Being an Irishman and having just seen my beautiful little island be the first country in the world to make same sex marriage a constitutional right by popular vote, the idea of sexual orientation is something that's been on my mind as of late. The discussion of Lara Croft and her sexual status was something that was conducted a long time ago, but it still feels like a relevant discussion.
Sexual orientation is a really peculiar topic when it comes to video game characters. We often hear of how shockingly sexist the gaming industry can be and its had many controversies in recent months related to that effect. Therefore, it's an interesting observation that when we get a strong female character like Lara Croft in 2013's Tomb Raider, or the soon to be released, Rise of the Tomb Raider, that one of the main topics that springs up about her is who she would choose to be with.
What Would it Mean if Lara Croft Was Gay in Rise of the Tomb Raider?
Strong female characters in this art form are few and far between. However, it's interesting that if we even look at the likes of The Last of Us, which features Ellie as the second lead protagonist of the plot, (spoiler for The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC ahead) we uncover that Ellie is in fact sexually attracted to her friend, Riley. The moment in which they share a passionate kiss has been heralded as a "breakthrough moment" for the video game industry.
But I find it fascinating that the two strongest female characters in recent gaming history have had their sexual orientation brought into question - or rather discussed by the media. I wonder why that is. Would writers feel it to be a disservice to the character if she fell in love with a man? Would this undermine her strength and convictions? I personally don't think so, but it's certainly an interesting phenomenon.
Rhianna Pratchett was the lead writer on 2013's Tomb Raider and she reprised her role for Rise of the Tomb Raider this year. She discussed the notion of Lara Croft's sexuality a little while back and she herself stated that she would have loved to have made Lara Croft a gay character. However, she felt that Crystal Dynamics wouldn't appreciate the idea - why? Would they be worried that a portion of the fan base would be put off? Is it the lingering image of Lara as a sex symbol and sex icon that prevents them from changing things around?
Taking a look at The Last of Us again, Naughty Dog stated that they actually had a homophobic backlash against the kiss scene in the DLC from certain players. Perhaps the discussion of Lara Croft being gay is a form of controversy that Crystal Dynamics would just like to avoid. Though they're not necessarily changing anything by not making her sexuality apparent to us, they're simply choosing to keep things ambiguous in my opinion. After all, her sexual orientation doesn't impact on her abilities in the game.
Players speculated that Lara Croft was attracted to her friend, Sam in 2013's Tomb Raider. What was most interesting about the claim was the role that Lara adopted during the campaign. She was placed in the more prominently male role of rescuing a damsel in distress, thus her desire to rescue her friend Sam became inherently sexual. I don't exactly agree with the idea, but it's fascinating none the less to see how gaming culture has imbedded that notion into the minds of devoted gamers.
It's a framework that goes back to the days of Mario and Donkey Kong - one that Nintendo still practise. But change the role of the protagonist from a male to a female and suddenly her sexuality comes into play. It makes absolutely no difference to a lot of us whether Lara Croft is gay or not, what would it change? She'd still be the same woman proficient in kicking ass! But I'd love to hear your take on it! What would you think if Lara Croft was gay in Rise of the Tomb Raider? Would it be a necessary characteristic to include in the campaign? Or should they simply maintain their current state of ambiguity? Let us know in the comments below!