Analysis of Tomb Raider

Videogames are a good study to choose as they are popular with the audience because they can be in their own world making decisions on a virtual screen. Tomb Raider has been named the heroine of the gaming world due to her strong and independent qualities and through that has produced 10 games, 2 films and comic books. The main argument of this essay is the use of stereotypes of women, this product at first completely goes against the typical views of women. How they aren’t strong and independent and only men are suited for adventure games, nevertheless it conforms to the stereotype of women being a ‘sex image’ because Lara Croft is shot wearing a crop top and very short shorts meaning all her assets are prominent to the viewers. Following on it would be a gender representation concept and through the games and films her image has changed so much over time, starting off with minimal clothing, big assets and a small waist to more clothing, smaller assets and the product actually being a bit more about her adventures and her qualities. Moreover, the concept of audience could also be added to this, the first body image of Lara Croft was to grab the attention of men, for the ‘male gaze’ however since it became so popular with both genders, the producers cut down on the ‘sexy’ body image and concentrated more on her personality. Moreover, the newest games still have her wearing little clothing so she isn’t fully covered up. Convergence has definitely been used with this case study because it is so widespread with the use of games on different platforms, such as Gameboy and now Playstation 3. Moreover, how the games were then produced into a couple of films which have recently been played on the television through BBC. Since it was played on the BBC this creates another platform for Tomb Raider so be shown on, the internet through BBC Iplayer. So Tomb Raider has developed across space within convergence because the product has jumped from platform to platform. Over this essay, it will discuss the argument of the changing of gender representation across space and how much Tomb Raider the product itself has developed over time and space through many different platforms with the use of convergence.

Tomb Raider has developed over the years by the audience members through convergence, from the old media to the new media. The Participatory culture by Henry Jenkins suggests that everyday people are actively determining the way media is consumed. It can either be spread round by social networking sites or just by watching a product. This is how convergence has developed, audience members making either a product successful or unsuccessful by talking about it or playing it. For example, the newest game of Tomb Raider has been talked about on Twitter meaning the game has been mentioned on different platforms making it cross platform. This could be said that the audience are active in how products become cross platform. Hermes (2002) suggests that ‘Active audience is a phrase that can be dated back to different historical periods’, which implies that audiences for a long time have been active in the media and will continue to do so with the unlimited amount of social media available. This then leads onto the Reception theory where audiences are active in the product they are consuming, so in Tomb Raider’s case the audience are participating in spreading the word of the game over social network sites for example. Due to the upcoming digital convergence, Vince and Earnshaw (1999) suggest that, ‘Direct experience and interactivity would then definitely substitute for the more abstract information which is typically conveyed through text and similar media’, meaning because of the audience members ‘tweeting’ or ‘sharing’ their true thoughts on the product because some people may not want to read game reviews written by a different age group for example. Moreover, if the audience decided not to play the game it would be unsuccessful and the game would be discontinued so the reason why the game is like it is today is because of the audience. Furthermore, active audiences could also link in with interactivity. Tong and Tan (2002) state that, ‘Interactivity then, is not just a means of character control; it also a way for game players to construct their own environments and narrative spectacles’, implying some people prefer video games to films because they like to be in control of the protagonists and narrative. In addition, there could be a downside to convergence and that is not everyone is able to access the media, the majority of us can but there are some areas. Jenkins, (2006:3) states that, ‘Certain segments of the audience arguably remain neglected and unable to fully participate in the new media culture’. This means that not everyone would be able to contribute to the new media over social networking sites which shows that cross platforms don’t always benefit the viewers. However, critically there is another theory opposing the reception theory which also applies to Tomb Raider, which is the Hypodermic Model. The producers target their specified audience then the media injects the message to them. For example, in Tomb Raider, the audience are subjected to believe that a woman fighting people and conquering missions is acceptable. The same for Lara’s body image, the audience eventually then believe that it is ok for women in the media to be sexually objectified by what they wear. This could then fall into the cultivation theory, once a point has been shown and the audience are playing it for a long period of time they start believing it is a natural thing to do or wear. This Hypodermic Model, especially in the case of what Lara Croft was wearing in the first couple of games could lead to a moral panic within the media with feminists as they believe women should not be seen as sexual objects. Due to the different target audience for films and video games of Tomb Raider there are polysemic audience readings. Through Stuart Hall’s decoding method the video games preferred reading would be the audience would enjoy playing the game, women would aspire to be like Lara and men would like playing the game especially with Lara wearing provocative clothing. However, in the case study there would be an oppositional reading due to Lara’s image. Feminists would disagree how women are being represented in these games so they would be part of the oppositional reading. In addition, the films may have a different outcome, Lara Croft’s image which is portrayed by Angelina Jolie differs from the very first video games so may gather a slightly altered view. Which states that because of the cross platform the audience views of the whole product may have changed due to the re vamp of Lara Croft’s body image. Concluding that the audience members who may have been in the oppositional reading for the games might now be in the preferred reading or the negotiated reading. Following on from a feminist’s point of view, Lara Croft especially in the video games before the first film where all she wore was a tiny crop top and short shorts exposing a lot of her body which in their view was unnecessary. Laura Mulvey talked about the ‘male gaze’ and how some media products were designed for the pleasure of men. So in this case the producers decided that to gain a wider demographic they would make the female protagonist a sex object so that men would play the game. Her theory suggests that the audience is put through the perception of a heterosexual male and then that’s how females are revealed. Mulvey also states that women are subjected to the ‘gaze’, the female gaze is the same as the male gaze because women see themselves through the eyes of a male concluding that women are being cultivated into believing that they should look like that to get attention from men. Which is why feminists strongly believe that girls nowadays are trying to aspire to be like certain women in the media just because they are seen through the male gaze, Lara Croft’s image being one of them.

Figure 1. Google

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Most video games with this genre are typically about men and for men, for example COD and War of War Crafts, so in Tomb Raider’s case you would think it would have been made by women but due to her sexual image it wasn’t. Creedon (1989) implies that mass communication jobs were typically filled by women but recently, ‘Analysis suggests a re-vision or new vision of the construction of the gender switch in mass communication’, stating that nowadays because of the gender switch it is mostly males working in the video game industry and that is why women are objectified. If young girls start playing the older games then they might start thinking that they have to look like this, Wolf implies that women in the media are given a ‘normal’ or ‘ideal’ body image for women. This then gives women the views that if they don’t look like this then they aren’t ‘sexy’ or ‘pretty’, giving them low self-esteem. This relates to Tomb Raider because teenage girls would play this game and might think they should be wearing minimal clothing and they could think no other way at their age especially if Lara Croft is their role model. However, over time and after the films, her image has improved so hopefully Lara Croft will be a better role model for the younger generation of girls. Concluding that this theory on, audience and gender representation shows how at the beginning Tomb Raider may have had some issues when it came to their target audience due to how her image was representing women. But when the gaming product decided to widen its demographic by making a film it meant that it had gone cross platform and her body image was shown through a real life actress meaning it was more real for younger girls to aspire to in the future games.

Figure 2. Google

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So because the product had gone cross platform it meant that the game improved and up till the most recent game, even though she is still part of the male gaze, women are represented better in the gaming world.

Tomb Raider has produced 10 video games ranging across different technological platforms and then has made 2 films starring Angelina Jolie. The first game was made in 1996 and has then on been made into more games yearly. The genre of the product from the video games is definitely action/adventure. The games are about Lara Croft going on adventures into tombs and ruins around the world and solving mysteries and problems associated with the place she is in. The first games were less about the adventure as you could play on a mode where the audience could run around her house and visit all the rooms. As the games got better graphics and more popular they were highly just about her adventures around the world. The films which starred Angelina Jolie, were also action/adventure but stereotypically included love scenes and some humour but basically the same genre as the video games. However the video games do slightly differ to the films because in the games she acts very independently which is what the producers wanted but for example in the first film she completes missions in tombs with other people, so she is working in a team which is unlike the games. Tomb Raider has been on a few different platforms, it was genuinely made just for the video games but due to the success of the games it was made into two films and since the newest games in 2013 where the plot has slightly changed there could possibly be a chance of a new film. So the product has been shown on two main platforms, however the film has been shown on Television through the BBC which creates a new platform for the product because it would then be shown on the internet through iPlayer. Moreover the video game has been shown on platforms through different gaming technologies, for example, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Mircosoft Windows and Xbox One. So the game is very broad because it has been shown over many types of gaming products. Lastly, the product made a new platform by licensing for third party promotion including TV and print advertisement. The audience profile for Tomb Raider is very controversial with people believing it was made for women but designed for men due to Lara Croft’s body image. The producers hoped for the audience profile to be female, age range from about 15-24 and to be interested in action adventure films and games. This could then bring in the Reception theory due to the fact dissimilar audience members are reading the text differently to others. Rosengren (2000), states that through his book on communications, ‘Reception analysis is a relatively new tradition of audience, focusing on the ways in which media audiences ‘receive’ media content of different types’, implying that this new analysis can determine which audiences receive the text and how. The makers maybe expected for Lara Croft to be inspirational for young girls because she was a strong independent woman completing difficult challenges that people may have only thought men could do, however her body image raised feminist views and controversy. Her image was not inspiring for young girls at all because Lara was dressed in tiny hot pants and a crop top which made her assets very prominent. So the story to the audience was girls have to look like this when completing tasks. This could be a problem for the younger generation because due to digital convergence Vince and Earnshaw (1999)state that, ‘children in advanced countries now spend so much time in front of the television and playing computer games that a significant fraction of their early cultural experience is synchronized with other children of the same age world-wide’, implying that children everywhere are being affected at a young age because most of them have unlimited access to all multimedia. In addition, audience then thought Lara was designed for the male gaze because men are more unlikely to play the game where a woman is the main lead, so to gain more of a target audience the producer created the protagonist into a sex image so the male audience would buy the game. This brings in the concept of gender representation, stereotypically Lara Croft does not conform to her role as males usually fight and complete missions where women are usually the ones being rescued or there just to look pretty. But in this case Lara plays a strong lead and defeats missions alone but with her body image the game is representing women in a sexual way and for her to complete the challenges she has to be wearing minimal clothing. Despite all the feminists arguing against the representation of women, Lara Croft did increase the amount of girls playing video games. Knight (2010) who has written just a chapter on Tomb Raider states that, ‘Croft triggered a phenomenon. In record numbers, young girls came out to play with as much enthusiasm as the boys’, implying that Lara Croft did benefit girls and their equality with playing video games. Moreover, it also helped girls decide their career path, Knight (2010) again suggests that, ‘Croft inspired some girls to want to be archaeologists and imparted a sense of empowerment and invincibility’, meaning that girls were no longer being placed into ‘girly’ jobs such as hairdressing and beauticians and that they actually wanted to do jobs which men stereotypically did. Concluding that feminists should research a bit more and see that Lara Croft’s image has helped girls. Nevertheless, her image changes across time and space; her body image in the films with Angelina Jolie becomes less of a sex image for men and more how women would actually dress when completing missions in tombs. She wears trousers and her tops which cover her skin, some of her daily clothing in the film still remains for the male gaze. After the first film the gaming makers produced the new Lara around Angelina Jolie’s body and over the years she becomes more and more covered up with clothing because the game is concentrating more about her and the adventures she encounters. The newest game she is completely covered up in long trousers and a t shirt, which represents women better and would be more inspiring for young girls who may start playing the game.

Figure 3. Google

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Moreover, it changed across space because her image was completely different in the previous games to the films meaning Lara Croft had been represented contrarily between two big platforms.

I learnt from researching Tomb Raider that it has been much more popular than I expected, the amount of games that have been released across the years and across different gaming platforms. It was interesting to see that over the years it moved onto cross platform with two films and then the films being shown on BBC Television which leads onto a new platform because it was shown on BBC Iplayer. This proves that the product changed over time but also across space because it moved onto new platforms which helped the game improve. I think by using a famous actress like Angelina Jolie for the lead in the film was a very good idea because she is well known and then that widens the demographic for people who may have never played the game before but by watching the film might decide to play the future games. I picked my concepts in co-ordination to the case study because I know how controversial gender representation was in this video game. Lara Croft’s body image was such a big matter in the media industry because feminists were very against her look but thankfully after the film the designers made Lara Croft’s ‘newish’ image around Angelina Jolie. I have learnt that her body image will never change to fully satisfy a feminist because it has been nearly 20 years since the first game and her clothes have only slightly changed, as she is still part of the male gaze. However, if she was never part of the male gaze there might have been a very limited demographic and it may not have been as successful. I believe that if the films weren’t made then the Lara Croft’s image may never have changed and that’s including her personality because the newest games are a bit more about the way she thinks and acts and less about what she looks like, whereas in the first games it was completely opposite. After researching the theory it’s given me an insight into how the audience may be the cause of why the game has gone cross platform and how much gender representation is an issue. However, I’ve played the games and watched the films and I don’t think I would have not played the game knowing how badly gender has been represented.

In conclusion, Tomb Raider, the video game has been a success with all the concepts spoken about in the essay. The product went cross platform through convergence by going from different gaming platforms to a film, then the films went onto BBC Television which then went onto the internet on BBC IPlayer. This proves that the game easily transitioned across space because it was able to succeed on other media platforms. Moreover, the audience play a part in making the product cross platform through the Reception theory and acting as an active member. Meaning if the audience didn’t talk about media products online or through social networking sites than the game may not have turned into a film or may not have been as much of a success then it is today. But then it could also be how the producers send out the message in the text which makes the audience want to watch or play more. However, in this case how the designers of the game produced Lara Croft’s image left the audience with a controversial view. Her image was seen as a ‘sex object’ which gave some audience members the oppositional reading which meant the game lost out on some of their demographic. Then again, if they hadn’t of made Lara Croft a ‘sex object’ for the male gaze then they could have lost a bigger audience demographic because men might not have wanted to play a video game with a female lead. Nevertheless, Lara’s image grew more suitable over time and over space, as soon as the film was produced the image was based around the actress Angelina Jolie which meant that due to cross platforms the product was able to gain more of its demographic back because she was less of a sex symbol. Concluding that, these three concepts have helped establish that Tomb Raider has easily transitioned through space among different types of platforms through the use of Lara’s body image, the new digital media and how the audience receive texts.

Figure 4. Youtube

 

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