In the beginning of 2013, Crystal Dynamics rebooted the action-adventure game Tomb Raider. This time, the series featured a different kind of protagonist. For the first time in the entire series, Lara Croft shows her insecurities while she explores the dangerous environment. This is a trend we see more often in recent years.

The Tomb Raider reboot tells the origin story of Lara Croft. She is a young woman who fights for survival on a mysterious island. As a protagonist, she is relatable and more human than ever before. If you survive a shipwreck and search for your friends on an island in the middle of the ocean, you will be afraid too.

More human

Due to the cold weather and her injuries, she is feeling lost and unsure about what to do next. When she sits shivering by a small campfire, you want to help her. The emotions she shows, make her more believable as a protagonist. In order to survive, she has to break some of her own rules.

To defend herself, she murders someone. This scene is intense and sets the tone for the rest of the game. She did kill her enemy to survive, but immediately regrets her choice. Lara does not enjoy murdering her opponents, but she has to do it. It is a fight for survival and she is determined to leave this island in one piece.

Personal development

As the narrative progresses, she discovers her inner strength and learns to cope with her decisions. She is in a terrible situation but she is determined and a strong survivor, even if there is little hope.

Physical appearance

The Tomb Raider reboot features a more realistic protagonist. Her outfit looks different and she wears more clothes. Compared to the previous games, her physical proportions are more realistic and less sexualised too. It seems like the latest entry in the Tomb Raider series takes a stand against the sexual objectification of women in games.

As a female protagonist and role model, Lara Croft has the power to inspire a generation of women to take a stand and strive for female empowerment. She differs so much from other protagonist, not because of her gender, but because of her believable and relatable character development.

This is a trend seen in other games series too.

Female protagonists in other games

In Assassin’s Creed – Odyssey you can play as a female or male protagonist. During my first playthrough, I decided to play as Kassandra, the granddaughter of King Leonidas of Sparta. She is an experienced mercenary and longs for adventure.

Given how large and muscular she is, Kassandra does not quite conform to the more traditional standards of beauty and attractiveness. In an historical context, this is correct. Sparta puts a large emphasis on the physical fitness of women. Other parts of the Greek world focused more on elegance.

During your adventures in the Greek world, you often feel like Kassandra is an outsider and does not fit in. This is especially noticeable when you visit a party in Athens with local politicians and artists. Kassandra is uncomfortable and does not want to wear a dress. She prefers being her own in her standard outfit.

A diverse audience

Both Kassandra and Lara Croft look good without being obviously intended for a male audience. This is in strong contrast to earlier games in the Tomb Raider series. It is refreshing to be able to play as strong female protagonists who can choose their own path.

These two female characters never feel the need to constantly scream that they are female and they can do the same things as their male counterparts. Both characters get things done and that is how it should be in more games.

A modern medium

In recent years, studies have shown that women make up about half of all gamers. Even though, female gamers have commonly been regarded as a minority and this change in audience forces developers to create more believable and realistic male and female protagonists.

Efforts to increase female participation in the medium have addressed some of the problems regarding gender, social stereotyping and the underrepresentation of female protagonists.

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Disclaimer. This post contains copyrighted images from Rise of the Tomb Raider, a video game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix. The fair use of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting or research is not considered as an infringement of copyright.

One thought on “What do female protagonists in games tell us about our own culture? | Opinion

  1. This is so cool! I do not think I have read through something like that before. So good to find someone with original thoughts on this subject.

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