Over the years Lara Croft has become the figurehead for female characters within video games, however is she the ideal symbol for women within games, or is Miss Croft simply a combination of stereotypes surrounding females?
On the one hand Lara is: well educated, athletic and adventurous, all can be considered positive qualities to aspire towards. Her intelligence is heavily relied upon in the gaming series, as it gives context for her being able to solve puzzles that have remained unconquered for thousands of years. Lara’s athleticism gives the player the ability to explore the luscious depths of the games, without being limited by the physical constraints of the character.
However, Lara Croft was portrayed as an incredibly sexual entity and this fact has spear-headed the claims of sexism against the Tomb Raider games. This may be true, in the early games skimpy shorts and a small tube top were focused upon as a major selling point for the game. In the newest release of this series, the shorts have been scrapped in favor of much more practical trousers and shirt combination.
This re-formatting of the classic Lara Croft outfit could connote the gaming industry maturing, as now the plot and character depth, as well as gameplay mechanics are enough to sell games rather than relying on the overactive sex drive of their customers. Therefore we can establish that the modern day Lara Croft is both a mature female character as well as somewhat of a symbol for female power.
Many critics of the series will claim that in the latest installment Lara is shown to be helpless, and that this is a direct attack upon the female gender and past reliance upon males. These critics are raving morons who simply want to bring down the series; the helpless lead is an integral part of character development, most characters start off weak and grow into the super warrior that the game wants you to be. Far Cry 3, Deus Ex Human Revolution, The Elder Scrolls series, the Fallout series, Assassins Creed 2 and 3, the list goes on.
Sexuality as a stereotype is not simply isolated to the Tomb Raider series, many other series that contain female protagonists portray them as being overtly sexual, I’m looking at you Soul Caliber’s Ivy. This could be due to the stereotype of the gamer being a male teenager, the fact is, to this demographic sex sells.
However, writing about the stereotypes towards women in video games I find myself thinking that it’s the same for men, that a double standard has been set, that women should be insulted when female characters are portrayed as the traditional idea of “perfect”, but men are meant to be subjected to it. Is there any male protagonist that isn’t some muscle-bound demi god *cough* Kratos *cough*, or a suave fast talking genius? There are barely any average Joe male characters in games.
In short, though the sexism in Lara Croft has been resolved and the game series promises to enter a new era of mature and superb character development. However, sexism is still alive and kicking in the gaming industry, from unrealistic portrayals of women in Japanese games, towards the males within games reaching heights of physicality that sets ridiculous aspirations for men.