Like any self-respecting masochist, I’m always seeking a new low. “How shall I debase myself for a meager return today, if any?” I ask myself each morning, swinging my unshaven legs over a too-low-to-the-ground bed situation and making a beeline for the sink, where I will watch my gums bleed for ninety seconds and call it brushing my teeth, Google “affordable dentist,” immediately become discouraged and begin to drink my roommate’s juice.
Today, I am happy to report, this new low was achieved playing what I am told is a pretty good videogame called Shadow of the Tomb Raider, even though it made me cry.
Dear reader, there are few naturally achieved panic attacks like being trapped in a small space while a teenager named Joey hands your ass to you in a videogame for three hours, a fact I was reminded of at the premiere of Lara Croft’s latest adventure in downtown Los Anegeles. Did I chug three glasses of what I believe were called “Mayan Adventures” from a sympathetic bartender before playing? Well, sure. Did I make Joey go get me another drink while I played Shadow of the Tomb Raider like a network TV aunt? I certainly did.
It’s 2018 and so it’s not the Lara Croft I grew up with. Lara “Yas Queen!” Croft has a discernible storyline and root motivation and it’s actually very difficult to get the camera to zoom in on her ass specifically. The plot to this game is, from what I can gather, much like every other Tomb Raider storyline: there’s a golden Thingy, I think a key, either from Peru or Brazil, that could end the world and was stolen by a Very Bad Man and if Lara doesn’t get the Thingy back everyone is super scrooged!
Eidos-Montréal and Crystal Dynamics continued developing Lara’s origin in this latest installment of the reboot series, leading the player to see what makes her the true Tomb Raider and also killing a lot of men. I asked a few legitimate videogame reporters what they thought of the game beforehand and they answered honestly—based on the one-hour preview, it wasn’t their favorite in the franchise, with some glitches and oversights (the most notable being the fact that every time Lara falls from something she is somehow immediately impaled through the heart). Still, the story is a stronger showing than past Tomb Raider efforts, and it was heartening for them to see—and at this point I wandered away from the legitimate videogame reporters and back to the tiny taco table, because I do not affiliate with geeks and losers. [Dear videogame fans and fellow videogame reporters: this is a joke. Jamie is a comedian. She is joking.—Ed.]
Okay, so we’re all caught up.
I wasn’t allowed to play videogames or watch the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider franchise when I was a kid because my parents did not believe in violence or sex due to being narcs who suck. All I knew about Lara Croft was that she was extremely hot and, I thought, lived in a cave with her friends but it turns out I was sort of confusing her with Disney’s Pocahontas. But now Lara, to the developers’ credit, is a fully realized character who kicks ass and, in the demo, accidentally prompts the end of the world via a massive flood that the player spends the bulk of the end of the demo trying to escape.
The problem with videogames, for me, is that I hate them, but when I am sat at the demo table at The Mayan for what is supposed to be an hour demo that takes me two and a half, I cannot say that. Women in the gaming industry have it hard enough as it is, and I’m not about to be the interloper who ruins it for everyone by not knowing what she’s doing. I secretly plan to play for exactly an hour and get as far as I could into the game, then get a Mayan Adventure and tiny taco for the road.
And then along came Joey.
Like any sponsored event, there are a number of specialists on the floor designated to observe the media play the game, make sure they’re not taking pictures, and help them through trickier parts of the demo. Joey, who would not confirm with me that he was a teenager because he almost certainly was, had the misfortune of being assigned to my section and finally forced himself to speak to me after I fell off the same cliff for the eleventh time.
Joey: Do you want a hint?
has a panic attack
Joey: I will give you a hint.
Me: NO I AM FINE.
I fall off the cliff nine more times. I cannot let a man, much less a teen named Joey, prove that women cannot play videogames. (In this scenario, I have selfishly cast myself in the role of “all women,” like many white women before me!) After a half hour of stunted progress like this, another demo assistant gives me a hint.
Joey: She doesn’t want a hint.
Other Guy: We have to close at some point, Joey.
At this point, I am physically weakened and beginning to get a Mayan Adventure migraine, and accept the hint. Stupid me—it turns out you had to press the thing to get to the place and then jiggle the thing, not jiggle the thing and press the thing at the same time. When you do that, you fall off the cliff and get impaled through the heart. Do you understand?
Still, I am heartened by Joey’s defense of me. At one point, Joey and the Other Guy, still under the impression that I am a legitimate videogame journalist and must know what I’m doing, become so baffled at how poorly I’m doing that they literally think the television I’m playing on is broken and move me to another station. When I continue to do just as bad, I start to ask Joey questions—how did he get this job? (Answer: “Press X here. Faster. Oh, crap.”) How long has he been playing videogames? (“I am going to get some water.”) Does he think this is a game? (“We’re not supposed to play the game for you but if you want to, it might make it faster.”)
Poor Joey thinks I’m hitting on him, but I’m not. Why can no man understand that I want to learn everything it is possible to know about them, then disappear from their lives forever? It is, after all, a technique I learned from them in the first place.
It’s been two and a half hours and I’m surrounded by Videogame Men who are encouraging me to do things like “press A faster” and “let me finish it if you want because it’s getting late.” Here I am presented with a dilemma: do I tell them I am a damsel in distress, that I was not anticipating being surveilled while handling an Xbox controller for the first time? Am I a discredit to my entire gender? Does Joey the teenager really think I want to have sex with him, and what does that say about the general vibe I’m putting out into the world?
I am a feminist, but I reserve the right to hate and humiliate myself as an individual. I tell Joey. Joey wishes I had said something sooner. I say a series of things that are not exactly apologies but hand him the controller and he finishes playing the game demo so I can see how it ends. It ends with Lara Croft going, “No!” Just so you know.
Life is an interesting thing. Sometimes you need to get through the game on your own, and other times you need to accept your limitations and know when it’s time to ask a teenager named Joey for help. In conclusion, there were cupcakes and I put two in my pocket on the way out.
Jamie Loftus is a comedian, writer and social media victim of the International Olympic Committee. She’s the creator and star of the Comedy Central online original series Irrational Fears. You can find her some of the time, most days at @jamieloftusHELP or jamieloftusisinnocent.com.