Please enter your email address below and instructions will be sent to you on how to reset your password:
Please enter the user name you would like to use for The Game Effect:
The Game Effect XP
Earn XP
By doing almost anything on the site
Earn badges +XP by completing challenges
The Game Effect Shop
Buy items with GEP that you've earned
Connect with Facebook
Connect with
Tomb Raider
More Info...
List image for related game.
All-time GEQ: 12506
List image for related game.
All-time GEQ: 8504
List image for related game.
All-time GEQ: 4910
List image for related game.
All-time GEQ: 4263
List image for related game.
All-time GEQ: 3036
The Game Effect Editorial

The Game Industry Still Doesn't Understand Female Characters

and Why We Should Care

By Whitney on 2/27/2013
Lara Croft has been a staple in the video game world since the first Tomb Raider game debuted on the Sega Saturn, Playstaion, and PC in 1996. The beginning of the Tomb Raider franchise is arguably what made the Playstation such a successful console. Lara Croft even holds the award for "Most Successful Video Game Heroine" from the Guinness Book of World Records. The Tomb Raider franchise has sold an estimated 30 million units, which will surely increase after the release of the upcoming Tomb Raider game on March 5th. So why is it that a character with so many accolades to her name is still subjected to blatant sexism and objectification?

Embedded Image

Buzzfeed recently wrote an article compiling almost two decades worth of Tomb Raider comments and reviews that center around the sexualization and objectification of Lara Croft. For example, the original review of the 1996 Tomb Raider by IGN includes this gem of a comment: "Tomb is bound to stir up lots of trouble with the feminists. Lara Croft's unrealistic proportions can only lead to further gender stereotyping and objectification of women. OK, I'll give you that, but don't forget that's a woman doing what most men couldn't. If that's not a strong woman, I don't know what is." Yes, because displaying Lara as a dolled up sex toy is completely okay since she has guns and shoots people.

"But wait Whitney! That review is almost two decades old! Surely things have changed since then!" Oh how wrong you are. Penny Arcade's Ben Kuchera wrote an article about the violence Lara faces in the upcoming Tomb Raider prequel. Lara is beaten, tortured, and nearly raped in the beginning scenes of the game, which somehow turns into a good thing because these events are what create her hardened persona. Why is it that she must face the threat of brutality and rape in order to become a strong, female protagonist? Why is this display of near torture-porn a valuable asset to her life experiences? Nathan Drake isn't threatened with rape at the beginning of Uncharted 3. He's shot and left to die in a ditch. It's a perfectly normal, non-sexual ploy to get gamers invested. He's a male character, so because of our preconceived bias, having him threatened with rape would be inappropriate. The only time he is sexualized is when female characters vie for his affection. Because, what else would they be good for?

Embedded Image

While the ridiculous proportions are gone, the long-thought ideas about Lara's real purpose in the video game world are still front and center. Creating a so-called strong female protagonist isn't an excuse to give her obscenely large cone-breasts or allow her to be brutally raped at age 19. It isn't okay for Conan O'Brien to display his "Clueless Gamer" videos with the opening comments being centered around how attractive she is. Even the most recent review from IGN on the upcoming Tomb Raider couldn't help but comment on her bust size... in the first sentence. While the review praises Lara for being resourceful and intelligent, it is unnecessary to include comments on her physique. Imagine a world filled with video games reviews about the male physique, since males dominate the market. I bet a lot of male readers and players would feel as uncomfortable as us women do when we read about the "realism of juggling breasts" and the physical desires men have for their female characters.

This article isn't about calling out writers or developers as sexist. This article is about bringing awareness to the problem of sexism and objectification of women in the video game industry so that people -- aware or unaware -- stop doing it. Reviewers don't need to comment on a character's breast size or proportions in order to explain the character's personality. Developers don't need to use violence or brutality to create a strong, intelligent female protagonist. Women in video games can just be women, and they don't need a Tank-Girl cone chest or the threat of rape to make them interesting and compelling lead characters in a video game.
Have something to say about this article? Let us know about it!
Other news from around the web
(Part of the ZergNet hub)
You must be logged in to vote. You must be logged in to vote. 0
GhostBabel on May 01, 2013
Hi Whitney!

I just wanted to let you know that I posted a response to this article here, and would be interested to know your impressions:

Reply Icon Reply
You must be logged in to vote. You must be logged in to vote. 0
AboutLastNight5 on May 01, 2013
Hey GhostBabel! I just finished writing a response to the article, which was great by the way. Thanks for taking the time to write that, I love when readers respond to our articles. 
Reply Icon Reply
You must be logged in to vote. You must be logged in to vote. 1
Spiker on March 15, 2013
I completely agree with your points here, action needs to be taken. Well done.
Reply Icon Reply
You must be logged in to vote. You must be logged in to vote. 1
BigBearDKbh on February 28, 2013
But it sure helps selling games ;) it was also nice to watch the Tomb Raider movies as the lead actress looked very much like Lara Croft from the game series.

Ofcause it does not help insecure teenage girls that all so called role models are hot to the majority of grown up men.
Reply Icon Reply
You must be logged in to vote. You must be logged in to vote. 1
nickrmorin on February 27, 2013
I agree but since the market is dominated by men I doubt there will be any changes in the way women are perceived in the near future unfortunately.
Reply Icon Reply
You must be logged in to vote. You must be logged in to vote. 1
AboutLastNight5 on February 27, 2013
I think it's really unfortunate that female characters need to experience things like torture and rape in order to "prove" their place in a video game. Many games just assume the male lead is strong, simply because he is a man, and is therefore qualified for his position as the main protagonist. All I would really like to see is an equal playing field where we don't have to deal with comments like "Stick a beautiful 21 year old women on an island with crazy psychopaths and the things that happen to her make perfect sense." *facepalm* That doesn't make it okay.
Reply Icon Reply