Writing about the opposite sex in video games; a Nathan Drake and Lara Croft comparison

Video games have changed, dramatically and at a very fast pace. Only a few years ago were we playing a pixelated character you didn’t really care about but now we have well developed characters with incredible stories. Unfortunately, this creates a few problems too. The industry has huge pressure on them to do something new, realistic and fan pleasing. Standards have gone up tenfold which means the players aren’t always happy.

The latest uproar comes from the Tumblr community. It’s about how Tomb Raider apparently promotes “rape culture”, you can see the post (and my rant at the end: here). They largely argue that male developers should not write a female character, ever. A statement which I find hugely offensive. It says that men don’t know women at all. A fair statement but what women knows what all women are like? She only knows her own personality inside-out but she couldn’t understand her polar opposite point of view. Every human being, whether the opposite sex or not, is complicated. Hell I think most people don’t even know themselves very well. My point is that if you say men can never write a female character, you’re also saying a woman can never write a male character.

So in that case, what about Amy Hennig? She is one of the most influential women in the gaming industry and is known for her writing of the Uncharted series. She created Nathan Drake, one of the most likeable video games characters in the world. So, if men can’t write Lara Croft then who the hell is this woman to write a male character!? Oh no, we’ve all been mistaken she’s done such a poor job because she wrote about the opposite sex. Furthermore, we should also slander all the books that have ever been written by a man about women and vice versa, I mean, they obviously don’t know what they’re talking about right?

I would be down-right offended if I was a male writer/developer and someone told me I couldn’t write about a woman. It’s sexist. End of. Women are not “better writers”, you get bad and good writers of every gender, race and background.

Now the issue of rape in video games. As far as I know, it’s an issue that has never really been tackled and from what I can gauge from the TR trailer, it doesn’t really look like it’s tackled here much either. Although, it’s only a clip, I could be wrong. However, we all know rape is horrible and it can be a very difficult issue to tackle. Many films and TV shows have tried and succeeded at tackling rape, you only need to watch any soap on British TV to see this. Some have failed too, naturally, but if TV shows can tackle such sensitive issues, games should be able to too. We want more adult games because video games are made by adults mostly for adults, we don’t want to be treated like children when it comes to playing a good, in depth story. For me, there’s no reason why rape shouldn’t be addressed as almost every other serious issue has been in games.

Some argue that the “rape” scene in TR is used to strengthen Lara and that in itself is wrong. Again, I don’t expect that particular scene to hold any significance over everything else that happens to Lara. She’s thrown about, captured, tied up, shot at, threatened…a lot of horrid things happen to the poor woman. That’s what makes her stronger. It’s perhaps a bit cliché but how do you make a character go from never firing a gun to becoming a bad ass? It would be unrealistic to say Lara was born a bad ass, this is an origins story after all. Let’s look at Nathan Drake again, the last game only just touches on his past and how he became the man he is today but it’s easy to tell he’s gone through some rough times. He’s very young, he’s by himself and almost gets killed when Sully finds him. He’s gone through trauma, it’s changed him, we’ve seen dark sides of Drake before and they are yet to be explained. Drake goes through shit too, he’s also threatened, thrown around, shot at, drugged, etc. He hasn’t had it easy. Characters need that emotional background to give them depth, we need to know how they got there, how they became the person they are.

Amy Hennig, creator of Uncharted

It’s insulting to say a female character can’t be put through trauma because it’s cruel if you’re then happy to say it’s okay for men to be put through that same trauma. When the Hitman controversy came out, many newspapers picked up on how horrible it was to see women get killed and taken out in such a violent way by Agent 47. That’s sexist because if those nuns were say, monks instead (i.e. male), they wouldn’t have a problem with it. We can’t cotton ball female characters in such a way if we also want them to be treated the same way as the male ones.

Oh and all the complaining about Lara’s “moaning” and heavy breathing? She’s exhausted, she’s hurt, I’m pretty sure I’d make similar noises given the situation, it’s an attempt to make it realistic, not sexualising it. Drake heavily breathes too and talks to himself, it’s not there for women to touch themselves over it.

The TR origin story may not be perfect. I don’t know, it’s not out yet, I’ll have to wait until next year to see. Maybe I will eat my words but for now we need to direct our anger at the real issues in video games, and to stop being so sexist ourselves.

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