Gaming role models: Aloy vs Lara Croft

Aloy vs Lara

I mentioned in my last post that I was going to start making videos. Well, said videos are happening. I did my planned Facebook Live on Sunday evening, and of course, life happened and there were interruptions. But I think it went pretty well, although due to interruptions I sort of lost my train of thought at times and didn’t give as much depth and detail in my argumentation. But that’s okay – that’s what the written word is for! So, here is a bit more insight into my assessment of the Aloy vs Lara Croft argument.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about after getting a platinum in Horizon Zero Dawn. Yes, I loved the game. A lot. The gameplay, the story… so much of the experience really resonated with me. And a large part of that was because of Aloy, the protagonist. What made her so unique? Why did I like her so much? I still love Lara – she’s the original trail blazer of a gaming icon – but Aloy is just, different. But first, let’s talk a bit about role models.

What is a role model?

So often, celebrities, politicians and other high-profile personalities are held up as role models for kids and even adults. I hate this. I know it’s bound to happen, and of course, there are things that we can admire about most anyone. But athletes turn out to have doping scandals, politicians are found to be corrupt and celebrities inevitably do something horribly embarrassing or simply disappear into obscurity. This isn’t a blanket ban on all famous people as role models, but I think it’s important to be selective in our role models.

To me, a role model literally models roles that are possible. Before there were astronauts, how could we really be sure that space travel was possible? An astronaut can be a role model for pushing beyond boundaries, both literal and metaphorical. They work well as role models for what’s possible with science, in the same way that doctors can be. Mainly, though, it’s about showing characters or personalities, which too often are lacking dimension in media portrayals of celebrities.

It’s also important to pause here for a moment and look at men and women as role models. In the same way that I could look up to male role models, boys can look up to female role models. I think that’s why I like women role models so much – we have so many centuries of male role models, it’s nice for boys to also see women who are clever, innovative and unique as well as fast, limber or physically able.

I want role models for Harley who are smart, strong and brave. I want her to be encouraged to imagine, to question, to explore. That’s why both Lara Croft and Aloy work as excellent role models.

Aloy vs Lara Croft

This isn’t to say that one character is better than the other. Both are incredibly smart – solving ancient puzzles isn’t easy, and both Lara and Aloy are able to piece together secrets of incomprehensible worlds. They both show incredible courage, resilience, and sense of adventure. Aloy and Lara are also good friends, helping those they care about. They are strong and deadly, too, willing to fight when necessary and no one wants to be on the receiving end of their vengeance. Plus, both of them make me seriously want to take up archery!

While both are role models in terms of being strong, smart women who can kick ass, I think that Aloy has the edge on Lara because she can also be emotional. It depends on how players engaged in dialogue, but Aloy can show vulnerability along with her distress, frustration, and anger. She can be emotional and upset, something that is seen as weakness by Tomb Raider creators and thus never really explored.

Aloy’s background also made her more relatable for me than Lara’s. While Lara Croft (and particularly reboot Lara) is wealthy and lives in a mansion, she has her shares of family problems and “daddy issues”. Aloy, on the other hand, was a full-blown outcast from her tribe. This means that part of the game is spent trying to become one of the tribe, and then further aspects are spent trying to figure out her role, where she fits in and to what extent she wants to be associated with her people. It feels so real for me, I think because many (all?) people feel like outcasts or strangers. We all grapple with social groups we might belong to vs those where we don’t fit in. We all wonder about the role we play in our “tribes” and if we really belong. Watching Aloy’s journey, figuring out how she wanted to be a part of her society – she’s a fabulous role model for figuring out and engaging with the world on your own terms.

As this was the topic of my latest Facebook Live, you can watch the trimmed down form right here:

Which one do you think is a better role model? Do you think games can offer characters that are viable role models or do you prefer real life people?

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