For the past few days, I’ve seen game journalists go back and forth on Twitter about how wrong it was that Crystal Dynamics had a scene that depicted the attempted rape of Lara Croft. I’ve read tweets of people talking about how their interest in the game has vanished, and others spewing vitriol towards the people at Crystal Dynamics for broaching a concept as messy and uncomfortable as rape. And my question to those people is: why now?
Rape makes you uncomfortable? Good, because it should. In all my 21 short years of existence, few things make me writhe in my seat like rape. It’s heartless, evil, and one of the cruelest things a human being can do to another. I read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo while waiting to be selected for jury duty and was one of the most uncomfortable things I had ever read. But while I found the book to be extremely unsettling, I still respected it. I could tell by the language that the author was just as uncomfortable writing those passages as I was reading them. And because of those passages, I knew what kind of monster the villain was. They made me root for the main characters even more, and helped me dig even further into the intricate plot.
So if books, movies and other forms of media can portray rape in a way that adds to the story, why is it so absurd for video games to do so as well? This public outrage against Crystal Dynamics insinuates that video games aren’t capable of capturing the same seriousness and maturity that other forms of media wield. That video games are merely children’s toys, and to compare them to other forms of media is preposterous.
For as long as i can remember, people have cried for games to be taken seriously. We’ve long awaited the day where video games stand on equal ground with movies, TV, and books. Don’t believe me? Then take a look at the crowds of people who insist that video games are an art form. Most of them probably don’t care if Braid isn’t compared to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. They just want something most of us want: for video games to be culturally accepted as something more than trivial drivel.
You want games to be taken seriously without the uncomfortable moments that make you cringe? Well too bad. This world is full of uncomfortable situations, and very few of them offer easy answers.
You can call me a rapist, a pervert, or any host of awful things at me. Fine, I don’t care. What I do care about is that developers are given a chance to prove they are on equal ground with the other great storytellers of our time. A first-rate morbid tale doesn’t need rape to hold everything in place (at that point, it probably wouldn’t be a very good story in the first place). But rape and a quality story aren’t mutually exclusive either. And until we stop treating games like second-class media, they’ll never be taken seriously.