A series of unfortunate characterizations: Chloe Frazer

It’s hard to claim there’s gender parity in video games when Nathan Drake as the “Uncharted” protagonist is kicking ass and taking names and Chloe Frazer is sexually threatened in the same role within minutes of the game’s opening credits.


For all the recent progress made in the video game industry with the inclusion of strong female protagonists and characters in video games, there have been just as many setbacks. This series is dedicated to elaborating on what went wrong with the various female character depictions and how we can learn from them to achieve representational gender parity in video games.

Chloe Frazer from “Uncharted: Lost Legacy”

Former love interest to “Uncharted” protagonist Nathan Drake, Frazer makes her stand-alone debut in the 2017 series spin-off “Uncharted: Lost Legacy.” She is the main protagonist alongside Nadine Ross, Drake’s former enemy from “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.”

While many fans of the series thought it odd that Naughty Dog would continue the wildly popular franchise without it’s flagship character Nathan Drake, the spin-off/sequel was generally well received, earning an 84% score from Metacritic and an 8.5/10 review from Polygon.

The game is, most likely, the last game to be developed by “Last of Us” studio Naughty Dog, but “Legacy” has set a solid foundation for an “Uncharted” universe without Nathan Drake, should any other studios try to take on this wildly popular video game series.

Gorgeous graphics, unique characterization, and critical approval aside, there were some parts of “Legacy” in which the gender of the game’s protagonists came into stark relief when compared to previous incarnations.

Uncharted: Lost Legacy
Telling the familiar “Uncharted” narrative from a female perspective may not have been a bold and innovative move for the developer Naughty Dog, but it was a recipe for success as it sold close to 2 million according to VGChartz.com. Source: Cnet.com.

First of all, let me be clear, I’m not trying to say that female video game protagonists should be exactly like their male counterparts. They should be able to do the same stunts as their male counterparts – jumping obscenely long distances, setting off explosions from miles away, bringing down the bad guy in some super heroic fashion, or whatever – but they shouldn’t necessarily be exactly like them.

[READ: Why Wonder Woman Should Have Her Own Video Game]

While you could take just about any male protagonist and read him as a case study in hegemonic masculinity, I think I’ll save that for a later blog and just say that as long as our male heroes are jumping off bridges and shooting up abandoned buildings full of bad guys, our female protagonists should be doing the equivalent, and for the most part they are.

However, in “Legacy” there are a few moments in which the gender of the protagonist becomes the main focus of the story in a way that never would have happened with Nathan Drake as the protagonist. There is one cringe-worthy moment toward the beginning of the game in particular that highlights this distinction and made my blood boil.

At the start of the game, Frazer is trekking through a war zone in India to meet up with Ross. She gets stopped and accosted at one point by a group of male soldiers who take advantage of her perceived weakness to make vaguely sexually threatening remarks, get into her face, and generally toe the line between street harassment and full-blown sexual assault.

One of the most gendered moments in "Legacy"
Frazer makes it through this encounter fine and no action is actually taken against her, but the fact that it actually happens is something that could only happen because of her gender and that matters in terms of treating female and male protagonists equally. Source: Geekireland.com

Although nothing actually happens and Frazer makes it through the checkpoint without telling the men off or starting a fight she can’t possibly hope to win, this moment still smacks of something approaching sexism. While yes, this is an accurate depiction of how too many women are treated in India and all over the world, and yes, Frazer makes a point afterwards to say how she could have taken those guys down if she had the time, and YES, the men in this situation are depicted as the “bad guys” and their behavior as deplorable, the fact of the matter remains that this never would have happened with Nathan Drake as the protagonist.

[READ: Rape in Video Games: “Sex Sells”]

Chloe Frazer, canonically, is a woman, and the game designers and writers used her gender very specifically in that moment as a way to heighten the tension and create drama. At that point, her gender was, essentially, a plot device, and one that didn’t do anything other than highlight the fact that she was a woman in a very dangerous situation.

Even Lara can't escape protagonist gendering
Lara Croft’s gender is also used against her in this moment from the 2013 reboot, a sexually threatening encounter that only happens because she is a woman and would never even been conceived if she was male-identified. Source: YouTube.com

There were other gender-centric moments of the game, but this moment was the most salient for me as it really highlighted the gendered treatment Naughty Dog gave their two “Uncharted” protagonists. Just try and imagine Nathan Drake in a situation like Chloe Frazer was forced into at the game’s start and you’ll see how differently their genders are treated and perceived when they are placed in the same role – snarky, treasure-hunting protagonist.

And if you don’t see any difference in how they were treated, then you need to check yourself, because they undeniably were and that slight difference is characteristic of larger patterns of normalized sexual violence against women in the real world.

Until next time, let the power of Lara Croft be with you.


Why we need gaming tutorials

However boring and asinine some game tutorials may be, it’s in crazy times like the ones we live in that make me wish life had a tutorial section (if only so I could know what exactly I’m supposed to be doing and how in the hell I should go about getting there).

The early minutes of gameplay are sometimes the most excruciating for veteran gamers, especially in those gems that have been played and replayed a hundred times or more.

For me, that’s the 2013 “Tomb Raider” and it’s 2015 sequel. Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag” is also high on my replay list along with Bethesda’s open-world RPGs “Skyrim,” “Fallout: New Vegas” and the most recent installment, “Fallout 4.”

Each time I start up one of the aforementioned games, I have to resign myself to the fact that there are certain areas I can’t explore, certain collectibles I can’t yet obtain and certain combat moves or actions I can’t perform because of my current level. And that can be irritating, especially when you know what lies behind that level 50 locked door and are just itching to grab that loot, even when you’re only a level 20.

But tutorials are some of the most important part of video games and must be included in order for games to reach larger potential audiences and to give you a clue as to just what in the hell you’re supposed to be doing.

This isn’t a matter that’s up for debate or one that’s particularly controversial, I just think it’s something important to be aware of at a time when the video game market is being flooded with remastered and remixed versions of past games.

But regardless of whether the game you’re playing is brand-new or a remastered classic, it will include some type of tutorial feature to either introduce you to the world of the new game or welcome you back.

Not all tutorials are created equal, however.

One of my “replayable” favorites, “Fallout: New Vegas” has a long concentrated tutorial that begins from the moment you leave Doc Mitchell’s house until you decide you’ve had enough of Sunny Smiles and her teachings of helpful wasteland survival skills.

heya sunny.jpg

While irritating at times, Smiles was relatively helpful in introducing me to the features of “New Vegas” that were different from it’s predecessor, “Fallout 3.” ~ Source: PortForward.com. 

Other games like “Tomb Raider” and various “Assassin’s Creed” titles have a brief tutorial period but with various weapons and skills that are unlocked after enough gameplay. In a way, this extends the tutorial throughout the game, although many gamers would say that it is no longer a gaming “tutorial.”

stacked rope hook blade.jpg

Both the hook blade and the rope arrow are examples of unlockable weapons that, while they aren’t included in the game tutorial, can count as tutorial content. ~ Source: TombRaiders.net and Bestandroidsolutions.com

Even with tutorials a lot of game mechanics can be difficult to understand like in the case of the 2013 Capcom release, “Remember Me.” Their Pressen and Combo Lab DLC feature was hard for me to grasp no matter how many times I played through and read over the tutorial section.

what the ever living fuck.png

In the end, I had to resign myself to playing through the game wildly smashing buttons rather than creating and executing the various combos the game wanted me to. ~ Source: Nerdist.com. 

So do I wish there was a way to skip through a game tutorial? Sometimes, yeah. But tutorials are part of what makes gaming so appealing to me. Because while some games allow differing dialogue options, quest goals and available paths, video games provide us with a clear start and stopping point, quest markers and even some bonus content along the way to make the journey to the goal arguably more enjoyable than the destination itself.

Now if only our regular lives could reflect the careful organization and coordination of our video games and their tutorials.

Until then, game on and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

this might be better.jpg


5 things we need more (or less) of in video games

Finding flaws in a video game is ten times easier than picking out the things you actually like. And while I’m not advocating for cherry-picking – because if a game is awful it’s just awful and no amount of sugar-coating can fix that – I do think it’s a good idea to focus on what we, as gamers, do like about games rather than constantly moaning about what we don’t.


I recently did some pretty intense soul searching to define once and for all what I want in a video game.

Not only did this help me pick and choose the games I wanted to add to my Christmas List – don’t judge me, I know you have one too – it helped me, as an aspiring game designer, identify those features and characteristics I look for in any video game I play.

While I’m definitely not representative of the entire population of gamers, I like to think I have some pretty good insights into what a good portion of us what from our games.

Dorkly.com detailed eight things gamers supposedly want in an article by Andrew Bridgman. Two of his eight reasons are no more zombie games and while I quietly agree with him, I cannot completely support his reasoning because games like Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” exist.

He also said that gamers really want the ability to control boobs in video games which kind of discredits his other points in my opinion.

Gamasutra did a study of different populations of gamers and found their needs and wants vary from integrated social gaming to harder challenges with more strategy and in-depth puzzles.

While both these articles raise some good points, I can’t agree with either of them because they don’t address some of the larger issues I’ve found in some games.

So here are the top five features that I want in future games (Note the emphasis).

Less emphasis on social media.

In direct opposition to what Gamasutra’s study group said, I think a lot of games have too much emphasis on social media and sharing (I’m looking at you, Ubisoft). While I can’t begrudge game companies wanting users to share their experience and give the company some free publicity, I can begrudge them their dogged insistence on it.

After every memory in “Assassin’s Creed” there seems to be an option to share and rate the memory, something that I think gets in the way in the immersive experience I want out of games.


I don’t play games to socialize with the people I know on Facebook. Source: Technostore.pe. 

More storage.

This is less of a critique of video games than the consoles and systems they run on. I’ve had my Xbox One for less than a year and I’ve already had to buy an external hard drive to store extra game memory because next-gen games take up so. Much. Space.

With the increased emphasis on better graphics, better mechanics and better gameplay, I understand that games have to be bigger to be competitive. But if games are going to take up more and more space, the systems that run them should at least be able to hold more memory.


These aren’t the games I’d fill my hard drive with, but my point stands. Source: Youtube.com.

Harder puzzles and more challenges.

This shouldn’t be a big surprise, but I’m not terribly good at video games. I love them more than anything and they will always hold a special place in my heart, but I die. A lot.

That being said, some harder challenges would be welcome in games where a lot of times just the pull of a lever can solve a puzzle. After all, if I really get stuck, there will always be someone who solved it before me and posted a video on YouTube.

it's almost too easy sometimes.jpg

Sometimes it’s just too easy.  Source: Gamepressure.com.

More same-sex relationships.

You would be hard-pressed to pass off Chloe and Max’s relationship in “Life is Strange” as friendly gal pals – the trope often used to disguise female homosexual relationships beneath a thin veil of heterosexuality – but in a lot of other games same-sex relationships are often hinted at without being fully realized.

There are obvious exceptions in games like “Fallout 4” and “Mass Effect” as both give players the option of having same-sex relationships. But those games are made to allow gamers the option to choose between the male and female sex rather than being crafted specifically for same-sex relationships.

This is a direct contrast to the 2013 “Tomb Raider” which featured an incredibly friendly gal pal relationship, one that ended with Lara, carrying her pseudo-bride, Sam, to safety with a misty rainbow in the background. And yet Sam was conspicuously absent from the sequel.

Increased visibility is always a good thing and while all my examples are female relationships, male same-sex relationships would also be nice to see, especially since those type of relationships would help dismantle the stereotypical macho manly man that is often overrepresented in video game titles.

my beautiful lesbians.jpg

Friendly “gal pals” these girls are not. Source: Vice.com and Pfangirl.blogspot.com.

If you’ve kept up with my blog then this last want shouldn’t be much of a surprise. More female protagonists.

The game industry seems to be taking a step in the right direction with more and more titles featuring female leads, but the more the merrier.

“Recore” and “Horizon Zero Dawn” and “Tomb Raider” and “Dishonored 2” and “Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate” are all recent and upcoming titles featuring female leads, with other games like “Overwatch” and “Gigantic” offering multiple female playable characters.

Although “Syndicate” has its own set of issues, I still think it’s a good example of how female characters aren’t any less badass than their male counterparts and why we need and deserve more of them.

dont have to do the work.png

These are some badass babes, but we could always use more. Source: Themarysue.com.

If I’m totally off base with my conclusions, shoot me an email or leave a comment below and I’ll update this blog accordingly. This is more of a conversation than a definitive set of rules, so if I’ve left something off that you thing is super important to a good video game, please don’t hesitate to tell me.

Until the time comes that all our gaming wants and needs are fulfilled, we should keep playing games and identifying for ourselves what we want and don’t want in a video game.

Because eventually designers and developers will catch on.

So game on, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.


The secret history of video game advertising

This blog has become more of an outlet for all my video game frustration than a place of discussion and learning, but who says it can’t be both?


Way back when I first started this blog, I may have mentioned the fact that my original concept for this experiment in self-actualization included a discussion of a paper I wrote for my English 105i class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Obviously, I’ve deviated considerably from this intent statement, but there are still some important points I would like to address regarding that paper and what I learned while writing it.

And the first is sexism.

Sexism in gaming is an incredibly broad topic, one that cannot be comprehensively tackled in one, two or even sixteen (now seventeen) blog posts . Anita Sarkeesian, gaming’s fearless godmother, and many others have tried tackling this overarching topic but even they have just barely scratched the surface of this pervasive norm in gaming culture.

In this entry, I’m going to narrow the field a bit and talk about sexism in the early days of gaming, or more specifically the marketing strategies used to sell video games in the 90s and how those tactics spawned the toxic reality we now live in.

A good chunk of my paper focused on this topic with nearly all the research pulled out of a Polygon article entitled “No Girls Allowed” by Tracey Lien.

In it, Lien discusses the “chicken-and-egg” marketing strategy that led early developers to target male players.

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 1.51.40 PM.png

Source: Polygon.com.

Basically, early polls suggested that a large part of the early consumer audience were teenage boys. Marketers then took that information and intentionally crafted their marketing campaigns and products to cater to that audience. This led to a cyclical loop that reinforced stereotypes that men were the only ones playing video games, which increased their numbers in poll results which lead to more targeted campaigning, and so on and so forth.

A lot of earlier advertising techniques were incredibly sexist, using sex and violence to sell exclusively to boys with little regard to any female audience that might want to play these games.

Note: some of these pictures are hard to look at. Not just because they’re overtly sexist and piggishly disgusting but because they are mind-bogglingly forthright in their quest to disregard female audiences and cater exclusively to males.

This just makes you think, what advertising executive signed off on this degradingly sexist display?

Even today, when the ratio of male to female players is almost one to one, there seem to be a lot of games with commercials and advertising campaigns meant to emphasis the maleness of those games.

“Call of Duty” is a franchise with a history of catering specifically towards a male audience with little regard to potential female players. Even games with female leads, like Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed Syndicate” for example, focus almost entirely on the men in the game.

Don’t believe me?

Both the E3 cinematic and the US debut trailer make absolutely no mention of the playable female character. Even the “Syndicate” box art mostly features the robust and rugged Jacob Frye rather than his badass and beautiful twin Evie.

in the corner.jpg

In case you didn’t see her, she’s off to the right and easy to miss if you don’t know who you’re looking for. 

And Jacob is the only Frye in this trailer, despite the fact that they play equal roles in the story. 

And I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Erik Kain of the game section of Forbes magazine devotes an entire article to the sexism in the box art of a game that focuses equally on both Jacob and Evie, yet fails to include Evie in most of the box art and promotional features.

These are the kinds of subtle advertising techniques that perpetuate sexism in an industry that is just starting to outgrow its early sexist stagnation.

While I can offer no outright solution to this problem in gaming, I can conclude that this disturbing trends needs to change, especially now that there are more games with female leads coming out every day.

“Rise of the Tomb Raider” and “Horizon Zero Dawn” and “Mass Effect: Andromeda” and “Dishonored 2” all feature female leads in some capacity or another. And we should showcase these women and all the others to come rather than burying them in an onslaught of marketing and advertisements meant to cater to men and only men.

Just for clarification, this post definitely isn’t a cry to have more video games cater to women exclusively because Lord knows what kind of disaster marketing execs would come up with to address “female needs.”

In this day and age, when our children are still separated by colors, I don’t want to imagine what stereotypical depictions those execs and the game designers they work for would try to pass off as the female ideal.

Just make more games with female leads and use them in advertisements. Focus on the women just as much as the men and try to be as inclusive as possible.

Continue making the games we love, but don’t blot women out of the picture because we’re a growing demographic. And one day you might regret cutting us out of the picture.

But for now we’ll just game on.

Let the power of Lara Croft be with you.



Mo’ microtransactions, mo’ problems

When it comes to video game microtransactions, I need to get a lot more money-savy or my wallet might just come to life and beat me over the head with my own controller.


Microtransactions are nothing new in gaming.

Pretty much the entirety of games available on the Apple and Android app market are formatted as free-to-download games that end up using microtransactions as a way to hook users into spending money.

And hook us, they do.

I once spent over 14 dollars on the in-game currency of “Seabeard” a game modeled on the style of Animal Crossing, developed by Hand Circus and published by Backflip Studios.

In my defense, it was over winter break and I was snowed in and had nothing better to do. It’s also extremely irritating to have to wait four hours to build a bridge when I could build it in five minutes with the help of a couple purchasable pearls.

But more and more games beyond the simplistic catch-all category of iOS and Google Play apps are using microtransitions as a way to fuel lazy behavior in an industry that is already built upon a premise of laziness.

To set the record straight, I think DLC and microtransitions are two different things when it comes to serious gaming. Downloadable content, or DLC, can be anything from additional campaigns to extended storylines to new character content. While it can sometimes be annoying – especially for the completionists like me – overall, I think it adds to the character of a game and can increase replay value for a title that might not have some to begin with.

But microtransactions are a complete different category of paid content, one that has the potential to ruin games as we know them.

Take “Destiny” and developer Bungie’s recent announcement that the “Rise of Iron” expansion pack will allow players to level up quicker using Silver (in-game currency) bought with real money.

Or “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided” and their exchange that allow players to collect more “Praxis Kits” used for character upgrades along with other assorted items like ammo and weapons.

Or “Assassin’s Creed: Unity” and the in-game money used to buy other various upgrades that have little (if any) bearing on the player character and the outcome of the game’s story.

Even “Rise of the Tomb Raider” allowed players to purchase cards with special unlocks that could change combat scenarios by reducing the effectiveness of weapons equipped or allowing Lara to use chickens as small bombs with a special collectible card.

While these little “upgrades” don’t have much of an impact on the game outside of dubiously beneficial character improvements and a few extra weapons, it’s the principle of the idea that gets me all riled up.

In an iPhone app setting, microtransactions are forgivable. They’re annoying, for sure, but considering the game itself is usually free, these kind of marketing gimmicks are excusable because they’re simply a way for the developer’s to rake in a little extra dough.

But in an AAA console title, microtransactions are an insult to gamers and, more importantly, their checkbooks. And I’m not the only one who feels this way.

We already pay exorbitant prices for video games that will only get more expensive with the rise of virtual reality and increasingly complex game systems and graphics. Then we pay more for DLC’s like “Nuka World” and Destiny’s “The Taken King.” Then we pay even more for one-time use DLC in microtransactions exchanges popping up like rabbits in more and more console titles.

How long before our game is split into short segments released one-by-one to an increasingly frustrated audience?

Oh, wait. Those games are already here.

The problem of microtransactions goes hand-in-hand with that of DLC-mania, but I don’t have a solution to either of them. Do I like extra content that increases the replay value of my game?


But do I like equating my expensive console titles to “Candy Crush” and other iPhone apps?

Absolutely not.

Share your opinion with me @lydmcinnes on Twitter or below as I try to puzzle out what is and isn’t allowable in the new age of gaming.

Until then, buy game on and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

Screen Shot 2016-09-18 at 5.11.16 PM.png

This infographic from Kotaku.com sheds light on the cruel reality that is a game market built on squeezing every last drop of cash out of its consumers. 


The best and worst of user interfaces

Between all the running and jumping and fighting and crawling and crying and dying and dying and dying, it’s easy to forget about all the work that goes into a game’s design.


There is something to be said about the elegance and design of a good user interface.

And there is certainly a lot to say about the bad ones.

UI and UX are two important aspects of game design that are frequently overlooked, except when they are poorly designed. Then gamers can’t help but notice them.

UI stands for user interface, a fancy term that means anything the player can touch (keyboard, mouse, controller, etc.) or see (inventory screen, map display, heads up display, or HUD).

UX stands for user experience and refers more to the ease and enjoyment of the player in using the various map screens, menu systems, and controls.

These two terms are often used interchangeably and while they are very close in meaning, they do refer to two separate aspects of video game design.

If you need more clarification, or just want to read more about good and bad UI designs, check out Desi Quintans article on Tutsplus.com.

There are also lots of different technical terms for different UI designs from spatial to meta to diegetic. I’m not going to go into detail here about the types of displays, but Anthony Stonehouse’s article “User interface design in video games” on “Gamasutra” is both helpful and informative if you want to learn more.

Some of the better UI designs I have seen come from newer games, as the principles of design and the understanding of how the mind works and how gamer’s play has increased exponentially since video games first became popular.

My personal favorite (which should come as a surprise to no one) comes from the “Tomb Raider” franchise.

Both the 2013 reboot and the 2015 “Rise of the Tomb Raider” feature functional displays that work easily with the games’ narrative without taking away from the enjoyment of the game.

I am especially fond of the overlaid text that appears during the introductory phases of the game when a certain skill must be learned. It reminds me of BBC’s “Sherlock” series and how the directors managed to display the words of texts and emails without resorting to a camera shot of the phone’s open dialogue box.

tomb radier 2013 ui.jpg

Source: Inanage.com

For much the same reason, I like the Base Camp displays as it superimposes the gameplay menus over what is actually happening around Lara.

However, it is important to note that while these displays are both incredibly functional and aesthetically agreeable, they are not nearly as “portable” as some other UI displays.

rise of the tomb raider base camp display

Source: Ar12gaming.com

But for every good apple, there are several bad ones.

The weapons display from “Assassin’s Creed III” is just such an apple. Most of the display itself was blank and featureless, making it an incredibly ineffective use of menu space.

But the worst part was the manner in which the game designers chose to have the menus displayed: in order to switch weapons or tools, players had to keep a button mashed while rotating the controller sticks to make their choices.

This made the menu hard to manage and difficult to interact with, two things you definitely don’t want in a screen that could potentially be used in the middle of combat.

ac3 weapon screen change backup

Source: PortForward.com

Another example of an iffy UI also comes from Ubisoft, 2012’s “Far Cry 3.” Third in the first-person shooter franchise, this game and the others in its series are a distinct departure from most of the third-person games Ubisoft usually produces.

However, both “Far Cry” and “Far Cry 2” had displays that lent themselves to a decent FPS experience, i.e. immersive gameplay. For some reason, this did not carry over into “Far Cry 3” as this game had a display that included a large circular mini-map, a feature that doesn’t really belong in the context of an FPS.

annoying far cry hud

Source: Kotaku.com

Not only did the game include an annoyingly large mini-map and a HUD that just wouldn’t quit, it had several pop-up notifications that tended to linger during missions and combat. These observations may seem like nit-picky details to some, but these are the little things that can drive gamers crazy and take away from the overall game experience.

That being said, I’m not entirely certain I’m the best judge of a great UI. Case in point, my favorite game has a menu display composed of a mini-computer strapped to the player character’s wrist.

fallout pip boy

Source: Fallout.wikia.com

Bulky and incredibly goofy-looking, the Fallout Pip-Boy is definitely an example of an odd UI design, but one that has been proven to work for the game’s needs. Not only does it work well as a functional display and secondary component of the game, but it has also been fully integrated into the culture of the game in a way many display systems simply aren’t.

While the design of a good gaming UI may not be the sexiest topic in the universe of gaming, it’s something important to keep in mind when you are roaming about the jungle wilderness looking for a rare craftable resource, or keeping tabs on a 15th century Templar solider.

Good UI’s are easy to forget and hard to notice while a bad one can stick out like a sore thumb and ruin an otherwise enjoyable gaming experience.

Hit me up on twitter @lydmcinnes or send me a message through the contact page if you want to chat about video game UI’s or suggest a potential blog topic.

Game on, girls and guys, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.


Twelve questions ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ raised and three it definitively answered

While I loved revisiting the world of Lara Croft and watching her grow from island survivor to true badass tomb raider, I had some questions the game’s narrative brought up but never really got around to answering.


I have a chronic fear of endings.

Which is why it took me eight months to finish one playthrough of “Rise of the Tomb Raider.”

While I loved revisiting the world of Lara Croft and watching her grow from island survivor to true badass tomb raider, I had some reservations about this game and how its ending – and my terrible fear of it – shaped my overall experience of the game.

Instead of talking about what I like about the game, or the mechanics of some of the new features, or what the creators could have done better coming off the epic 2013 reboot, I’m going to ask some questions that should have been answered in the game, but never were.

About the Remnant:

  • What happened to the Remnant people after the end of the game?
  • Did Lara ever reveal the truth about the Source to them? If so, did their opinion of Jacob change?
  • Did any of them try to leave the valley?

I understand that Sofia took Jacob’s place after he died, but I still think the game was lacking a comprehensive look at what happened after the final cutscene and the post-credits wrap-up.

About the Source:

  • What is it? And if it’s not a part of God’s soul and its actually just some freaky rock, how does it make people immortal? And how does that connect with Queen Himiko and her special brand of immortality?

Safe to say, I did not like Jacob dying at the end. Not only was I distraught that Lara lost yet another father figure, I was confused as to how he arrived in the Chamber of Souls in time and why he let Lara destroy the Source when he knew it would kill him.

About Trinity:

  • Who exactly are they?
  • Who was really pulling the strings behind the Kitzeh operation?
  • Who shot Ana and why? The revelation that Trinity had a hand in Lord Croft’s death wasn’t exactly a surprise, so unless she was going to reveal the name of the person in charge, I don’t understand the point of killing her off.

The closest I came to really understanding Trinity’s role as the main antagonist was in a discussion I had with my sister after the game ended. She compared them to the Templars in the AC series, and I have to admit the similarities are striking.

Both are ruthless organizations bent on enslaving/conquering/dominating the world.

Both are tied to a religious group from the time of Knights and Orders and epic religious crusades.

And both wholeheartedly belief in the righteousness of their cause and accept any violence as a simple means to an end.

But Trinity must be different somehow, even if the difference is a mere technicality to avoid legal action from Ubisoft.

I know some of my questions were intentionally left unanswered to build upon in the next games, but Trinity came onto the scene as a cruel, well-funded, organized antagonist on the heels of a cult of scary white guys led by a psychopath who thought sacrificing girls would get him off an island. The leap between the two was hard for me to swallow at the beginning, but I did, assuming I would get an explanation that just never came.

About Ana/Konstantin (not lumping them with Trinity because they both said towards the end that they were working more for themselves than for Trinity):

  • What disease did Ana have?
  • Why the hell would she poke holes in her brother and tell him it was God’s will? (Seriously, what kind of crazy do you have to be do that to your own brother?)
  • And why was Konstantin still loyal to her? If my sister had been manipulating me pretty much my entire life I think I would have gotten just a little bit angrier.

About Lara:

  • We know a little about her dad, her (evil) almost-stepmother, and her secondary father figure Roth, but what about her biological mother? What happened to her and why has Lara never mentioned her?
  • Where was Sam and who the hell okayed her omission in the first place?

Sam was the most important character for me in “Tomb Raider” and not just because she was the vessel for the undead Queen Himiko to reestablish her reign over the island kingdom of Yamatai.

Sam was Lara’s grounding element, the friend who kept her sane and stable, and the one person who understood and supported her, no matter what happened.

As it turns out, Rhianna Pratchett, lead writer for “Tomb Raider” and its sequel, authored a series of comics that bridge the gap between the first and second game and explain away Sam’s absence. However, I still think she should have made at least a cameo appearance in the game along with Reyes, especially considering Jonah’s role in the narrative.

But that’s an issue for another blog.

Despite my problems with the narrative – which I consider weaker than the first game but overall stronger than comparable sequel titles (I’m looking at you “Assassin’s Creed: Unity”) – I had a few questions from the first game that were ultimately answered by the end of “Rise of the Tomb Raider.”

  • How did Lara move on from the trauma of the first game?

She didn’t.

  • How do she deal with the fact that she killed people to survive?

She killed more people.

  • And how did she find the motivation to dive back into danger after everything that happened on the island?

She just kept moving.

I look forward to watching Lara’s character grow in future games and comparing her to the young, scared and yet still kick-ass queen she was in the first game.

Game on, beautiful tomb raiders, and let the power of Lara Croft be with you.

smaller rise of the tomb raider aesthetic.jpg