's. But I think we expect more from our male protagonists at this point.

      A little off-topic, but Jacob wasn't any better. His romance dialogue for female Shep was skin-crawlingly horrifying ("Heavy risk... but the priiiize"), his character had about as much emotional depth as an avocado and his main function seemed to be walking around deck lifting weights and long, expository speeches about missions.

      Let's not even start on Zevran from Dragon Age.

    BTW Mr Serrels you aren't fooling anyone with this mature themed, polically correct article. We know how you roll :

    Exhibit A
    http://www.kotaku.com.au/2010/12/stories-of-the-year-5-bayonettas-butt/

    A nice article again (really loving this Objection series!). I think you guys summed up pretty well that it's not a simple question of changing demographics or changing audience expectations, but a little of both. I think (and hope) the industry and audience have matured from an expectation of 10 hours of bewbs.

    There's probably a degree of political correctness involved, (as Peter Richards said) but I'd prefer to think that the attitudes of developers themselves are changing, to the point where it's not industry-standard to make everything as hyper-sexual as possible. Societal attitudes are presumably reflected in the way games are made; it may even be the case that eclectic game development studios are somewhat more 'progressive' (for want of a better word) precisely because they attract younger designers.

    Squeenix bought Eidos and now they're turning Lara moe~~

    I actually think it's an improvement... but then I'm a leg man.

    I haven't seen a clear shot of her face yet, but I think the way she looked in underworld was the best.

    My opinion is probably invalid though as I liked her jeans and t-shirt in angel of darkness.

    I think that because people who grew up playing games have been trying to buck the image of games as an immature, gratuitously-violent medium with no artistic or literary value have somwhat conditioned themselves away from anything assocaited with the "old ways" of gaming.
    Back then, in the 90's, there was simply nothing wrong with games that featured mindless stories and big-breated eye candy.
    Then after awhile, maybe as our hormones resolved themselves, we started to be a little bit ashamed of ourselves.

    Sex and sexuality is, no matter how tastefully handled, a juvenile topic - at least in most English speaking cultures. It's discussed in whispers, giggled about by teenagers. Few people handle sexual content in literature, movies and games as maturely as they wish they could. Yeah, you can sit there stone-faced watching a movie with a love scene when your parents are in the room, but you're very *aware* of what you're watching, aren't you? Moreso than if you were watching an action film or a romantic comedy.

    It's the same basis on which games like Playboy: the Mansion, Oneechanbara and DoA: Extreme Beach Volleyball are firmly in a pile of game. Even if these were good games (which is debatable), few people will admit to playing them. Fewer will play them with other people around. They present a shallow image.
    When I was in 7th grade, enabling the nude patch for Tome Raider seemed thrilling to those who played the game. By 10th grade, we were making fun of the guys who'd boasted about it a mere three years earlier.

    So I think that as the target demographic grew up, the character designs shifted accordingly. People turn up their noses at the old, impossibly proportioned Lara because that's what they were playing 10, 15 years ago when they were kids. We got tired of her! The character was unrealistic and unrelatable. She created an unrealistic ideal of women and contributed to sexism and the pandemic of poor body image experienced by women worldwide.
    Grow up, gaming industry, give us the strong independent Lara she deserves to be!

    What I hate, though, is when that gets pushed too far in the other direction. Strong and independent doesn't mean crass "tough-girl" stereotype - because frankly that's just as bad.

    Give her good writing. I care less about her cup size than her actions, her motivations for those actions, and the dialogue/exposition that explain those motivations to me. Make her a person - no matter how unrealistic her exploits or body type, give me a baseline to relate to and let the adventure unfold before her.

    Do I like the new, gritty, grimy, torn-clothing Lara? Sure, she looks alright. But what's she doing and why?

    For the record, I have never actually played any Tomb Raider game ever (unless you count Uncharted *rimshot*).

    Lara Crofts tits are smaller in the new hame because its a reboot/prequel and Lara is younger. Her breasts are still growing.
    Expect them to be bigger in future games.

    I must be the only person who doesn't care about Lara Crofts breasts. Like most games there is so much emphasis on graphics and looks that no one seems to care how the game mechinics work anymore.
    If the game is fun to play then Lara could have a penis for all I care.
    I think people focus on the wrong areas. What made Tomb raider a good game was the fact that it was the first of it's kind in many ways.
    And it was fun to play.

    wrote a long post but I can sum it up by saying: developers/movie makers/comic book artists/authors, stop doing dark/gritty reboots, I'm tired of it, superman has had how many decades without a gritty reboot? he hasn't even changed his costume in 72 years and he's still one of the most beloved, if not the most beloved super hero.

      errr, don't look now ray.
      Besides the various costume changes you missed (white electric superman?) we have a gritty superman reboot movie on the way.
      Sorry

    Ahhh Rei/Tracey *swoons*. I'm jealous that you got to have a one-on-one chat with her Mark! :P I always love her attitude :)

    She was and still is one of the main reasons I enjoyed watching Good Game xD

    Well you do know that she's 21 and her boobs are smaller because it's better and in the old games were massive and she was only about 27 or in her 30's and I don't think boobs can grow that big in a few years

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