E3’s ‘Tomb Raider’ & ‘The Last of Us’ look more than promising

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I’ve never been a fan of the Tomb Raider series, and the film iteration back in 2001 was more of the same; the character has always been little more than a distaff counterpart to Indiana Jones; female in name only, filling a typically male role in entertainment without changing it because of her sex.

The new Tomb Raider fixes that; a villain gets the idea to have his way with her part-way through, and she takes advantage of the situation to get free. That could never happen to the old Lara, because her breasts were purely decorative. She feels like a well-rounded character now, and letting her be badass while also exposed to situations that feel like real danger has had a profound impact on both her character, and our perception of her.

The trailer looks amazing, but I’m still wary. I’m a little frumpy that she gets impaled and then steps into a bear trap, but then keeps walking around and being Action Girl. Those are significant injuries, though video game characters tend to shrug those off. Regardless, I love Action Girl as a trope, and making Lara Croft a survivalist with bad-ass in her bloodlines makes her a character that I genuinely  want to explore.

I’m a bit worried that the video above won’t be reflective of the gameplay. As the disatrophe of Diablo III proved, pretty cut scenes do not make a good game by themselves. If the game has me moving wide-eyed through a hostile world where I need to avoid traps and dodge falling boulders, and where I am in control of scenes like the ones above, I’m all in. That’ll be a fantastic game. But if those are all cutscenes, and everything else about them is stock Tomb Raider run-n-gun, then I’m not sure I can get very excited. It’s got all the polish and beauty of a Hollywood movie, and that’s wonderful, but the point of video game is the second person voice in such a setting–video games’ unique power as a story-telling medium is the players’ involvement.

That’s exactly where The Last of Us comes in.

That’s all the player, including the cinegraphic camera manipulation. I’m very excited about this one, and I’m ecstatic that E3 has so many powerful female characters. The little girl following the player–aside from the awesome way she interacts with fights–is important to the gaming industry. There are two characters at E3 who’re female for a reason other than the heavy-handed sexualization that the industry gets accused of so often. I grew up with video games, and it’s awesome watching them slowly evolve into something with its own literary tier of work; that is, games are finally starting to develop that are important for more than the profit they’ll make.

I’ll admit, chuckled a little at the dialogue when the player character took a bullet. I like how the designers dealt with the absurd toughness of video game heroes. Still…

I highly doubt that Tomb Raider will be a lasting, culturally important story (Though it was nice to see a lack of Tyrannosaurs…) , but the new Lara is a firm step in the industry’s path to this point. And the child sidekick, too, though it’ll take more than removing The Smurfette Principle from games to bring them to the point where novels and films are. It’ll certainly help the industry start passing the Bechdel test more often, though.

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