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“Take That, Bitches!” Refiguring Lara Croft in Feminist game narratives

MacCallum-Stewart, Esther

Authors

Esther MacCallum-Stewart esther.maccallum-stewart@uwe.ac.uk



Abstract

Since Lara first “bust” onto our screens in 1996 in Tomb Raider (Edios Interactive), she has been a focal point for critical debate surrounding the representation of the female protagonist and the gendered body in games. Nearly twenty years after her first appearance, the 2013 version of Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics) remakes Lara with a new body, a new author, and has sent her out towards a new generation of fans. In line with attempts by the games industry to provide a more appealing female protagonist, Lara has been significantly altered physically and in terms of her attitude, but what is perhaps most striking is the way that her narrative has also been redefined by a female writer, and then taken even further by a more gender-savvy fanbase willing to give Lara a second chance. This paper examines the 2013 iteration of Tomb Raider in the light of previous scholarship, arguing that despite, as Kirkland argues “The meaning of the controllable figure ‘Lara Croft’ within the Tomb Raider series is inseparable from the paratexts that surround it” (Kirkland, 2014), that critics have often used Lara’s sexualised appearance to unfairly dismiss the players who see her as an icon or those that have simply enjoyed playing with and through her for nearly 20 years. Critically, her body and her gender have been seen as indistinguishable, and this is used in turn to disenfranchise the experience of the player who controls her. I will also consider how new ways of consuming games -- most notably through webcasting playthroughs -- are working to change the ways in which gender is formulated in digital games. Here, games are reframed by the fan producers who overlay narratives on top of the existing text, reinterpreting it in ways that provide interesting new readings of how Lara is understood by her own players.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 14, 2014
Journal Game Studies: International Journal of Computer Games Research
Print ISSN 1604-7982
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 2
APA6 Citation MacCallum-Stewart, E. (2014). “Take That, Bitches!” Refiguring Lara Croft in Feminist game narratives
Keywords game studies, players, webcasting, YouTube, Tomb Raider, feminism
Publisher URL http://gamestudies.org/1402/articles/maccallumstewart




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