Flush It Friday: Vidyamagames amirite

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Let’s complain about old-ass problems in old-ass video games.

For the release of Tomb Raider I-III Remastered – which includes the second remake of the original Tomb Raider – Steam had a sale going on, and I spontaneously snagged the rebooted Tomb Raider trilogy – which actually marks the second reboot of the series. As you’d expect from a franchise that has existed for nearly 30 years and on every platform you can think of, the chronology is kinda wild.

The first game in this second reboot cycle, 2015’s aptly titled Tomb Raider, sees a young Lara Croft embark on her first expedition. Far from the surprisingly battle-hardened archeologist of previous installments, for whom it seemed a given that solving ancient mysteries would always involve shooting swathes of bad guys, this more grounded and far more vulnerable version of Lara is appropriately shaken when she finds that surviving the aftermath of the game’s opening shipwreck will involve killing things.

Games trying to explain why and how their protagonists do the things they do is nothing new. While no one questioned Doom Guy’s qualifications (or, for that matter, blinked an eye at Lara Croft rocking her guns akimbo back in 1996), by the time Half Life came out, people did start to point out that for a supposed scientist, Gordon Freeman sure was conspicuously good at wielding an entire arsenal. Attempts have since been made to explain the disconnect between a character’s background and their actions. Far Cry 3, for example, likewise had its protagonist aghast at his first kill. Not 20 minutes later, however, I had him up on a ridge, sniper rifle in hand, distributing headshots like he was stamping letters at the post office – because headshots give the most experience points.

Tomb Raider has a similar problem. Early on, Lara has to kill a deer for its meat, and she apologizes profusely to the carcass. That’s how the player is introduced to the hunting mechanics, where of course, every kill gives you XP. And nothing else. There’s no hunger mechanic or crafting system, and very few animals pose a threat, so there’s rarely a diegetic motivation for killing them. There’s admittedly a better reason for killing people, what with one of Lara’s goals being to stay alive, but for as much conflict as it supposedly causes her, being really good at it will still yield more points.

In both cases, doing something that the character supposedly abhors directly benefits her. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want her to cry after every combat scenario, but maybe the game could at least pretend like killing hundreds of people is not what she originally set out to do. Maybe a greater portion of the experience points should be garnered from doing cool archeology stuff, such as exploring the (optional!) tombs sprinkled throughout the game. Or maybe don’t have experience points in the first place and come up with a more satisfying way of learning new skills.

At least Lara’s enemies are aware of the incongruity as well. During combat, they’ll admit that she’s a good shot or incredulously point out that she is killing a surprising number of their ranks, and in conversations you can overhear when they think themselves safe, they’ll marvel at how one young woman is causing so much havoc. I found this begrudging respect a nice touch; if I’m gonna have to do something I allegedly hate doing, it’s nice to at least get some recognition.

Our dear contributors are likewise due some recognition, as they have once again wrangled the most dastardly foes: words!


Excited for all the cool stuff that came out today? Abreast of the latest metal news? Thanks to Roldy and Stick, you could be both.


Aaron wrote about what Chelsea Wolfe wrote about Chelsea Wolfe:

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Them Boys found out who’s really responsible for all those intricate bass parts that Slayer is famous for:

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Sepulcrustacean had high praise for the new Wandering Oak:

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How about you? Do you want video games to properly contextualize your actions? Is ludonarrative dissonance simply a part of “video game logic”? Do your enemies realize your unquestionable superiority? What’s been good, bad, perchance even ugly this week? Let us know in the comments!

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