Tomb Raider media cover polemic in France
News from France
We have a hot debate this week about an article published in one of the most famous videogame magazine: Joystick. In a special issue on Tomb Raider, the journalist is excited by the scene where Lara Croft is “almost raped”.
The polemic is not about the game but the media treatment, with a simple question: is this article a rape apology? And should we tolerate this?
The reasons are multiples: first of all, the article is stupid as it tries seducing a young public with sexual theme by making « cool » jokes about it. It’s the videogame press DNA: making fun. It’s part of a wider ideological frame: the industry is fun (what is a joke)
Secondly, as it is mentioned in a long post by @mar_lard a french feminist gamer, this article is part of a rape culture and ordinary machism. This argument, usually used by anti-videogames people, is nowadays used by grown-up gamers who are fed up with this kind of media treatment.
For me, the main issue is the structure of the videogames industry that gives a preponderant place to the media system. First, as a cultural/creative industry, media are part of the process of production. They are both necessary to producers (as they can make add, or info-add articles) and consumers (as they can learn about the game). Second, as creation became a part of the publishing process (you have to see the budgets allocated to make the game and to promote it to understand how creation is only a little part of the industrial production – or read Aphra Kerr book), marketing decided what have to be created. But, as they were no tools, they produced and then they institutionalized the figure of young male occidental player. This is one of the main explication of the actual industrial crisis.
The specialized print press had an important part in it, as they had stats on their readers. The industry is both framed by the early 80s entertainment system spirit and violence as a commercial resource with Mortal Kombat. It is quite schizophrenic. You can produced violence (under the PEGI / ESRB agreements), but you cannot produce sex since Custer’s Revenge affair and Nintendo policy. But sex sales. Here is the (night) trap.
How do you produce something new, with an iconic character as Lara Croft: do not put more sex, but use sexualized violence. Sexual violence is the legitimization of action, it is a central element of Lara’s biography / psychology. Violence is not the problem, as most of games screenplays are based on personal revenge. But male characters are wild as their spouse/princess/family is captured. But the legitimization of the use of violence could not be the same in an industry blinded focused on male teenager. The sex ingredient is a way to preserve male domination. Even if I am pretty sure it is not in the game according to what I said previously, the sexualized atmosphere or worst, the belief in a sexual atmosphere, is a good way to illustrate the weight of ideological interpretation, or game framing.
This process of desacralization of idols is quite often used in fiction. As I say, that’s not the main problem. The problem is the core public of videogames – the teenager whatever the stats says. This public belongs to both the videogames goods and the press. And when a journalist is excited by this sexual violence, it is a strong message for the player/reader: you’ll find excitement raping Lara Croft, that’s just cool.
We just have to wait a strong association to take care of this subject, and we can be sure to have another public issue as strong as we had in 93. The crisis elements are here, especially the industrial uncertainty due to the evolution of videogames (social, cloud, new platforms, etc.). We are still waiting for Joystick statement. I'll make an update when we'll have it.