Discussions, Games

Rise of the Tomb Raider: Equality In The Writing

Rise of the Tomb Raider is an Action-Adventure game developed by Crystal Dynamics, published by Square Enix and Microsoft Studios, and written by Rhianna Pratchett. It was released in November 2015 for the Xbox One, January 2016 for PC, and October 2016 for Playstation 4. As a sequel to to the 2013 game entitled Tomb Raider it follows the story of Lara Croft venturing into Siberia in search of the Lost City of Kietzh. I finished the main story and the Baba Yaga DLC in January 2017 but this article is written primarily from memory with internet searches to help fine tune the details of the events.

This is the third and final posts and focuses on how the writing treated both male and female characters. If you haven’t read the research post in this series you might want to start there. You can also catch up with the analysis of the characters and see how the game fared when faced with feminism tests.

Equality In The Writing

Who is the protagonist and what is their motive?
The protagonist of this game is Lara Croft. She’s hunting for the city of Kitezh and the Divine Source to prove that her father wasn’t crazy and the Divine Source exists.

Who is the antagonist and what is their motive?
There are two antagonist’s for this game. The first, obvious, one is Konstantin who has been told by Trinity to hunt down the Divine Source and also wants it to heal his sister, Ana.

Ana is the other antagonist. She is introduced as a mother-figure to Lara, until it’s revealed that she is just using Lara to find the Divine Source. She’s manipulated her brother, wants the Divine Source to heal herself, and also is working for Trinity who placed her in the Croft family in the first place.

Would the story change if protagonist or antagonist had their gender switched?
The story wouldn’t have to change if the gender’s of these character’s were switched. Lara could easily be Richard’s son doing the exact same thing and whereas Ana was a mother-figure there could have easily been a father-figure. Konstantin could’ve easily been a female figure too, though it would make you wonder if the same feats of strength that he displayed would be shown in the same light.

Do women and men have the same level of backstory?
I’ve covered a lot of the character’s backstories already over the course of the last two posts and I do believe that both women and men had the same level of backstory. The ones that were lacking the most were Elias and Nadia while the ones that had the most were Lara and Joseph. Ana and Konstanin had comparable amounts of backstory as did Sofia and Jonah. Both Richard and Amelia had an element of backstory, with Richard getting slightly more in the main game.

Through the use of journal entries and artefacts there’s quite a lot of backstory, even on non-named characters.

If a character dies, or is injured, what was the reasoning?
There were four named character deaths throughout the course of this game and countless unnamed characters died. Two extra named characters were injured as well as a fair few unnamed characters. We’ll look at them in detail one by one.

Lara – Injury
She’s injured numerous times over the course of the game. Sometime’s its from acts of nature like an avalanche, other times it’s a bad fall, and on the odd occasion it’s at the hands of someone else. When it comes to other characters injuring Lara, aside from player mistakes causing her injury, she has scripted injuries from Konstantin and Ana capturing her and when trying to escape from places. None of them really feel like they’re thrown in for the sake of injuring Lara as either people are actually trying to kill her or they’re accidents to force the player into a moment of weakness. Nothing is permanent and even falls that should have broken a leg or ribs just provide her with five minutes of limping before it’s all back to normal again. As it’s an action game this type of injury is expected on a protagonist regardless of their gender.

Jonah – Injury
Despite being present at the start of the game, Jonah disappears for most of it. When he returns, he returns in order to be kidnapped and provide Lara with a reason to go rescue him. While captured he is tortured and, just after Lara arrives, Konstantin stabs him fatally. I firmly believe the only reason Jonah was injured so fatally was to prompt the “reveal” that Joseph was the prophet. Something that was increasingly apparently anyway by this point.

Elias – Death
There’s nothing much to be said about Elias’s death. He’s mentioned once since and serves as part of the introduction to Sofia and the fact that there are other people in the valley that the Trinity soldiers are killing.

Konstantin – Death
This death was rather odd. It was presented as a player “choice” but there wasn’t much choice in it. After a rather irritating boss battle where Konstantin is trying to kill Lara from a helicopter, he crashes and the player is given the choice to kill Konstantin or walk away. If you kill him, as I did on my playthrough, then his death is an act of Lara’s anger at hearing about her own father’s death. If you choose to walk away, the floor beneath him collapses and he burns in the fire below. When you’re presented a choice in a game like this, it come across rather odd. You get to enhance Lara’s story but at the same time there’s no real meaning to it. Regardless of what you, as the player, picks the story is predetermined and Lara doesn’t ever reflect on that choice in the rest of the game.

Joseph – Death
Joseph’s death was linked to the destruction of the Divine Source. There’s not really much to say about his death as his extended life was down to the Divine Source and therefore the destruction of the object would end it. Whether he lived or not was presented as a moral choice for the character of Lara; Joseph lives and Trinity would continually hunt it or Joseph died and the people of the valley would be safe. As it is, Joseph pleads for the destruction of the object.

Ana – Death
There’s no doubt that this death was solely for the purpose of saying a sequel was coming.  It happens in the post-game credits when Ana is explaining to Lara that her father didn’t commit suicide and that he was killed. A sniper takes her out, when another male voice orders him to, before much more can be said. Ana’s death could be viewed as a case of fridging – it happens in front of Lara, to further a plot device. It’s used to show there was a bigger enemy than Ana and will, presumably, be prompting Lara’s next adventure.

Does the camera follow ‘male gaze’ angles?
The camera follows Lara primarily as she’s the main character and, with cutscene exceptions, never focuses on anyone else. Thorough out all the gameplay and cutscenes there wasn’t a single moment that caused the thought “this is an unnecessary view” to come to mind save for odd moments when climbing up a ladder. Those latter moments were very few and far between and seemed to be caused from the environment pushing the camera closer rather than any specific intention by the game developers.

Conclusion

This game analysis primarily focused on the main story of the Rise of the Tomb Raider and took the Baba Yaga DLC into consideration as that is encountered during the main story. Over the course of the three posts we have discovered the following:

  • There were 6 named male characters
    • 4 had aggressive portrayal
    • 0 were sexually dressed
    • 1 conformed to Dill & Thill’s sexualised ideal body type.
  • There were 6 named female characters
    • 4 had aggressive portrayal
    • 1 was sexually dressed
    • 0 conformed to Dill & Thill’s sexualised ideal body type.
  • This game passed the Bechdel-Wallace Test.
  • This game passed the Mako Mori Test.
  • This game failed the Sexy Lamp Test.
  • The protagonist & antagonist’s motives were clearly defined and made sense in the context of the story.
  • Both gender’s named characters were provided an equal amount of backstory.
  • All character’s were killed or injured for plot points. One was character building for the protagonist but story-driven, most were just to prove how bad Trinity was. One could be interpreted as fridging.
  • There was no male-gaze camera angles in this game.

There was a lot that this game did well like a very strong relatable female protagonist; but also so much was lacking when you looked at it deeper like Ana’s death and the relationship Ana and Lara had over the course of the game. It’ll be interesting to see how this game compares to others in its genre as well as across genres.

Terminology
‘Sexually dressed’ is counting low cut tops that show cleavage or chest muscles, no tops, short skirts, short shorts etc.
‘Aggressive portrayal’ is meaning a situation in which a character performs violent actions.
Dill & Thill’s sexualised ideal body type for women means having the idealised body image; large breasts, thin waist, and wearing provocative dress or poses.
Dill & Thill’s sexualised ideal body type for men means having hypermasculine features; large muscles, chiselled jaw and other masculine facial features, and displaying power and dominance.

Your Thoughts