Upcoming adventure game Tomb Raider will feature a scene where protagonist Lara Croft is the victim of attempted rape. Speaking to Kotaku, Crystal Dynamics executive producer Ron Rosenberg said that during this scene Croft is "literally turned into a cornered animal" and forced to "fight back or die."
Explaining further, Rosenberg said that this scene represents a "huge step in [Croft's] evolution" and that the encounter was devised as a means to help bolster the strength of Tomb Raider's origin narrative.
"We're not trying to be over the top; shock people for shock's sake," he said. "We're trying to tell a great origin story."
[UPDATE] After the publication of this story, Crystal Dynamics studio head Darrell Gallagher released a statement on the matter. He explained that Ron Rosenberg's comments to Kotaku during an interview were "misunderstood."
"In making this Tomb Raider origins story, our aim was to take Lara Croft on an exploration of what makes her the character she embodies in later Tomb Raider games," reads a line from the statement. "One of the character-defining moments for Lara in the game, which has been incorrect referred to as an 'attempted rape scene' is the content we showed at this year's E3. In this particular section, while there is a threatening undertone in the sequence and surrounding drama, it never goes any further than the scenes that we have already shown publicly."
"Sexual assault of any kind is not a theme that we cover in this game. We're sorry that this has not been better explained. We'll certainly be more careful with what is said in [the] future."
Rosenberg also elaborated on Croft's new look. As fans will have already noticed, Croft's curvy features and skimpy outfits from past games have been replaced by a more functional appearance. This, Rosenberg explained, was intentional.
"The ability to see her as a human is even more enticing to me than the more sexualized version of yesteryear," he said.
Lastly, Rosenberg explained that while Croft remains the hero of Tomb Raider, he has found that players don't often project themselves into the character, but rather act as her guardian.
"They're more like 'I want to protect her.' There's this sort of dynamic of 'I'm going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her," he said. "She's definitely the hero but you're kind of like her helper. When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character."
Tomb Raider was originally slated to arrive on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC this fall, but was recently delayed to March 5, 2013. The game will tell the tale of how Croft came to be the crafty, nimble adventurer at the center of the long-running series. For more on the project, check out GameSpot's 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo stage show demo.