Gamers "Really Loved Killing" Lara Croft, Because She Was A "Strong" Character

There's an interesting interview with Toby Gard, the creator of Tomb Raider, over on Critical Path's site. And it reminds us that, for all the platitudes heaped on the series for portraying a strong female character, the fact is a lot of men enjoyed playing as just such a woman for the wrong reasons.

Eerily, Gard brings up the notion of players "protecting" Lara, something that raised a lot of eyebrows earlier this year when the current Tomb Raider's executive producer said something almost identical.

Which is fine in a way, I guess. Gard isn't talking about 2012, he's talking about the process of testing and observing the first Tomb Raider, which was released in 1996 for a video game market so different it may as well have been 1896. He's also discussing the concept in more general terms as they relate to a third-person character, not specifically a female one.

What comes next though is a little more thought-provoking: Gard says the developers soon noticed a "very strange thing" when people were playing the game: "they loved killing her".

He says he felt killing her over and over, and in imaginative ways, gave players - presumably almost exclusively male - a sense of "power" over her, one amplified by the fact she was a "very strong" and "super tough" character. Gard even goes so far as to say this provided gamers with a "god complex".

Now, he never explicitly says they loved killing her because she was female. But the title of the interview ("PLAYING A FEMALE CHARACTER") and the fact he brings it up despite a long history of playing other games in the third person sure makes it sound like that's what he's getting at.

Some of the language used in the video on the left would show he wouldn't be far off the mark if he was, either.

You can watch the full interview at Critical Path's site.



    Dunno about Tomb Raider but I always liked killing the prince of persia in the original.

    Just reminds me of this scene from Spaced.

    I loved killer her butler too but I don't even remember his name. :/

    You've got a character in a 3D moderately open world, that can swan-dive from great heights into water - and also onto the ground.

    Seriously, who *wouldn't* dive off the huge waterfall in the original game and smack into the ground at least once? I know I did - not because it was a female character, but because it was a cool addition to the game.

    I specifically remember jumping off one ledge that had her do the "scream when falling a great height" sound twice, then wouldn't play a third time, and THEN: smacksploosh.

    Seriously. Reading some sort of female hate by male gamers into this is sad.

      True that. Who doesnt like jumping out of a helictoper flying at 200km/h as nico belic in GTAIV?

        Exactly. Or trying to see if you can 90 degrees roll a jet and juuuuust squeeze between those buildings?

          Give me an open world Spider-Man game and the first thing I'll do is find the tallest building and dive off it, sending Spider-Man face first into the street below

            Even in minecraft I do that all the time and I don't have a woman skin.

    It's really weird the reverse-patriarchical whatever that's happening on these sites these days.

    Yes there are weirdoes playing game. But i'm not going to feel guilty because I'm the same gender as those guys.

    "Now, he never explicitly says they loved killing her because she was female. But the title of the interview (“PLAYING A FEMALE CHARACTER”) and the fact he brings it up despite a long history of playing other games in the third person sure makes it sound like that’s what he’s getting at."

    Erm.... if Toby never explicitly says people were killing Lara because Lara was female, how can we be sure that it WASN'T the website "Critical Path" taking Toby out of context? The website may not have ran the title past Toby... this happens a lot in journalism, with subheaders written by the editors rather than by the writers.

    Sure, there's sadism towards Lara. There's also plenty of casual comedic sadism towards male characters in video games. The "Creatures" in Black & White, which were all referred to with male pronouns, were easily abused by the player. We laugh at the death animations in RTS games when (male) soldiers get electrocuted. We love seeing the deaths of the (mostly male, but often female) protagonists in Survival Horror games.

    From my experience, I have never seen any disproportionate sadism towards Lara on account of her gender. Indeed, the commonality of "Lara Croft Dies" videos could just as easily stem from the fact that Lara was far more famous as a protagonist than the majority of Third Person Action Adventure game heroes and heroines. Ergo more people know about and play Tomb Raider therefore more people make and view "Lara's Funny Deaths" videos.

    But no, it is FAR more fun and easy and flame-bait to argue this proves all men who play Tomb Raider are EVIL HORRID MISOGYNISTS. It also gets more hits. And generates more mudslinging and thus publicity.

    It also fuels the self-regard of those that like to look down upon the 'gaming community' and talk about how much more progressive and enlightened they are than those racist-sexist-homophobic-transphobic-white-males (and as I have stated before, if anyone REALLY thinks that sexism in video games is a problem, they should realize this kind of smug condescending and/or open hostility towards people-one-wishes-to-convince is HIGHLY counterproductive).

    This article trivializes actual misogyny, rape and violence. Not only that, but this article implies the idea that "violence against women in video games will result in more violence against women in reality" which is PRECISELY the same logic that advocates of video game censorship have used to legally control what things can be depicted in a video game. This article also implicitly accuses male fans of Tomb Raider of being sadistic bigots that use the game to kill off strong and capable women as some sort of Stay In The Kitchen And Make Me A Sammich revenge fantasy.

      Then if it's such a stupid trivial article why dignify it with such a long-ass response?
      There are forever alone asshole gamer dudes who like doing this shit to women but nowhere did it say that ALL male Tomb Raider players were like that, so no need for the defensive response - get the twist out of your knickers, love.

        Yikes! Reading my reply it came off as really harsh - I'm sorry for sounding so, but seriously dude, no need to get upset over something that wasn't really even saying what you think it was saying.

        Sorry, I'm a lady, I like to be polite, unlike 99.99999% of people online. :)

          Thanks for your replies. I appreciate your commitment to civility.

          You are right that SOME asshole gamer dudes like doing this shit to women. And to be fair I am sure there are some female gamers with a big misandrist streak tht like to do this to men.

          What I am protesting is not so much this article by itself, but rather the article's position as the latest entry in a long line of gender politics/feminist-type artices seen on Kotaku. Many of these discuss, broadly, "nerd culture" and "gaming culture" etc. and how this culture is (allegedly) plagued with rampant systemic sexism.

          In the context of all these previous articles, I viewed the article on this page as, basically, a continuation of Kotaku's criticism of "nerd culture" or "gaming culture" as a whole.

          What my reply was doing was saying that the "Lara Croft Dies" videos are not necessarily evidence of this kind of systemic misogyny.

          Also, I will be quite honest... whilst I am often sympathetic to some feminist criticisms, I find a certain amount of these criticisms can descend into an attempt to inflict collective guilt upon all men. At the very least, the rhetoric used by some feminists is reasonably construed as offensive and shaming.

          Take, for example, "male privilege." I KNOW the technical definition of the concept, and I accept that the concept refers to something valid (i.e. in certain situations, men and women are treated differently, and sometimes this unequal treatment benefits males). The problem is that the TERM "male privilege" is clearly an attempt to inflict guilt upon all individual men (the word "privilege" has heaps of nasty connotations). After all, feminists often point out how words can cause offense due to subjective connotations attached to the term (i.e. "whore" means "prostitute" but is also considered an insulting term). "Privilege" as a term has plenty of negative connotations in our social context.

          Basically, in the context of the previous articles on Kotaku that dealt with similar themes, this article seems to me like "yes, gaming culture is full of misogyny, here's the proof." I do not regard the phenomenon of Lara Dies Videos as even remotely convincing evidence of the kind of rampant, systemic misogyny that previous articles have alleged.

          And yes, I know that "gaming culture is full of misogyny" isn't intended to be an accusation against all gamers PERSONALLY. However, the rhetoric often sounds like this is precisely what is being argued; if you wonder why many male gamers "get defensive" when the topic is brought up, perhaps the reason why this occurs is not "their privilege talking" (which is itself offensive rhetoric), but rather that the rhetoric is quite easy to construe as offensive.

            Can you really have privilege if that same privilege is constantly used against you to take away your right to a civil, even-handed discourse?

            I would argue, on the internet, in these sorts of forums (largely mature, sympathetic individuals, the opposite of IGN and Youtube), and in these sorts of discussions, the white, heterosexual male is rarely the one who needs to "check their privilege".


              I'm actually not making arguments which contradict you.

              I agree with you that often, the rhetoric of "privilege" IS used to demonize, shame, attack, and simply dismiss arguments on the basis of the person making them. This is the point I was making in the post you replied to.

              That said, I DO think that the following things are true:
              1) There are social situations where men and women are treated differently (i.e. "unequally," unequal meaning "different")
              2) Sometimes, this unequal treatment results in certain advantages for males (in general, on average) relative to females (in general, on average).

              This is the TECHNICAL meaning of "male privilege." I should hasten to add that I ALSO believe the following to be true:
              3) Sometimes, this unequal treatment results in certain advantages for females (in general, on average) relative to males (in general, on average).

              Basically, the unequal treatment that the sexes receive provides some advantages for men in certain respects, and some advantages for women in other respects.

              But the point I was making wasn't about the technical meaning of the concept. I was talking about the rhetorical use. And I agree with you that often, the term is employed unfairly, to attack and demonize and denigrate all males. Not only that, but I also agree that men are not unjustified in finding this rhetoric hostile and offensive.

              So I think ultimately we aren't disagreeing.

                Oh sorry, I should clear up I'm simply adding to your point.

      Yes!!!!! Times a Plunkett. Nb. A Plunkett is approximately the same as a Google.

    It was never so much about killing Lara Croft as people enjoy games with a myriad way of dying. Take a look at all the videos for the deaths in Another World and in Sierra adventure games. Many people have put up compilations for those games of all the different ways you can die.

    The fact that its a woman is totally irrelevant, it was a landmark step in 3rd person 3D - it could have been any character and I would have been equally fascinated by trying out different ways of dying in the game. Its easy to forget just how new and amazing some things were then.

    On a tangent, if I may:

    How freaking awesome was Tomb Raider 1?

    I remember playing the demo on my PS demo disc for hours - just that first level, with the swimming, a few wolves, climbing, etc. Far and away a defining moment of gaming for me.

    When I eventually rented the full version from Blockbuster, I spent hours and hours on it in the space of a few days (playing while pretending to be asleep at night, although my parents knew for sure) because it was so captivating. Midas and the Greek letter puzzle was awesome.

    Tomb Raider will always be an awesome game, and I'll always have time for it.

      absolutely, there was a magic to that game I'm not sure I've ever recaptured. The lack of in game help or tutorials or exposition, it had confidence that the player would try things, discover things, persevere. The feeling of isolation was amazing, it really felt like it was just you alone going ever deeper into those places and they really felt like no-one had touched them for millennia. Amazing! Now days it'd be some wise cracking guy on lara's ear piece every 2 seconds and the shareholders would be terrified about making a game where anyone on the focus group got stuck for longer than 2 seconds

    "Gamers “Really Loved Killing” Lara Croft, Because She Was A “Strong” Character "

    Uhh.... lulwhut? Why would I want to drown someone? Or care that it's a she? You come up with some insane ideas.

      Because it was a fascinating era where we suddenly had full 3D games games where you could actually see dynamic behaviour like 'what if I jumped off this?' rather than type 'jump off ledge' and get a text box saying 'lara died' :D

    I remember dying in Half-Life just for the chance to see my gibs bouncing off the environment through the red-filtered-death-cam. That half-skull gib was just too nuts.

    Yeah, I have to say people killed Lara because it was possible, not to victimise her as a strong female character. It's no different than the many ways you can kill Roger Wilco in Space Quest, or weird stunts that go awry in a sandbox style game.

    Now the nude patches where you could back Lara into the corner and make the camera focus on the two flesh-coloured cones that passed for breasts in 90s videogames, that was because she was female. But again, not to try and detract from her strength. Maybe one guy said "heh, let's strip this bitch naked for my amusement". The other 99.999% of people who used the nude mod were probably just teenage boys who wanted so see an approximation of boobs before unsupervised access to household internet was a common thing - I know that's why all my friends did it, anyway. I've personally never played a Tomb Raider game.

    I think his comments speak more for his personal sexist attitudes than those of gamers. Sure I loved killing Lara as much as the next person but it was to watch the animation and nothing to do with "asserting my power over the defenseless woman".

    I remember killing her a few times for the fun of it when I first started playing. I think it was the second game and I'd get her to do a swan dive off the training level diving board onto cement.

    I don't think it had anything to do with playing a female character though as the "most intentional self deaths" for me go to resident evil 5 with one male character killing another male with what I dubbed "the inverted flying spidermonkey neck snap."

    I must just appreciate the brutality in a broken neck I guess.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now