On Death and Tomb Raiding

death and tombraider

I recently read this article on Polygon about the violent/gory death scenes in Tomb Raider and how they’re unnecessary. Some comments even tipped into suggesting it’s torture porn and/or uncouth because of Lara’s gender.

First of all, Lara Croft does not need your protection.

I’ve wanted to talk about her death scenes for some time now, because they have been so impactful on my playthrough experience. Truthfully, I had no idea these scenes were so controversial because they’re so meaningful to me.

I think these scenes serve as a grim reminder of Lara’s own mortality. In the vast majority of video games, the death of your character is inconsequential. You just reload and start from the last checkpoint. While that’s also true in Tomb Raider, watching my horrible death FEELS more like a consequence. It matters. And yes, a few seconds later you do restart from the last checkpoint, but those few seconds are a time of mourning and reflection. It’s not just about shock value. It’s a moment to replay what went wrong.

I’d also like to add that in Lara’s character, I am viciously, violently murdering people – from slitting throats underwater to stringing them up in a tree with an arrow. There’s even a scene in a side quest where Lara murders a little girl’s father immediately after telling the girl to run back to her mother. Presumably, the girl is within earshot of her father’s death if not totally able to witness the whole thing.

So why, in this world of gratuitous violence, should Lara be exempt? At the very least, her death scenes seem pretty reasonable to me. And at most, they really enhance my experience by helping me get further into her character, understand the extend of her risks and appreciate the limitations of her athleticism.

How do you feel about graphic character deaths in games?

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