Gaming Made Me: Tomb Raider

By Cara Ellison on December 19th, 2012 at 9:00 pm.

June 2003: a remote jungle clearing outside Moshi, Tanzania. I am seventeen. It is sometime after midnight.

My skin is sticky with pesticide and sweat. In the treacle dark, my friend Rachael’s face presses hot against my shoulder. The hiss of the jungle soars into the sky in a cacophonous, unbearable symphony.

I need to pee.

Unzipping the tent door, I reach for my boots outside and hesitate, before upending them and shaking them vigorously. This lesson has been learned in machetes. Satisfied, I pull the boots on, grab a torch, and bind an emergency strip of toilet paper around my wrist. I press out through the long grass.

Wet air kisses bare skin. The remains of my once plain rice dinner is pitted with grass bugs: with no lid to prevent them jumping towards the heat, we had eaten the rice black and crunchy. I grimace at the thought of the swallowed bugs and stride through the grass into the murk. I can hear the insects screech, jump against my ankles. Fuck the jungle, I think. Everything here is trying to kill me. I think about machetes, hallucinate one in my hand. But I had left it behind with the Maasai.

A scream from above punctures my eardrum. I freeze. To my seventeen-year-old ears it sounds like the scream of a Velociraptor. I switch off the torch. Steven Spielberg told me there would be days like this.

Three more terrifying screams; I stand in the grass with the cold strands touching my exposed legs, exposed, exposed. They’re in the trees, I think. And I am here. And they can see me.

Freeze-framed by fear, my mind escapes to another place, an unreal place whose dangers nevertheless felt no less real…

That malfunctioning ATI card kicks me straight into that first desolate corridor. No cutscene. I am twelve, terrified. The computer screen looms over me. The soundloop kicks in – hollow noises like huge footsteps boom in the background: creaks, low moans. I’m aware the woman on screen is wearing very little. You can see too much flesh on her – she is miles away from help, shut in this cave. She can see wolf tracks, hear whispers… But she is on her own.

What is the worst that can happen to her? I glance at the manual. I draw Lara’s guns. I walk into the claustrophobic darkness.

At seventeen, standing in that grass alone in the jungle, I wonder if I am doing Lara Croft a disservice. I imagine that some small girl is watching me through the lens of a computer screen and I see everything map out before me. I think, if I don’t get over myself, that small girl watching will never do anything impressive like go exploring in a Tanzanian jungle; she will never block blows in a budoukan in Okinawa or climb temples and tree roots at Ta Prohm Kapok. She will never have the guts to do anything by herself. Get over yourself, I thought, just then. Lara got over herself.

I breathe the close air. I control my own body, where once I controlled Lara’s. I have developed the curves that denote adulthood. I no longer look like a tomboy girl: I am a grown woman. Women deal with things. They are in control. They are calm at all times. They are together.

Adulthood swells into my lungs: I am that composed woman; I can walk into that forest and deal with what happens just as she killed wolves and jumped into bear pits.

Lara: the impractical figure, the idealized sex object. Surely there’s no way she could offer anything but detriment to the way that young women look at themselves? Many regard Lara Croft as nothing more than a tool for male voyeurism. And while I didn’t notice the extent to which Croft was sexualised when I was twelve, I certainly notice now. That original game presented Lara’s figure at its worst, its most implausible. The painful outrageousness of her waistline; her breasts, so engorged they might carry more water than her measly backpack.

But what was more important to my young eyes was Lara’s frailty. She looked thin and incapable, those narrow gun-toting wrists like stems of a flower. Climbing seemed a labour. She stumbled on things, bumped into things with a dramatic ‘oof!’ Every animation blend glitch evidence to me that she was panicking, breaking. She was at the mercy of her environment. The fact that she had few supplies, little clothing, and nobody to help her: these made her task even more daunting. But that was what was amazing about her. All my life I’d thought only men put themselves in these dangerous, isolated positions. It didn’t matter to me that men might look at her. She is the doer now, and not the helper. She is the hero. For twelve-year-old me, Lara had chosen to take a risk for the sake of thrills. I admired that.

Women are routinely advised to be safe. You’re going out late at night? By yourself? In that? That’s dangerous. In London there is a campaign to ensure women only hire officially endorsed taxis, because minicab drivers have been known to sexually assault women on back roads. Take safer taxis, women. Don’t go alone – anywhere. Don’t go alone.

Men, by contrast, are encouraged to do foolish, dangerous things. People thought it was funny when Steve Irwin poked a crocodile with a stick; if a woman did it for a laugh she’d be putting herself in danger. Which is stupid and might never be entertainment, right? Even with that charismatic grin. And certainly, if the female Steve Irwin had died doing what she loved (poking crocodiles with sticks) it wouldn’t be considered heroic. It would have been, “Well. We told her so.” It’s taken as read that maybe a man might die as a consequence of putting himself in danger – but that’s the life he chose. What a principled hero. If a woman dies, well, that’s her fault: we told her not to do that. It wasn’t safe.

In that jungle, at seventeen, I am so far from those voices. My gender makes no difference here, in the wild. It seems like a construction to pretend that we are anything but a set of consciousnesses traversing a fraught earth. It seems odd to regard Rob and Josh, whose tent is out of sight somewhere near, as being somehow able to cope better here, or as somehow in less danger.

At twelve, back in Tomb Raider, I was in the tight grasp of monophobia. For the first time, I’d been allowed to go out into town by myself. I was aware that some of my friends were still not allowed to do this – because it is dangerous for little girls to go into town themselves. Everything seemed dangerous to me. The bus driver was dangerous. The people on the streets were dangerous. As I grew up that caution never waned. By sixteen, boys aren’t told as often to be careful any more, as equally unfairly, they become the danger. At twenty-six, I am still often told that being out alone at night is dangerous.

Tomb Raider encouraged me to be alone. The very act of playing it was solitary, away from friends. Our computer was shut in a tiny ‘study’ (a cupboard) at the top of our three-storey house (just next to the gymnasium with the secret entrances) and I always played it in the dark. My dad never set the heating to anything less than full blast as if he were an orchid threatened with wilting, so the study was always sweltering. I’d play until I couldn’t bear being afraid any more. And it was terrifying: I would scream at every bear and I was not particularly squeamish, not a ‘girly’ child. And still I was determined that I needed no help. I wanted to do it alone.

Outside of the study I came to realise that wanting to do things alone was not always a bad thing. If Lara Croft can raid tombs by herself, I figured, then I can go anywhere by myself. I started enjoying my own company more and stopped worrying what my friends were doing. I visited town by myself sometimes, not to meet anyone, but to buy ice cream and shop for clothes because I wanted the time to ponder things. I started to value my own judgement more. I wrote outrageous opinion pieces for the school newspaper. I became more active in identifying and chasing the things I wanted. I used to get frustrated that I didn’t have a boyfriend. Well. Lara didn’t have one either, I reasoned. She probably chose to be alone. The very idea that one could choose not to have a boyfriend blew my young mind.

Lara didn’t have a love interest in the original Tomb Raider. There was no ongoing romance beyond the romance of finding secrets, climbing colosseums, shot-gunning T-Rexes. Larson was shot dead, a footnote. Frustrated at missing jumps, terrified at being impaled on spikes, you willed her to jump farther, shoot faster, swim for longer. At twelve I was a competitive swimmer, and the thing you always strove for in the pool was a Personal Best time, not finishing a heat first.

Both Lara and I didn’t really need someone to help us out or encourage us. We competed against ourselves. Years later, Crystal Dynamics would ruin that in Tomb Raider: Legend by providing not one, but two or three different men supporting her, as if she couldn’t lop off an endangered species’ head with the help of a good nutritious breakfast and her own sheer determination. It was as if a jaded Ripley had been put on an infested ship with three fratboys who’d read a report on Aliens and decided they’d come and help her out. Perhaps it was just bad writing. Perhaps it was an essential part of the game. Perhaps.

Is wanting to do things alone dangerous for women? Much of the ‘danger’ surrounding women and girls who dare to do things alone is framed as the threat of sexual assault. It is kind of terrifying that women are warned that men will be looking at us in a sexual manner in every situation – and horrifying that all responsibility for men controlling their sexual or violent urges is absolved by an emphasis on keeping women in a safe space. Ultimately, if society started valuing self control and respect for others’ personal space, we probably wouldn’t have to patronise women, who, let’s not forget, are also capable of sexual assault. This last fact is shrugged off constantly. It’s as if the threat of the male gaze penetrating our heroine is what makes Lara vulnerable. Is she being sexually assaulted by us, the viewer? As if the very act of seeing women turns the voyeur into the threat.

When I played I was Lara, experiencing everything through her character. My male friends sat there identifying with the camera – with the looking, the controlling, with the interfaces. They were outside her body. I was her body. It was survival horror.

My most vehement wish was to keep Lara alive. This is the same wish I clutch now, in the jungle. I wonder: would I have taken as many risks in life if I hadn’t been Lara all those years ago?

My toes twitch in my boots. I master myself. The screaming is all around me, up in the trees.

If you were going to attack me, you’d have done it by now, I think. I unfreeze the frame and wade into the dark. I feel a guilt sting at having failed to match Lara Croft’s composure faced with similar peril. Fine barbs of vines cling to my skin, threatening to trap me, trip me up. Again I lust for a machete, licking dry, bug-stained lips. I forget the last time I saw my face in a mirror, but I imagine that my face, all grit and mosquito bites. I am Kurtz.

Unseen tree animals scream around me. No, I decide: here is where I stop and pee. I’m gonna do what I came here for. You hear that jungle? That is the sound of me pissing on you. Yeah? Well I hope it’s a freaking ant hill I’m pissing on. Your ant hill.

Oh god, it’s an ant hill.

I spend the rest of the night and the following two days picking the pincers of suture-strong Siafu ants out of my legs. I still have the scars. Rachael slept on through what I later found out, over a stiff pint of sugar cane liquor, was the Tanzanian equivalent of the Bush Baby mating season – they have Velociraptor screams.

During warm weather I sometimes dream of machetes. Machetes and Lara Croft. I hear she’ll get a machete in the new one.

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109 Comments »

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  1. I Got Pineapples says:

    Okay, given the recent burst of love for Tomb Raider and what seems to be some sort of effort to rehabilitate it critically; Am I the only one who genuinely has never actually cared for the series?

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      Herzog says:

      You are not alone! But I go one step further: I never cared for the games but for some weird reason I enjoyed both movies!

      • marianthomas4 says:

        just before I looked at the bank draft which said $5859, I did not believe …that…my father in law was like actualie receiving money in their spare time from their computer.. there neighbor started doing this 4 less than fifteen months and a short time ago cleared the mortgage on their villa and got themselves a Alfa Romeo. this is where I went..Read More

    • DPB says:

      I like the Crystal Dynamics games (especially Anniversary, which is really great) but I could never get past the controls in the original Core Design games.

      What I’ve seen of the second reboot doesn’t interest me. Other than the title, it seems to share very little in common with the previous games, there’s a distinct lack of environmental puzzles and platforming.

      • wnasdv says:

        Christmas is coming! Fully 30% discount! I like the Video Game Accessories! Many! Great! http://jive.to/Jd

      • LionsPhil says:

        From the trailer footage a while back, the new one seems to be portraying a very vulnerable Lara, which is pretty much the polar opposite of what Cara is writing about here.

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          RedViv says:

          Or the other way around – it shows Lara becoming that unstoppable terminator of endangered species and folks in the way of the goal, learning to get stuff done on her own.

          • LionsPhil says:

            I wouldn’t really say there’s evidence of that in the trailer, but I guess you can hope that’s what they are aiming for in the game.

        • DyingTickles says:

          It’s actually exactly what she’s writing about here. Before, she imagined Lara’s vulnerabilities in the graphical animation-blending glitches. Now, the vulnerability, and the overcoming of the vulnerability which is what helped Cara become who she is, is planned and purposeful.

    • sebmojo says:

      This is a great piece, Cara. Thanks. I have a 4 year old daughter who’s obsessed with Angry Birds and Trine (or ‘the lady, the knight and the wizard’) and the course of her gaming education and what it might come to mean to her looms large in my mind.

  2. captain nemo says:

    Love the point about no formulaic love interest. At her best, Lara always was a loner.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      You could tell that by the noises she made when bumping into things

  3. Hoaxfish says:

    I think one of the main things overlooked in Tomb Raider is the focus on animation (e.g. the swan dive). Obviously it takes a backseat in discussions when compared to more “visible” features.

    • Sleepymatt says:

      Ah, this… so much this. I can strongly remember doing swan dives whenever possible just for the joy of that animation.

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      AlwaysRight says:

      YES!

      I remember seeing Lara perform the swan dive in a trailer playing on a screen in an ‘Electronics Boutique’ and being enraptured by it.
      I don’t know if I’m missremembering but I don’t think the swan dive was explained in the manual. I was so frustrated because I thought they had taken the move out…until… I figured it out on a water heavy level along with that slow, gymnastic mantle she could peform. AMAZING!

      I loved TR1 so much.

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      MarkN says:

      There was also the handstand ledge pull-up. Never explained in the manual IIRC, but a chance to be properly awesome just for the sake of it.

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      particlese says:

      Indeed: Even the (super-tedious, I thought) Game Boy Color game had amazing animation.

      Edit: o_o There were two! I only had the first, but this is a good example anyway:

      Yep, not horribly fun, but very pretty for a GBC game! Smooth as a Metal Slug…apparently there was one of those on GBC, too, but its animation isn’t so smooth.

    • BD says:

      I, too, remember pulling off the swan dive, then climbing back to the same spot, then diving again, over and over.

      And yes, there was the handstand too.

      IIRC the handstand was easy to do, you just had to hold some buttons, but executing the swan dive took a combination that wouldn’t always trigger.

      Anyway, yeah. Swan Dive: The Game.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I remember playing the Tomb Raider demo on the same machine I was playing through Quake at the time. Visually, Quake is interesting and atmospheric (for a deliberately gloomy game). Visually, Tomb Raider was beautiful. The levels were beautiful. The lighting effects were beautiful. The animation was beautiful.

      Playing Quake on my current machine just goes to highlight how awful the choppy animations on the Quake monsters are. Meanwhile, starting up the GoG version of original TR just goes to show how the smooth character animations still fit nicely with the super-slick camera pans at ridiculous-frames-per-second.

      While they both do very different styles of action-adventure (Quake focusing more on combat, TR focusing more on puzzles, both encouraging plenty of exploration), and don’t even have the same perspective, the limited polygon budgets and the fact that there weren’t very many 3D games out at the time* make me tend to think of one when the other is brought up. I love both games, but TR was a huge leap forward in terms of showing that cutting edge games didn’t need to be gloomy.

      *Other than a lot of racing games and other relatively simplistic titles that didn’t require the programmers to invent their own 3D character animation systems (because nothing had been standardized yet).

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    AmateurScience says:

    Great read (RPS is on fire today). I thought it might be DOTA, I was wrong.

  5. Chris D says:

    One of the best pieces I’ve read all year. And it’s been a good year. Thank you.

  6. LennyLeonardo says:

    Awesome stuff. I loved Tomb Raider, and even as a shitty teenage boy I still dug the fact that Lara was the anti-Red Riding Hood. Or rather, she was like Red Riding Hood turning around and saying “Fuck you, Pater, I’m going into the woods, and if I see a wolf I’ll blow it’s fucking face off!.”

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    Saul says:

    Great stuff, Cara. I’m male, but I don’t remember ever seeing Lara as an object of sexual attraction. I *was* her, in that dripping cave. Few games have pulled me in so strongly since.

    • Seraph says:

      Yeah, I got Tomb Raider Anniversary a couple of years back and totally loved it – very immersive.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      There’s some icky freudian imagery going on in this comment that may be arguing otherwise…

    • Donjo says:

      “in that dripping cave”. Sorry. It just seems funny. I got TR1 the Christmas after it was released and played it religiously. Discovery of the swan dive and the hanging-from-ledge-handstand-flip were seminal moments.

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    mpk says:

    Brilliant.

    • BD says:

      I’ll just echo that I registered in order to post that I thought this was one of the better articles I ever read.

      Not because I have a seventeen year old girl peeing in the woods fetish, but because I could remember being 11 years old when I played it myself, and being a boy, not sexualising Lara Croft, but instead being very into the guns, and the shooting, and the acrobatics, and thinking how the whole thing was cool.

      I don’t think we of pre-teen age were the demographic for the game, yet it probably worked best with us.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        I was in the middle of puberty at the time and all I could think of was how bad-ass Laura was. Smart (SO MANY PUZZLES), strong (no way I’d be able to run and jump and flip off of walls with such ease in real life), and courageous (Forget Turok. Laura Croft is the original T Rex slayer). The fact that she happened to be a lady was secondary, just like Samus Aran before her.

        • Pindie says:

          You too, huh?

          It’s funny how when you think about Lara gender only comes up 3rd or 4th. Unless you are a game company executive.
          I think over years the focused on sexiness ruined the character for me. Blatant fanservice is not what I got from the first game.

          I also think it’s worth to comment on fact some people call for strong female leads or gender role discussion to be part of video games. In reality if you make a good game and a good character you achieve much more.

          The new Tomb Raider comes to mind, with in-your-face attempts to characterize Lara via plot devices and cutscenes. I think it would work better if it was done more via gameplay since the original game of the series pretty much conveyed all the feelings and atmosphere by level design.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Blatant fanservice is not what I got from the first game.

            The article header image is the original box art. No, CORE were fanservicing hard from the moment they nailed a couple of bowling balls to her chest.

            To be honest, execs who don’t play the games can’t really be blamed for noticing the most immediate and shallow aspects of them, and to pretend Tomb Raider doesn’t go to efforts to yell “TITS!” as a first impression is silly, even if it turns out that on a deeper investigation it’s actually not Lula 3D.

            You might be able to blame the publisher end of things for some of the merchandise, though.

          • captain nemo says:

            “The new Tomb Raider comes to mind, with in-your-face attempts to characterize Lara via plot devices and cutscenes. I think it would work better if it was done more via gameplay” -> Jackpot

  9. Seraph says:

    Are the author’s parents explorers or something? I wish my life was that interesting!

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      Bluerps says:

      Yeah. I feel considerably less awesome now. When I was 17 I hadn’t even left Europe, let alone gone into a jungle.

    • Carachan1 says:

      No, but I’m Scottish and I’d have done anything to get away from the weather.

  10. hypercrisis says:

    A professor of mine once remarked that she didn’t consider Lara’s aesthetics to be a negative image, for she does not look this way for any reason other than herself. She is capable, determined, and retains her femininity. She is not the boy-in-drag female character most games end up with.

  11. donmilliken says:

    I quite enjoyed the first Tomb Raider, but quickly grew tired of Core’s need to push out a new sequel every year.

  12. sinister agent says:

    June 2007: I am seventeen.

    Oh god, oh god, oh god. Never do this again. :'(

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      December 2012: I am really fucking old.

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      Fede says:

      @sinister agent: actually, now that you remind me, how could Cara be 17 in 2007 and 26 now? She says so in the article, unless I misread.

      But apart from that, very nice article. This year gaming made me had two great additions, with this and Patricia Hernandez’s.

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        Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        Tomb Raider ages you, man.

      • Carachan1 says:

        Hi! Actually, it’s a bit of an oversight now I think of it – I wrote this in January, when I was in fact, 26. It has taken me almost a year to edit together into this shape.

        You know me usually. Crazy, excitable, and a tad overlong.

        • impeus says:

          So… about the 2007 and seventeen thing….

          Should it have said you were 22 in 2007, or 17 in 2002 ?

          Either way I feel old.

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          keithzg says:

          But . . . but . . . if you were 26 in January of 2012, that means you were:
          25 in January of 2011
          24 in January of 2010
          23 in January of 2009
          22 in January of 2008
          21 in January of 2007.

          So, while you were 21 in January of 2007, and 22 in January of 2008, inbetween in June of 2007 you were 17?

        • DonJefe says:

          That makes even less sense. If you are 27 now then you were 22 in 2007, no?

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          Fede says:

          @Cara: Yeah, and in fact you remind me of Quinns (but I’d reserve overlong for Tim Rogers).

          Oh! Quinns was 7¼ in 1993, so you should be almost the same age!

          Edit: This GMM also reminds me of this rather important message.

        • sinister agent says:

          People, people. The answer is obvious. We are not speaking to the first Cara.

          • Carachan1 says:

            Oh balls! You guys are right! It was 2003. TWO THOUSAND AND THREE! Aaaaaaaaaah

          • Groove says:

            I’m really enjoying how every time I get really excited about someone writing for RPS I find out that they’re the same age as me.

            Then I briefly feel like I’ve acheived nothing with my life, but hey-ho.

  13. Saarlaender39 says:

    “June 2007: I am seventeen.”

    “At twenty-six, I am still often told that being out alone at night is dangerous.”

    Hmmm,…17 years old in 2007,…26 years old in 2012…did I miss something?

    @Fede: I see, I’m not the only one wondering… ;)

    • 0over0 says:

      At the time you’re reading this, time travel hasn’t been invented yet…but it will be.

      In 2016, time travel is invented and it’s immediately banned around the world. However, writers continue to use it to send articles back in time so that by the time they choose to write, they will already have amassed a list of writing credits.

      It’s a good piece, future writer!

      Remember that enormous climbing puzzle–the Cave of Winds or something like that? I used to scream whenever I’d miss a jump and Lara would fall and fall and fall and pancake onto the cavern floor. Not a frustration scream, mind you, but a scream as if I were the one actually falling. I really hated that because it was a reminder that I had been so sucked into the narrative, and also that I had so audibly failed in my narrative.

      • mr.black says:

        Connecting this to the swan dive swooning on page 1, I think I swan dived from that first highest platform at least once just for the heck of it (and cause of the frustration from repeated falling..)

  14. Ross Angus says:

    Lovely work. I especially like how Cara talks about being alone in the game. The atmosphere of those first few Tomb Raider games was often quiet, empty and lonely. I loved it.

    • Skabooga says:

      Indeed, every human you meet in Tomb Raider is actually trying to kill you, which heightened the sense of being alone for me. Granted, every animal is also trying to kill you, but one expects better from the humans.

      Also, notable mention goes to Tomb Raider for having a skate-boarding villain. Truly, a product of the nineties.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        That guy was mad:

        “Are you firing at me? Are you Firing at ME? There’s nobody else here, so you MUST be firing at ME.”

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    Bluerps says:

    Great article!

  16. SuicideKing says:

    You know it’s interesting…the screenshots look like TR2, and if i’m not wrong the Golden Mask. I still have the disks, and the case.

    I was too scared to play it when dad first bought it home (perhaps was 6 or 7) and i never came around to playing it because i pretty much remained scared…would just run around her home i think…now the thing won’t install properly.

    Anyway…i’m male, but i’ve somehow never seen Lara sexually. In fact i only noticed the exaggerated figure NOW when i looked at the screenshots and read what Cara said.

    I bought TR:Underworld a few months back, just to see if it had the same feel as the old TRII…not quite. Anyway, while i’ve never really been “one” with her, so to speak, i’d probably not have thought of the character differently had Lara been male…and i have cared about her, in a way. Like, her clothes being environment appropriate…like if she’s in bad weather i select trousers because in my mind i feel that i’d hate to not be covered in a tropical thunderstorm. So maybe in that way i do sort of feel at one with her. So if she’s fall and die it would feel horrible, especially because of he sick ‘crack’ sound that’s made…

    But then i’m the kind of guy who hates it when his fellow marines in Halo die, I always go out of may to save them. Feels horrible when they die. Company feels good in an FPS game.

    But OT, i always liked TR for its puzzles and challenges, that’s about it.

    Anyway, really well written piece, RPS seems to have become a home to well written pieces…on the entire gender topic…i hear you.

    [random]
    I found it interesting to observe that homophobia or at least extreme discomfort and prejudice against a homosexual man is greatly influenced by the fact that a straight man suddenly feels sexually threatened, something he’s not used to, and thus the negative reaction to someone homosexual.
    [/random]

    And i find it interesting that what women experience in London (from Cara’s post) is 99% identical to what happens in New Delhi…

    I don’t want to say more because…well there’s been this pretty gruesome gangrape two days ago, most of urban India is currently lit up by intense discussion and debate, both on and offline. Hell even parliament’s been stalled over this issue. So i don’t know, at 4 AM i’m incapable of adding more value here.

    I think it’ll still take three generations more for 90% gender equality, at least here. I’m 19. So that’s still around 60+ years. Sad, i may never see it.

  17. mckertis says:

    Is this a prolonged, drawn-out boast that some girl was able to have adventures in a jungle ? Not impressed, really.

    “Ultimately, if society started valuing self control and respect for others’ personal space”
    Then we might not be here today, i’m sorry to say.

  18. Matt7895 says:

    I absolutely loved the Tomb Raider games. 1-4, anyway. Chronicles disappointed me, and I never tried Angel of Darkness. Then Underworld came out a few years ago, and I decided to give it a go. I bloody loved it. It had the exact same feeling as the originals – epic locations to explore, minimal combat, great atmosphere, and with better controls and camera. I bought and loved Anniversary too. I was looking forward to seeing more of that vein from Crystal Dynamics… so you can imagine how I feel every time I see a trailer for the forthcoming reboot. Horrible.

    • Dominic White says:

      Everything the devs have said about the new TR suggests that it’s going to be even more exploration-focused than any previous game in the series. They just show all the action stuff in trailers because Lara walking around and climbing stuff doesn’t make for trade-show material.

      • Matt7895 says:

        I really hope you’re right, because it’ll be pretty hard for me to get what I’ve seen out of my head. The explosions, the bow, the over-the-top violence, the screaming…. it just isn’t what I want in a Tomb Raider game.

  19. Michael Fogg says:

    Bosoms, melons, milk factories, busts, funbags, knockers, ballistics, boobies, jugs, nipples, jubblies, STONKING GREAT TITS!

  20. Inglourious Badger says:

    Now I want to go to Tanzania

    • Dozer says:

      I live in Tasmania. It’s not quite the same but you’re slightly less likely to be eaten by ants while peeing.

    • Carachan1 says:

      If you get me drunk at RPS drinks one day, let me regale you with tales of what happened on Kilimanjaro. I climbed it a week after this and it was a bit of an epic trek that no videogame could ever replicate. Unless it was a total jerk.

  21. Jade Raven says:

    Talk about a fresh perspective. I think it certainly would be good to have an actual female writer on the RPS core staff one day (rather than just John Walker) and Cara’s piece here is one of the most interesting I’ve read on RPS this year.

    • sinister agent says:

      I would like to imply that John is an actual female for comedic purposes. Please find enclosed my application.

    • Premium User Badge

      Faldrath says:

      Yep, all I want for RPS in 2013 is that they hire Cara full-time.

      • Midroc says:

        The same Cara Ellison who was in the midst of doritosgate earlier this year? The one who threatened to sue Robert Florence after his article on the shilling and coercion taking place in today’s gaming journalism? The Cara who had tomb raider ads plastered all over her twitter while in the process of reviewing the game?

        I’m not saying this article is bad, it’s a fairly interesting read. but I don’t think she have the credibility left to write anything other than pieces on her personal experiences with games, such as this article.

        • MondSemmel says:

          Um…how did you get Cara Ellison confused with Lauren Wainwright?

      • The Random One says:

        Come write for us, Cara

        Come write for usssssssss

        FOREVER

      • Groove says:

        Yeah, Cara’s pieces are the ones I look out for the most now. I’d love to see her join the team fully.

    • apa says:

      Excellent article in itself with the added bonus of (in gaming articles) rarely seen female perspective! World needs more Lara Crofts – no one, a man or a woman, should be afraid to go out alone or feel sexually threatened by others simply because of gender.

  22. Akael says:

    I always felt the theme of solitude most strongly in Super Metroid – I’d highly recommend it if you don’t mind going slightly retro.

  23. Radiant says:

    Best jumping around on a crash mat in any game ever.

  24. Network Crayon says:

    I miss good old yorkshire lara, fantastic article.

  25. loldrup says:

    Nice writeup!
    If you took a look at evolutionary psychology you would find answers to most of your ponderings.

    PS. If something is “natural”, it doesn’t imply it is good. It doesn’t imply that it can’t be countered either. It’s a matter of being creative.

  26. jameswilddev says:

    What struck me in a recent brief playthrough of TR was how barmy the game was.

    There was none of this realistic, vulnerable, dark stuff that emerged from the woodwork.

    Atlanteans EXPLODE on death. You face off with a copycat clone of yourself made of meat. A boss skateboards around a mine that inexplicably has levers in the walls.

    IT’S GLORIOUS.

    Not sure if they were on something when making this, and they ran out by Chronicles or what.

  27. pepper says:

    You are braver then I ever was in tombraider, I must have been about 10 or 11(you are 1 year younger so about 1999/2000) when I was playing it, and the T-rex scared the hell out of me. Never dared to pass in there, I couldnt believe that I could take out a T-rex with 2 measly handguns.

    I did end up buying tombraider 3(I think) later on and getting a bit further.

    One of the things I loved about tombraider where the animations, it always looked so beautifull, I could spend ages jumping of the most boring things in her villa.

  28. Premium User Badge

    MerseyMal says:

    Slightly OT but I remember Terry Pratchett writing about Tomb Raider on alt.fan.pratchett with regard to Lara’s habit of killing endangered species.

    “And there hasn’t been a media backlash because most journalists don’t
    actually play games and, in Lara’s case, look no further that the fact
    that she’s got a ponytail and enormous breasts. But now Lara Croft has
    apparently become some sort of official icon to publicise British
    science (kill the natives, stomp the wildlife, steal rare archeological
    items…yeah, that ought to work) someone’s going to look over their
    kid’s shoulder and say, hang on…

    That won’t affect sales, I expect. And of course it’s only a game. But
    if it becomes a mindless shoot ‘em up with some timed doors and tricky
    runs, then there are *better* shoot ‘em ups. I finished Unreal before
    starting TR3 — the bad guys there duck and dodge and do real damage.

    TR1 and 2 were fine — you were up against card-carrying Bad Guys and
    that’s good enough for games. And a nice touch in TR2 was getting the
    monks to fight on ‘your’ side. There’s a lot I like about TR3, but
    precisely because it seems so realistic the gun-toting British Museum
    guards and waterworks officials appear ludicrous. There’s no narrative
    reason given for all this. They’re just there to shoot and be shot at.
    It’s dumbed-down the game.”

  29. squareking says:

    What kind of Minecraft mod is this?!

  30. Tom Servo says:

    Great read, although I think the author was too harsh on the recent TR games. I thought it was clear that the men weren’t love interests and were just hired hands and assistants, kind of like Alfred for Batman. I have fond memories of the original Tomb Raider as it was the first 3dfx game I ever played and it seemed like gaming had moved into the future. Despite the fact that Lara was ridiculously drawn, I also recall Tomb Raider as the first game with a female lead character and as the author says, it was good she never descended into romance novel territory but carried the game. I am curious about the reboot but I want my Lara to be strong and have a “been there, killed/discovered that” attitude in her travels.

  31. Dan Griliopoulos says:

    Spoiler; in the new Tomb Raider, she doesn’t get a machete, but she beats an awful lot of men to death with a climbing tool.

  32. Leiaz says:

    Great Article.

    I played Tomb Raider 1-4 and Underworld but only liked the first four games. And from the marketing so far, I don’t like the new one either. I don’t like the “realist”, dark origin story. I’d have preferred an adult, strong Lara, with Mirror’s edge running/jumping, but better guns and the old mindless shooting of endangered species. And I liked her being alone too, without silly sidekicks in her mansion.

    I wanted to be both Lara Croft and Indiana Jones as a kid but dressed more like Indiana Jones despite being a girl. You *need* a vest with long sleeves and trousers to get through a field of nettles as high as you and reach the ancient artifact before the other team .. in adventurer camp. I also got really huge blisters on both feet due to stupid new shoes but it didn’t stop me, because I was a real adventurer :D One of the adults supervising was into “natural medicine” and wanted to put onions on my blisters, but I refused. At the end, when I told my parents how great it was and how we won and look at my battle scarred feet … they wanted to punch the organizers :D

  33. morlock76 says:

    This article (again, I have to say) shed some new light on gaming … following this line I really need to think about studying the effect of games on role models, self identity and gender … too much great thinks, too little time *sigh* Thank you for the insight, Cara.

  34. emmawatson says:

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  35. bill says:

    This was excellent. I wish RPS would do more of this kind of stuff like they used to.

    As for the first 2-3 tomb raider games, they were awesome. There was something about the feeling of exploration and entering the unknown mixed with the new (at the time) sensation of realistic 3d graphics that probably won’t ever come around again.

    I don’t think I ever really considered Lara to be sexualised, despite being a teenage boy at the time. That was mainly in the marketing, and in the game it was all about the animation and exploration.

    I could never get into the recent remakes – people say they were better games, but they just didn’t have the same feel. Felt like any other game.

  36. tims says:

    That was awesome

  37. JenniferSimpson22 says:

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