There's an interesting interview with Toby Gard, the creator of Tomb Raider, over on Critical Path's site. And it reminds us that, for all the platitudes heaped on the series for portraying a strong female character, the fact is a lot of men enjoyed playing as just such a woman for the wrong reasons.
Eerily, Gard brings up the notion of players "protecting" Lara, something that raised a lot of eyebrows earlier this year when the current Tomb Raider's executive producer said something almost identical.
Which is fine in a way, I guess. Gard isn't talking about 2012, he's talking about the process of testing and observing the first Tomb Raider, which was released in 1996 for a video game market so different it may as well have been 1896. He's also discussing the concept in more general terms as they relate to a third-person character, not specifically a female one.
What comes next though is a little more thought-provoking: Gard says the developers soon noticed a "very strange thing" when people were playing the game: "they loved killing her".
He says he felt killing her over and over, and in imaginative ways, gave players - presumably almost exclusively male - a sense of "power" over her, one amplified by the fact she was a "very strong" and "super tough" character. Gard even goes so far as to say this provided gamers with a "god complex".
Now, he never explicitly says they loved killing her because she was female. But the title of the interview ("PLAYING A FEMALE CHARACTER") and the fact he brings the "strong character" bit up - despite a long history of playing other games in the third person - sure makes it sound like that's what he's getting at.
Some of the language used in the video on the left would show he wouldn't be far off the mark if he was, either.
I wonder if the develolpers ever sat back and weighed up just why this was. Was it really just male gamers acting out some creepy power fantasies? Or did the team simply make a game with great (for the time) platforming physics that tempted players - regardless of gender - to find the most, erm, gratifying ways to bring their game to a premature end?
You can watch the full interview at Critical Path's site.
PLAYING A FEMALE CHARACTER [Critical Path]
Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends. You'll find Total Recall stories every Tue-Fri between 1am -2am Eastern.