‘Tomb Raider’ Execs Want You to Know You’re Reacting to News About the Game Wrong

Well, this strikes me as sadly typical:

[Eidos life president Ian]Livingstone said that the recent controversy about Tomb Raider’s E3 trailer was “quite extreme” and “blown out of proportion.” He went on to say that Rosenberg’s comments were the result of a “live interview that went slightly wrong. Quotes were misinterpreted and blown out of proportion,” Livingstone made the comments during an appearance at the Game Horizon conference in Newcastle, England.

He also said that, while rape may be a topic that can be covered in other mediums, it is a different beast in video games. “I think about my responsibility as a developer — films can deal with these themes, but it’s different in games when the user controls the action,” he said. “We should be celebrating what’s great about the game. I guarantee fans will be delighted with the new Tomb Raider.”

Now, clearly there’s an extent to which Tomb Raider’s president Ron Rosenberg mischaracterized his own game by saying that assailants would try to rape Lara Croft. What Lara Croft faces is not a penetrative rape, but, from what I understand from people who have seen the walkthrough, a sexualized assault that, if the player lets the scenario play through without acting, results in the character’s brutal murder. But people were reacting to the information that had been given to them. And give what they had been told was going to happen was a cliche and often ugly way of giving a female character a “dark” backstory or something to “overcome”, and given that Rosenberg suggested that players would be excited to rescue Lara rather than to embody here, a negative fan reaction seems reasonable. In this, as in so many other cases, telling people that they’re blowing something out of proportion or that their reaction is “extreme” is often just code for complaining that they reacted in a way someone hadn’t be prepared for or that discomfited them. It shouldn’t be that hard to admit you had a communications failure, say that you respect the concerns and feelings of people who found the news upsetting, and that you hope and expect fans will be excited by what they see, and to do all of that without blaming anyone for their reactions. But time and time again, that seems to be a real challenge. Maybe we need walkthrough videos that explain how to level up with an appropriate clarification or apology.