Lara's Damsel in Distress

Shamus Young

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Lara's Damsel in Distress

Sometimes, it's not about sexism, it's about bad writing.

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the December King

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It almost sounds to me like Sam represents us more than Lara, like this is how most people would 'realisticly' end up behaving in similar situations, instead of like Kratos the Archaeologist?

But, I haven't played the game, so I can't pretend to see the full picture on this.
 

Xanex

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Why is it that when one damsel/sexist/feminist thread gets locked another one pops up almost instantly? I'm smelling conspiracy here.
 

Sartan0

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I am in almost 100% agreement with Shamus here. Those 'characters' have got to go! Or at least give the player the choice to let them die in exchange for helping a better character.

Nope just don't write them in the first place. Lazy writing hurts everyone.
 

Xanex

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Sartan0 said:
I am in almost 100% agreement with Shamus here. Those 'characters' have got to go! Or at least give the player the choice to let them die in exchange for helping a better character.

Nope just don't write them in the first place. Lazy writing hurts everyone.
To be fair Tomb Raider games have never been a bastion of epic story telling. I've played every single one of them and I can only give you a general outline of what was going on in some of the games. The others I can't even remember.
 

Fappy

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Yeah, she really was a pointless character. Then again, I really didn't much care for any of the characters beyond Lara. Sure the beefy guy and her mentor were cool, but they didn't have any depth to them like Lara did.
 

grigjd3

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There is an incredibly low bar for writing in video games. Perhaps the only reason this stands out here is because it is terrible writing within a fairly good game. Really though, have you closely examined the things in gaming that gets listed as "good" writing? There's a large group of people that would place MGS IV in that category whereas if that game were stripped of it's ten minutes of gameplay and released as a movie (basically all it is anyways), it would have a terrible reception. It's too long, over-dramatized with a plot so complex the majority of the game is spent explaining the plot to the audience. Assassin's Creed also seems to get a lot of attention for the story and those games are filled with entirely bland characters in the very essence of a trope conflict (ooh, secret societies vying for influence in the future of humankind).

I don't mind the idea of playing games for fun and ignoring the story. It's just that in those cases, the gameplay has to be able to entirely stand on it's own. Otherwise, I think we need to raise our standards on these things. This damsel in distress trope is egregious but it just underlines how bad game writing in general truly is.
 

Paradoxrifts

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Being reduced to a useless blubbering waste of space is a certain death sentence for a male fictional character, I don't see why a female character should be spared the same fate.
 

kailus13

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Would making Samantha a child have made her a better character? Praising Lara because she wants to grow up to be her, helpless because she hasn't learned any life skills, etc etc. I haven't actually played the game, I'm just asking.
 

Quijiboh

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Not to dismiss your point, as I often find myself yelling at characters who seem to be doing absolutely nothing to help themselves, but being paralysed by fear is a real and potent thing. I've seen people in much more minor crises be rendered completely helpless before - I remember one time when I split my head open, my (fellow adult) friend with me at the time freaked out and was utterly useless in the situation, apart from yellin for help. It happens more easily than we might think.
 

Quiotu

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Hey look, yet another thing about this game that Uncharted did better. I don't like picking on this game, but when another series does the action platformer better than you, you should be trying to one-up them. Elena and Chloe in the Uncharted games are not damsels in distress, even in the beginning, and actually do a great job covering you when they're around. The only trope that is kinda annoying about them is they both naturally fall for Drake, though they both want to stay close to him for different reasons.

Hell in the third game, the big bad that's out to get Drake and cuts him short at every turn is an incredibly resourceful woman. Considering the whole thing is a modern take of a pulp adventure Indiana Jones story, they did a marvelous job keeping the story balanced and interesting. Only the big bads in the first two games really felt like cardboard cutout characters, and they were mostly used just to push Drake along... the story wasn't about them.
 

Ken Sapp

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Quijiboh said:
Not to dismiss your point, as I often find myself yelling at characters who seem to be doing absolutely nothing to help themselves, but being paralysed by fear is a real and potent thing. I've seen people in much more minor crises be rendered completely helpless before - I remember one time when I split my head open, my (fellow adult) friend with me at the time freaked out and was utterly useless in the situation, apart from yellin for help. It happens more easily than we might think.
I could forgive some of her behavior as the paralyzed by fear/culture shock reaction but this game takes place over a couple of days and most people who have reactions lasting that long would be catatonic. The other problem is that Sam appears to be absolutely coherent otherwise. The first mistake of following a stranger off into the night while leaving a sleeping friend alone in unknown territory may be forgiven, but the subsequent mistakes and lack self-motivation just makes you want to scream. Making the character a child might have helped or implying that she had been drugged, but none of that was done.

Back to the original point, over a shorter timespan her apparent apathy/complacency could have held up. But given the time covered in game she should have been working more actively to help herself by the last few sections of the story.
 

OtherSideofSky

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Man, the last time I saw a Tomb Raider game it was about using glowing green alien Excalibur to fight an angry goth chick and her smoke monsters while a large supporting cast of people Lara knows and the player doesn't appear and disappear seemingly at random. What happened? I mean, at least that ended up being funny.

[I'm not counting 'Guardian of Light' because its plot was 'Hey remember that Tezcatlipoca story line from Spriggan? This is that'.]
 

Proverbial Jon

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The "Kraken of gender politics" should have been the final boss in that game.

EDIT: I feel I should contribute something more to this discussion but... I just didn't like the new Tomb Raider. I didn't think it was a good story nor a particularly outstanding game. The franchise as a whole has slipped into the "meh" zone for me. Such a shame.
 

Trishbot

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Quiotu said:
Hey look, yet another thing about this game that Uncharted did better. I don't like picking on this game, but when another series does the action platformer better than you, you should be trying to one-up them. Elena and Chloe in the Uncharted games are not damsels in distress, even in the beginning, and actually do a great job covering you when they're around. The only trope that is kinda annoying about them is they both naturally fall for Drake, though they both want to stay close to him for different reasons.

Hell in the third game, the big bad that's out to get Drake and cuts him short at every turn is an incredibly resourceful woman. Considering the whole thing is a modern take of a pulp adventure Indiana Jones story, they did a marvelous job keeping the story balanced and interesting. Only the big bads in the first two games really felt like cardboard cutout characters, and they were mostly used just to push Drake along... the story wasn't about them.
Did you... actually PLAY the game?

Tomb Raider does platforming as well as Uncharted (from my experience, it's actually even better).

Also, unlike Elena and Chloe, LARA CROFT is the lead of the game, is not a damsel in distress, and saves the day despite lacking the Y-chromosome Drake has. Also, you didn't mention Reyes, the tough mom of the group who just as easily guns down masses of zombie samurai and raving islanders as Lara does, without a hint of hesitation, fear, or remorse. That's already two women that are more active and helpful than Elena and Chloe were.

Also, SURPRISE, the true main antagonist of Tomb Raider, the big bad, is Himiko, a WOMAN, and the one causing everyone, islanders and survivors alike, to suffer and get stuck there. The whole lore of the game, the history, the threat, is because of one insane, powerful woman.

Also, on topic and to counter Shamus, I'll admit I wasn't a big fan of Sam in the game... but I didn't dislike her either. The article cherry picks the worst moments with Sam while entirely ignoring the GOOD moments.

I'd say that, for starters, both times Sam is kidnapped it's by people she trusts (she hadn't yet realized the island had cultists when she meets Matthias, and nobody thought Whitman was THAT crazy that he'd kidnap her later on), and she likely was muzzled or knocked out when it happened.

Secondly, Sam WAS shown to be resourceful. She states outright she stole a radio off the guard, attempted to contact someone, anyone, with it to let them know what was going on and how to find her, and then, when Lara saves her for the first time, she has a gun and USES it, killing several armed islanders herself and FIGHTING her way to freedom with the rest of her crew.

Also, she, herself, while being Lara's close friend, has MANY journals and narrations talking about her love for history, film, and her connection to Himiko. She DOES have a life outside of Lara, but Lara's the one with the instinct, talent, and drive to get stuff done, and it's unfair to ignore the many thing she doesn't say about Lara while ignoring the many things the OTHERS say about her, because they all DO have an opinion of Lara, some of them quite negative.

And the finale, of "battered" Lara carrying "fit" Sam back down... Sam just had her very SOUL sucked out of her body, her very life and being nearly destroyed, her body consumed whole and everything that makes her a living person stamped out. I don't think it's that unreasonable to assume she's more half-dead after that than Lara was.

I don't think Sam is the best character in the game, by any means, but she's FAR from as useless and docile as the article makes her sound. In two playthroughs, I very clearly see her struggling, I see her fighting, I see her killing, I see her being resourceful, I see her grabbing guns, acting at times reckless, defiantly standing up to the villains, and fleeing for her life. I also see her being petrified with fear, I see her being freaked out and confused, I see her being weak and human... and, ultimately, she is NOT as capable, or brave, or strong, or smart, or resourceful as Lara is.

Even then, if Sam, who isn't THAT bad of a character (even if she serves as the plot mcguffin), is the worst element of Tomb Raider, I think the game did very well, all things considered. It's simply that characters like Lara, Jonah, Roth, and the others were just more interesting, active, and charismatic.
 

rofltehcat

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kailus13 said:
Would making Samantha a child have made her a better character? Praising Lara because she wants to grow up to be her, helpless because she hasn't learned any life skills, etc etc. I haven't actually played the game, I'm just asking.
I thought about the same... some time on the ship could have been used to build up a connection to her. That way, players would probably see more reasons to actually look for her and protect her. With her being smaller than an adult, there could have also been a scene where she just gets pulled along after her kidnappers or she might hide between some mangrove roots or something...
mind, I haven't played the game yet (will be up after I'll have powered through Bioshock after my last exam...), so I don't know much about the game other than from reviews etc. so I don't know if there is actually any time on the ship, who comes along and why etc...
call it a bit cliché but little Sam could then be the child of one of Lara's friends (who died) so Lara/the player feels an obligation to protect her.

Overall, it would also explain why, as Shamus put it, she gets rescued and 30 seconds later gets cut off by fire from you again... children sometimes are very fickle in their attention span and their decisions don't always necessarily make sense.
 

Trishbot

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OtherSideofSky said:
Man, the last time I saw a Tomb Raider game it was about using glowing green alien Excalibur to fight an angry goth chick and her smoke monsters while a large supporting cast of people Lara knows and the player doesn't appear and disappear seemingly at random. What happened? I mean, at least that ended up being funny.

[I'm not counting 'Guardian of Light' because its plot was 'Hey remember that Tezcatlipoca story line from Spriggan? This is that'.]
In this game, it was about using flaming napalm arrows to fight an angry undead Japanese Empress and her zombie samurais while a large supporting cast of people Lara knows and the player just met appear and disappear at random.

I still don't know why some people feel that "out there" element of Tomb Raider is missing. Right around the time the vortex of souls was destroying the mountain while a 20 foot tall Oni is swinging a 500 lbs mace at my face while a zombie queen is merging her soul into the body of my best friend I thought "yeah, this is definitely Tomb Raider-levels of crazy. Awesome."
 

m19

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To fix Samantha, just give her some strength, skill, and determination.
So it's now a requirement for every female character to be strong, skilled, and determined?

Because god forbid there is ever a woman completely unfit for roughness who would curl into a ball crying and then walk obediently to her own execution. Like that is not known to happen to people, man or woman. Don't forget she stole that radio though.

To fix her just make her more interesting in general. Not everyone has to be useful in a fight to be worth something.