The five most retrospectively creepy pieces about Lara Croft

Games journalism has come on a lot in a little over a decade.

Over the last few days, I've been playing the new Tomb Raider title, and reading up on the older games in the series. One of the things which has most struck me is how much more sophisticated the general level of discussion is on mainstream gaming magazines and websites these days. 

Anyway, I thought I would share a couple of gems with you. I'm going to read back a couple of these next time I feel down about sexism in games. Yes, we've got a way to go, but look how far we've come. After all, remember Nude Raider?

 

1. Women! What are they about?

Women. What an incredibly perplexing creation. On one hand, they can be beautiful, intelligent, compassionate, engaging, and on occasion, down right awe inspiring. On the other, they can be ugly, spiteful, shallow, heartless, ambiguous and deliberately deceptive to the point of frustration that borders on insanity. But still, we come back for more.

- IGN review of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation in 2000 

 

2. "Bigger tits for Lara Croft"

Lara Croft's breasts are to get a boost for the new version of Tomb Raider. According to the game's designers, her 38D assets [see Technical Briefing below] will be given "more definition". They won't necessarily be bigger but will have added detail - so, presumably they will look bigger. We're also waiting on an answer as to whether this extra "detail" will include nipples.

Of course this is all PR nonsense to raise interest in the game and, as a Reg staffer pointed out, you never get to see them anyway because you're always behind her.

We are unable to confirm whether Core Design will include a new viewing angle purely to enjoy the game's latest enhancements. But don't worry. Apparently, her arse will also be rounder. Incidentally, the woman chosen to play Lara in some upcoming hype-led crap movie only has 32DD breasts, as does the lady that does the games show circuit, getting geeks all sweaty (although, a quick trawl of Angelina Jolie sites shows her varying from 32DD to 38DD. Obsessive reporter John Leyden has offered to visit Angelina and find out once and for all).

- Congratulations to the guys at the Register for seeing right through Core Designs PR nonsense, but bravely writing a story on it anyway. (2000) Also, nice work getting "the only woman in the Reg office" involved later in the piece.

 

3. Who needs a fundamentally sound gameplay mechanic when you got boobs, lads?

There’s a reason that Tomb Raider sales dropped around the point Lara got a breast reduction and it has nothing to do with gamer gender dysphoria, but rather the wane of the communal hard-on.

Thanks, Kotaku writer from 2006! Incidentally, never use the phrase "communal hard-on" ever again, please.

 

4. Did I say "we"? I meant "I".

Throughout the years, young, innocent boys who started their gaming careers on the Atari and NES, grew into old, perverted gamers of the next generation. As we gamers continue to age, our interactive material moves right along with us, and that also means that as women begin to appeal to us, we begin making games that reflect our "perfect woman." These women all tend to have one thing in common: enormous breasts.

Who volunteers to tell this writer from the Examiner in 2010 that although he thinks he's writing on behalf of all gamers, he's really only writing about himself. 

 

5. No no no, these breasts are TOO BIG. I want a refund!

Honestly now...! No, don't get me wrong, I like a huge pair of boobies as much as the next fellow but everything has to stop with Lara Croft's size of breasts. Anything bigger than that is just... plain inefficient if you ask me. Capcom is struggling to achieve more fame the easy way. I repeat. The breasts look great, but was it really necessary? Ivy was already a D if not more.

Basically, video games should present fantasy in the most colorful and luscious way possible. It's like making dreams come true.

A man from Softpedia in 2007 had trouble typing this because his palms were so sweaty with lust. But, like a god-damn hero, he wrote it anyway.

***

By contrast, this time round, you can read IGN's Keza MacDonald interview writer Rhianna Pratchett; Maddy Myers on Lara and the player's "gaze"; and Cara Ellison on her continuing relationship with the character. Not to mention that Kotaku's editor recently told commenters who abused journalist Patricia Hernandez for writing about gender that they're weren't welcome on the site. 

Lara Croft in the 1990s.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

Getty
Show Hide image

In the age of podcasts, the era of communal listening is over

Where once the nation would listen to radio events together, now, it is the booming podcast market that commands our attention

It’s a moment so celebrated that no TV drama about the Second World War is complete without it. At 11.15am on 3 September 1939, Neville Chamberlain made a live radio broadcast from Downing Street announcing that “this country is now at war with Germany”. A silence fell over the nation as people rushed to the wireless to hear him. The whole country was listening, but crucially, it was listening together.

Nearly eight decades later, it is difficult to imagine a communal audio event like that ever happening again. The arrival of the Walkman in 1979, since superseded by the iPod and then the smartphone, turned listening into a personal, solitary pastime. It was no longer necessary for families to get a radio on a hire-purchase arrangement and gather round it in the sitting room. The technology that delivers audio to us is now small and cheap enough for each of us to have one in our pocket (with headphones tangled around it, of course).

At the same time, the method of delivery changed, too. “Radio” ceased to indicate simply “programming transmitted by electromagnetic waves” in the late 1990s, when conventional radio stations began to make their output available on the internet. Online-only radio stations sprang up, streaming their shows directly to computers. Free from any regulation and with the internet as a free distribution platform, these early stations echoed the tone of pirate radio stations in the 1960s.

The idea of “audioblogging” – making short voice recordings available for download online – has been around since the early 1980s, but it wasn’t until 2004 that the word “podcasting” was coined by the technology journalist Ben Hammersley in an article for the Guardian. He was looking for a name for the “new boom in amateur radio” that the internet had enabled.

Thanks to technological advances, by the early 2000s, a podcaster could record a sound clip and upload it to his or her feed, and it would arrive automatically on the computer of anyone who had subscribed. Apple began to include podcasts as a default option on iPods; in 2008 iPhones offered a podcast app as standard. The market boomed.

Apple is notoriously reluctant to provide data on its products, but in 2013 it announced that there had been more than a billion podcast subscriptions through its iTunes store, which carried over 250,000 podcasts in 100 languages. In 2016, Edison Research released a study suggesting that 21 per cent of all Americans over the age of 12 had listened to at least one podcast in the past month – roughly 57 million people. Audiobooks, too, are booming in this new age of listening; the New York Times reported that
although publishing revenue in the US was down overall in the first quarter of 2016, digital audio sales had risen by 35.3 per cent.

The vast share of this listening will be solitary. This is because audio is a secondary medium. For all the talk about the rise of “second screening”, it isn’t really possible to do much more than idly scroll through Twitter on your phone as you watch television, but you can easily get things done while you listen to a podcast. Put on a pair of headphones, and you can go for a run or clean out the oven in the company of your favourite show. In this sense, the medium has been a game-changer for commuters and those doing repetitive or manual work: there’s no longer any need to put up with sniffling on the train or your boss’s obsession with Magic FM.

Though podcasts are an internet phenomenon, they have managed to remain free from the culture of trolling and abuse found elsewhere. It is difficult to make audio go viral, because it’s tricky to isolate a single moment from it in a form that can be easily shared. That also deters casual haters. You can’t just copy and paste something a host said into an insulting tweet.

Our new and solitary way of listening is reflected in the subjects that most podcasts cover. While there is the occasional mega-hit – the American true crime podcast Serial attracted 3.4 million downloads per episode in 2014, the year it launched – most shows exist in a niche. A few hundred listeners who share the host’s passion for pens or for music from antique phonographs can be enough to sustain a series over hundreds of episodes (there are real podcasts on both of these topics).

This is also where the commercial opportunity lies. It costs relatively little to produce even high-quality podcasts, compared to TV or conventional radio, yet they can ­attract very high advertising rates (thanks to the dedication of regular listeners and the trust they have in the host). The US is far ahead of the UK in this regard, and podcast advertising revenue there is expected to grow 25 per cent year on year, reaching half a billion dollars in 2020. Where this was once a hobby for internet enthusiasts, it is now big business, with venture capitalists investing in new networks and production companies. The US network Gimlet attracted $6m in funding in 2015. However, in the UK, the BBC crowds out smaller, independent operations (the trade-off is that it makes undeniably outstanding programmes).

There is even a movement to make listening a communal activity again. The same hipsters responsible for the resurgence of vinyl sales are organising “listening parties” at trendy venues with high-quality sound systems. Live shows have become an important source of revenue for podcasters. Eleanor McDowall, a producer at the Falling Tree radio production company, organises subtitled “screenings” for podcasts in languages other than English. I even have a friend who is part of a “podcast club”, run on the same lines as a monthly book group, with a group of people coming together to discuss one show on a regular schedule.

The next big technological breakthrough for audio will be when cars can support internet-based shows as easily as conventional radio. We might never again gather around the wireless, but our family holidays could be much improved by a podcast.

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times