Tomb Raider Writer Calls for Diversity in Characters, Says Games Can Teach Empathy

"We do tend to overuse the words 'strong female character.'"


Rise of the Tomb Raider Rhianna Pratchett believes female characters need to be more than just "strong," and she says calling them that is a "disservice" to the rest of their character. She also says she'd "love to see more diversity within male characters" as well.

"We do tend to overuse the words 'strong female character'--you never hear them say 'strong male character,'" Pratchett said in an interview with "It's almost like that's inherent. What we really mean is good or interesting or textured or broad or exciting. It's more than strong and strong I think does these characters a disservice."

"And I know calling it a strong female character is just a step we go through before just calling them characters in the same way male characters are just called characters," she added.

Pratchett added that it's not just women who should be more diverse in video games. She believes that there's "a lot we can do there with diversity of all of our characters" and would love to see more diverse male characters, too.

"When the numbers go up and we start having more diversity in the characters and we have more female antagonists and more female antiheroes, I think that's going to be really interesting," she said.

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She also believes games have "huge potential as an empathic medium because you're stepping into the shoes of the character."

"Certainly, some of the feedback I've had on the first reboot of Tomb Raider, where male players were saying, I was put into a situation through Lara that I would have never experienced or am unlikely to experience as a man in the real world and I gained a new perspective and understanding of some of the things that women go through and some of the threats that they might face because of that," she said. "That wasn't something that we had to particularly consider when we were working on the game, but it was a really rewarding experience to hear about."

She says it's even helped her be more empathetic and understanding of others.

"The indie space is doing some amazing work with empathy... [because of Papers, Please] I'm now slightly more respectful--not that I was ever rude--to border control than I ever was before," she remarked. "I thought that was really powerful and that was very good at using the mechanics of the game to create guilt in the player, which was remarkable."

"There's a lot of exciting stuff happening and I think it's great to see the indie game trickling above ground and I'm hoping that's going to trickle into AAA as well," she said.

Pratchett talked about more topics such as writing and VR, and you can read the full interview over at

Pratchett has written for games such as Mirror's Edge, Heavenly Sword, and Overlord and recently won an award for her work on Rise of the Tomb Raider at the 2016 Writer's Guild Awards.

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