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Developers deny rape sequence in latest 'Tomb Raider'

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Game studio Crystal Dynamic clarifies "misunderstood" scene. (Square Enix)

Fans of the 16-year-old video game series "Tomb Raider" have called the depiction of an attempted rape scene in the opening of the new game offensive, and lazy.

"Tomb Raider" was unveiled at the E3 video game conference this week, portraying the video-game heroine as a bloodied, bruised and vulnerable woman forced to fight for her life, killing a mercenary before he tries to rape her.

Whether the scene is playable or not, gamers were adamant that using violence as titillation was offensive, sexist and unnecessary.

One Twitter user @mike_acton wrote "C'mon, rape as character device is sexist, lazy bulls**t."

"How did we ever cheer for female characters before this parade of geniuses rolled into town?" wrote another user, @LivelyIvy.

User @brokenbottleboy wrote "Lara Croft shouldn't be beaten for the sick pleasure of the yellow underwear brigade."

The video game production company that created the game, Crystal Design, has denied that the scene contains an attempted rape, directly contradicting comments it made last week to video game website Kotaku.

"One of the character defining moments for Lara in the game, which has incorrectly been referred to as an 'attempted rape' scene, is the content we showed at this year's E3 and which over a million people have now seen in our recent trailer entitled 'Crossroads'," wrote studio head, Darrell Gallagher in a statement.

"This is where Lara is forced to kill another human for the first time. In this particular selection, 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 categorically not a theme that we cover in this game."

However, last week Crystal Dynamics Executive Director Ron Rosenthal told Kotaku that Lara would be the kind of character "you're going to want to protect".

"She's definitely the hero -- but you're kind of like her helper," he said. "When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way you might not root for a male character."

Gallagher said the comments made to Kotaku had been “misunderstood”.

“Unfortunately, we were not clear in a recent E3 press interview and things have been misunderstood,” he said in a statement.
“We're sorry this has not been better explained, we'll certainly be more careful with what is said in the future".

Creative Director Nick Hughes told IGN that the new approach was "vital to understanding the character".

“We want to show her as human," Hughes said. "To see her be scared, to see her get hurt, to see her have relationships with people. But we also needed an adventure that changed this person into something that is much more like the Lara Croft people remember. What we’re trying to do by grounding her and starting where we do on the island is to invest you in that experience.”

"She has amazing willpower, that force of will to do whatever it takes. She’s a character who, at first glance, has no business succeeding on this island. This island should defeat her. And what’s inspirational to me about Lara is to see her overcome all these obstacles.”