Virtual Vulnerability and Traumatic Triggers


In March 2012 the now released Tomb Raider was torn apart by the media when it contributed to a heated debate within the mediated public sector over the controversial use of sexual violence as a plot shaping and character developing device within the context of a video game.

Before getting into this debate, let’s take a look at what sparked the controversy in the first place. It all started during an interview with Ron Rosenberg the games executive producer. Within the interview Ron stated “We did a lot of research into survival and people who survived extreme situations”. “One of the recurring themes was that people who survived had this mantra of just keep moving, you see that in the beginning of the game.” “Then towards the end we start to really hit her, and to break her down. Her best friend is kidnapped, she’s taken hostage, she’s almost raped, we put her in this position where we turned her into a cornered animal.” From those words debate spread veraciously.


The fury unleashed by these statements was swift and condemning, which prompted Crystal Dynamics to release a clarifying statement claiming the scene was “threatening” but “Sexual assault of any kind”  was “not a theme” covered in the game. Having played the game myself I reuse to refer to it as a ‘rape’ seen as I believe that is a major misinterpretation of what the scene is about (especially due to the fact that no rape actually occurs), however I cannot deny that this scene is vividly disturbing and emotionally triggering. Take a look for yourself…

While no rape occurs there is an undeniable connotation of sexual violence and female vulnerability as well a dramatic insight into the traumatic implications of taking a life. I wonder though is this really a bad thing? I mean these  issues are real and I feel help create a realistic transformation of character, as we witness Lara evolve from a vulnerable girl to the strong, brave, gun totting heroine we know today.



The debate was however that these issues shouldn’t have been touched upon and that it is unethical to use sexual assault or extreme acts of violence as a transformation device because they may trigger deeper emotions within people who have experienced real life trauma. Blogger and victim of real life violence Ashelia writes  “If you don’t hit the right series of buttons, she’s choked to death in front of you” “I was so taken aback by the scene, a video game had never made me feel this way in my entire life—and I wasn’t sure what I thought about that. You see, it shocked me so much because twelve years ago, my father choked me in that manner”.

I feel that although this game uses controversial and somewhat disturbing subject matter, it uses it in a way that is not inappropriate. The issue has been blown out of proportion largely due to fact that people see Lara as a victim when instead they should see her as a survivor. Ashelia later writes “Tomb Raider triggered me and that’s ok, maybe that’s even good.” It healed me”.. “It made me realise that, much like Lara Croft, I survived as well”

“I am a survivor and I am alive and so is Lara Croft”


The Effects Of Convergence

After attending my second lecture for BCM112, it became apparent to me that Media is a dynamic that is constantly changing and developing ,always moving forward into a new improved era of convergence. But that to most people is obvious, as new technologies are always going to mean newer platforms and mediums of communication. The interesting thing about this is not the change from old to new media itself, but rather the way in which this change in convergence effects media industries, technologies and audience. Theses three aspects of media are connected by and therefore heavily impacted by convergence. A small change in one has a major impact on the others.


When technologies are improved, new ways of communication are created and become more accessible. With this level of accessibility audiences are suddenly  becoming more more involved with media, they are no longer just passively listening or watching it, they are actively creating it. This change in turn affects industries as now there are issues with the flow of content across multiple channels. Audiences are inundated with a plenitude of entertainment options and no longer look to industries to cater to their needs. Eventually this cycle of change returns back to technology as people then start to change the use of these technologies in a way that was not originally intended by the industries that created it.

In order to give a better example of this chain of effects I look to my chosen convergence platform GamesSpot to justify what I’m taking about. Games are an entertainment form that are created by industries with an intended purpose; to be played right,  however forums such as GamesSpot, give audiences a chance to go beyond just playing the Game. They use this emerging technology (the forum) as a continuation of the game. The forum allows people to discuss game concepts, share their own interpretations of a game and imagine new alternative story lines and endings. Game forums even create a way for people who have modified the game in some way to share that modification and let other people play it. This effects the gaming industry as now countless versions of their games exist and are being played all over the world. As well as this, forums effect how a game is played in the sense that an abundance of information is readily available about the game. People no longer have to figure things out for themselves or solve puzzles, as the answers are provided for them or cheat codes are available.