Damsel Causing Distress
I still remember the comment as clear as my feelings for the Star Wars prequels. Those are the kinds of things that stick with you. We were playing Street Fighter II, probably one of the best fighting games of all time.
And what was this? A lady fighter? Oooh, yes please! But then came the comment: “Why do chicks always choose the girls?” Oh, I don’t know, probably the same reason you “dudes” always pick the guys. Don’t be hating on the awesomeness of Chun Li. Just don’t!
This was my first real awareness of the lack of good female characters in gaming. Oh sure, there were plenty of damsels in distress, but not many damsels causing distress. Not like Chun Li.
Then came the woman that changed my whole gaming life. She wasn’t perfect, but she was the protagonist. She traveled the world, she didn’t need a man to save her, she was tough, strong and smart—she was the tomb raiding Lara Croft.
What? You mean a woman can be just like Indiana Jones and travel the world, and all on her own. She was even a brunette, like me. Granted, her one weakness was her unfortunate design to satisfy the male ogglers—er—gamers: big chest and booty shorts.
But I was willing to let it slide because I had a video game heroine to admire. I journeyed with Lara through Greece, Egypt—even the lost city of Atlantis. She had the adventures I often dreamed of and to this day I still intend to visit a lot of the places she visited (at least the real ones). She’s a lot of the reason for my interest in firearms. I still want to work up the skill to fire two pistols like she does. (If anyone wants to buy me a pair of stainless Heckler & Koch USP Match Pistols, please see me immediately after.)
Her design still remained at the back of my mind, always bothering me. With everything Lara went through on every adventure, those booty shorts didn’t make any sense. And I didn’t like that she had to be super sexualized to appeal to typical male gamer.
The quality of Tomb Raider games tapered off in later years (and her design became a lot more sexualized). But then came the light at the end of the tomb-raided tunnel. Tomb Raider was getting a much-needed series reboot. We were going to start with Lara at the beginning and Lara, for the first time in her existence, actually looked like a real person. No more booty shorts and more normal proportions.
And the game itself? Fantastic. Lara is the hero through and through. Although there are other men in the game that could have easily been tagged as the hero instead with their capabilities, the real day-saving is left to Lara. Often alone, she must confront cannibals, crazies, and the big bad villain himself. Lara truly is the damsel causing distress.
Finally, it seems, the video game industry is starting to get that heroines can be just as popular and successful leading their games as men—if not more so. Lara makes me optimistic for the future of gaming. We’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to putting more strong female characters in games (especially ones that aren’t oversexualized) but the new Tomb Raider is a good start. I look forward to the upcoming sequel to this reboot.
And thanks Lara, for existing and being a heroine I could admire. You’ve helped pave the way for better, stronger women for us “chicks” to pick and showed us we can be damsels causing distress.
Jae Dansie is a graphic designer, doodler, and writer. Jae wrote her first novel when she was 14 and has probably written a dozen or so in between which she calls “practice.” She’s in a love/hate relationship with her current novel SHADE but knows it’ll all be worth it in the end. When Jae isn’t doodling (she calls it scribbling) and obsessing over her WIP, she likes to karaoke, travel, and tantalize her tastebuds with tasty new treats. You can find Jae on her blog at Lit and Scribbles, or out patrolling the streets for truth, justice and the American way. Follow her on Twitter @JaeDansie! Jae is responsible for our header image as well as Twitter and Facebook avatars and awesomeness.
Watch the evolution of Lara Croft from 1996-2013!