Tomb Raider Creators Say 'Rape' Is Not A Word In Their Vocabulary

The people behind the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot say they misspoke while using the word "rape" to refer to a scene in the game during an interview with Kotaku three weeks ago.

According to Crystal Dynamics global brand director Karl Stewart, there is no sexual assault or rape in the upcoming video game, despite Executive Producer Ron Rosenberg's statements to this website in Los Angeles earlier this month. Rosenberg had said that island scavengers will imprison and attempt to rape protagonist Lara Croft. But Stewart says that's not true.

"He said something which is certainly a word that is not in our vocabulary and not in our communication," Stewart told me on the phone yesterday. "He did say it... It's his personal opinion and certainly... like I said, it's not something that we communicate."

Stewart says he doesn't know why Rosenberg used the word "rape". He continues to emphasise that the scene, which you can watch below, does not represent any sort of sexual assault. He calls it a "pathological situation". He says it was meant to evoke fear and intimidation.

In the scene, an island scavenger creeps up behind Lara and rubs a hand against her thigh. There are undeniable sexual connotations, and Stewart even admits that if a male hero like Nathan Drake had been placed in the same situation, the thigh-rubbing wouldn't happen. But he says it's not sexual assault: it's "close physical intimidation".

Here's a partial transcript from our interview:

Kotaku: Karl, do you think that a male protagonist in that same situation would have- do you think the scavenger would do the same thing, rubbing his hand against his thigh?

Stewart: No, of course not.

Kotaku: How is that not sexual-

Stewart: We have a female character that we're very proud and very honoured to be able to have in our game and build a story around. And by giving her motivation to become the stronger action-adventure hero and the girl that's willing to fight to stay alive and move forward throughout the game, we use that device and that intimidation to make her stronger. To make her feel empowered and to take her beyond that breaking point where she realises the severity of the situation and she's willing to fight to stay alive.

Kotaku: Sure, but if you're admitting that this wouldn't happen in the case of a male-on-male crime, violence, then isn't that by definition sexual assault, sexual violence?

At this point, the PR representative on the call interrupted to shut down this line of questioning: "I'm pretty sure Karl answered as well as he can the question — I understand where you're going with this, I think it's like, you can see the outcome if this continues and you actually — nothing sexual occurred. Violence occurred as a result of that. I just don't think you're going to get any further than what you're getting out of Karl."

It's understandable that Crystal Dynamics now wants to avoid using terms like "rape" and "sexual assault". There was severe backlash to Rosenberg's comments after the publication of my initial article, for a number of reasons, but some websites and publications completely skewed what he actually said. One website, for example, ran an article titled: "Does Crystal want you to rape Lara Croft?"

But sexual assault is a subject that other entertainment mediums have been able to tackle without the kind of backlash that this conversation has received. So I asked Stewart: is rape a subject that just shouldn't be covered in video games?

Here's that chunk of the conversation:

Kotaku: So do you and the team — do you feel like sexual assault and rape is too taboo a subject to cover in a video game?

Stewart: That is a hard subject because I believe and the studio believes that it is a subject that we see played out in many ways through movies and TV shows and I think in our medium we are trying to bring an immersive narrative to which- in all the research and all the work that we do in building the story and building this game, we take it to many different places. And this isn't something that's uncommon in story narrative.

And what we're trying to do is in a way, as you know, raise the bar of story-telling — how Lara Croft how that plays out how you interpret it... as you play the game out for yourself, as you review the game and try to answer how you felt from that input, we're trying to raise the bar in immersive storytelling through the video game. So I'm being careful in that we're not choosing to say "this is a word we want to be associated with that," that is not the case.

Stewart also clarified that when Rosenberg said people want to "protect" Lara, he was referring to the focus group testing the team has done. They don't want to tell you how to feel about your avatar, he said.

"We are not building a game where we're basically saying 'Hey... our goal is to have the player protect Lara.' That's your choice in playing the game. How you interpret it is your choice. What Ron is saying... that's the results from fairly significant amounts of play-testers."

It's clear that Crystal Dynamics wants to dissociate from the idea that there's sexual assault in their game — Stewart completely avoided saying the word "rape" during our conversation yesterday. You can watch the scene for yourself right here.


    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

      This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

        I'd just like to point out that I didn't use any bad language, just agreed with js's accurate assessment of this thread of 'journalism'.

      Inappropriate because I labeled this particular story and the half-dozen others like it on this site daily with a derogatory term?

      Avert your eyes...

    First time I've watched the trailer, 100th time I've read about this rape issue in the game. All I can say is, WTF? The guy barely touches her and she fights back and kills him. This trailer looks awesome! When did video gamers become so politically correct? I've seen movies with actual rape scenes etc that are PG - M... So not sure why this trailer has caused Such an uproar

      Probably just because they said you had to stop her from being raped, then been saying "Oh no, we didn't say that! We'd never do that!"

      If they had just said "Yeah, there was a lot of negative reaction, so we removed it" it probably wouldn't be having so much news about their repeated, and bad, attempts to pretend it never happened.

      Reminds me of when Iwatta slipped up mentioning the 3D of the unannounced 3DS in an interview with a Japanese newspaper, then kept denying that they ever said it, then that they misunderstood what they said, and so on.

        I think it doesn't help when kotaku starts asking loaded questions like these. Kotaku please just let it die already

      The rape scene will be included as day 1 DLC

    Agree with all of the above. Garbage journalism.

    I might be missing the point, but I really don't see the issue here? Even if it was intended as sexual assault and Lara had to defend herself from being raped, why is that a bad thing? In real life, if a young, attractive woman is being hunted by male goons, rape would be a very real possibility. Why is it such a bad thing for a game to deal with mature topics?
    Literally facepalming at Kotaku. They've made an uproar out of literally nothing.

      Are you kidding me? Murdering bandits living on an island with no law or government and no women are far more likely to host tea parties for female captives than even think about sexual assault!

      Exactly. They bring up the point of a male protagonist in the same situation and if it was a male he would likely get shot, beat up or something that would wound him more. The goons would treat a male and female differently when trying to harm or frighten them.

    i don't understand why there couldnt be a "rape" scene in the game. We are constantly talking about how video games are a mature subject matter and that they aren't just for kids. However when a mature topic is or is suggested it is in a video game everyone jumps up and down as if its the end of the world. If we want to ever have the industry taken seriously like film and print we have to allow it to explore all subject matters. If you don't there is no point having an R18+ classification and we might as well all go back to 2D platformers.

      Agreed Link. Although I would love to go back to 2D platformers.

      You can't logically argue that games should be treated on the same level as other media like film when it comes to R18 and equivalent classifications and at the same time argue that a mature topic like sexual assault shouldn't be touched on in a game especially when serious violences are are already blunted and thrown at us in every video game.

        who wouldn't love more 2D platformers but more referring to there usually less than detailed plots/stories.

      So true. I however would hate to see a rape scene in a game. I hate them in TV and movies. It is something that should not be graphicaly depicted like it is in the Law & Order shows. Man they make that stuff look and sound too convincing for my taste. Regarding Tomb that scene is attempted and she kicks his ass for trying.

      Yes, mature content should be put in games that are geared for adults, but this is one aspect I would hate to see depicted in detail.

      If they put it in games then I hope you can skip it because I for one do not want to watch it.

        I wouldnt want to play a game either with rape in it just like I don't watch movies etc that are about it. However I do understand that it is my choice. As i stated I feel video games will never be scene as a mature past time unless games take on these mature/full on/intense topics. I feel that the industry suffers as a result of do gooders who go on about how rape is a terrible thing and that victims shouldnt have to go through this and the developers should be ashamed etc. I feel that detracts from the fact that YES rape is a terrible thing and the victims should get all the help they need but that shouldnt stop a narrative from being told even if one of the characters in the narrative suffers the same terrible fate they suffered. It sort of bugs me when they bring real life victims into these debates as a means to say "well if you are for this story element then you are for rape"

    The Witcher 1 and 2 are far worse in regards to containing rape and sexual violence themes.

    Ok, I normally stick up for this site a bit. The Plunket and Bashcraft stuff, well you can click the news button on the top of the page to avoid any of that stuff, but regarding this........

    Kotaku, you are really starting to come across like Fox News and the Mass Effect sex scene "scandal". Remember that? Remember how you could control the actions of your character and have sex with an alien? Remember how you had direct control over your character.....? Well Kotaku, you are sounding like that. A heck of a lot like that.

    I think you guys need to settle down a little bit and get back to reporting the news and stop trying to "make" news.

    I still like your site, but you really need to take a look at your selves.

    This site which used to be what I considered the final bastion for common sense in the videogame world is becoming ign-2.5

    If a man brushing up against a a woman's leg is "offensive", then what about the continuous posting of soft porn toy hentai

    If a man brushing up against a a woman's leg is "offensive", then what about the continuous posting of soft porn toy hentai that ashcraft loves?

    Why is this even an issue. HBO is rape-tastic. It's unpleasant and disgusting, but burying your head in the sand doesn't change a thing. The only thing less mature than mocking it is the game industry's hand-wringing over it. No-one gives a shit anymore, so Kotaku, stop making mountains out of a make-believe molehill.

    Politically correct word games. If its part of the story, whats wrong? Lots of movies have confronting themes. As long as it's not glorifying it, or done in a serious graphic way that is supposed to 'excite' the viewer, whats the problem? Why can't writers create confronting situations? In Dirty Harry, Scorpio (just like the Zodiac) targets blacks and gay men. Did people cry out saying its racist and homophobic? No.
    Typical f**king do-gooders wanting to take the supposed high moral position.

      Probably because PC wasn't invented yet...

      Ah them where the good olde days!

    Wow she's useless. She doesn't seem like a protagonist at all? She's just falling down or screaming the whole time, wow.

      Not everyone is made of the same cloth.

    I can't help feeling that the whole controversy over this is because the developer immediately back-pedalled over the issue when it as raised. If they had just owned up to it and been honest in the first place I doubt the shitstorm would have formed. Now I'm worried they'll basically sterilize the game in a knee-jerk attempt to avoid controversy.

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