Tomb Raider

02 Jun

If you have to stare at someone’s bum, it’s far better to look at a nice female bum than a bloke’s bum!

— Adrian Smith of Core Design

There was something refreshing about looking at the screen and seeing myself as a woman. Even if I was performing tasks that were a bit unrealistic… I still felt like, hey, this is a representation of me, as myself, as a woman. In a game. How long have we waited for that?

— gamer Nikki Douglas

Sure, she’s powerful and assertive. She takes care of herself, and she knows how to handle a gun. She’s a great role model for girls. But how many copies of Tomb Raider do you think they’d have sold if they’d made Lara Croft flat-chested?

— Charles Ardai, Computer Gaming World

It strikes me that Lara Croft must be the most famous videogame character in history if you take the word “character” literally. Her only obvious competition comes from the Nintendo stable — from Super Mario and Pac-Man and all the rest. But they aren’t so much characters as eternal mascots, archetypes out of time in the way of Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny. Lara, on the other hand, has a home, a reasonably coherent personal chronology, a reasonably fleshed-out personality — heck, she even has a last name!

Of course, Lara is by no means alone in any of these things among videogame stars. Nevertheless, for all the cultural inroads that gaming has made in recent decades, most people who don’t play games will still give you a blank stare if you try to talk to them about any of our similarly well-rounded videogame characters. Mention Solid Snake, Cloud, or Gordon Freeman to them and you’ll get nothing. But Lara is another story. After twenty games that have sold almost 100 million copies combined and three feature films whose box-office receipts approach $1 billion, everybody not living under a proverbial rock has heard of Lara Croft. Love her or hate her, she has become one of us in a way that none of her peers can match.

Lara’s roots reach back to the first wave of computer gaming in Britain, to the era when Sinclair Spectrums and Commodore 64s were the hottest machines on the market. In 1984, in the midst of this boom, Ian Stewart and Kevin Norburn founded the publisher Gremlin Graphics — later Gremlin Interactive — in the back room of a Sheffield software shop. Gremlin went on to become the Kevin Bacon of British game development: seemingly everybody who was anybody over the ensuing decades was associated with them at one time or another, or at the very least worked with someone who had been. This applies not least to Lara Croft, that most iconic woman in the history of British gaming.

Core Design, the studio that made her, was formed in 1986 as Gremlin Derby, around the talents of four young men from the same town who had just created the hit game Bounder using the Commodore 64s in their bedrooms. But not long after giving the four a real office to work in, the folks at Gremlin’s Sheffield headquarters began to realize that they should have looked before they leaped — that they couldn’t actually afford to be funding outside studios with their current revenue stream. (Such was the way of things in the topsy-turvy world of early British game development, when sober business expertise was not an overly plentiful commodity.) Rather than close the Derby branch they had barely had time to open, three Gremlin insiders — a sales executive named Jeremy Heath-Smith, the current manager of the Derby studio Greg Holmes, and the original Gremlin co-founder Kevin Norburn — cooked up a deal to take it over and run it themselves as an independent entity. They set up shop under the name of Core Design in 1988.

Over the year that followed, Core had its ups and downs: Heath-Smith bought out Holmes in 1990 and Norburn in 1992, both under circumstances that weren’t entirely amicable. But the little studio had a knack for squeezing out a solid seller whenever one was really needed, such as Rick Dangerous and Chuck Rock. Although most of these games were made available for MS-DOS among other platforms, few of them had much in common with the high-concept adventure games, CRPGs, and strategy games that dominated among American developers at the time. They were rather direct descendants of 8-bit games like Bounder: fast-paced, colorful, modest in size and ambition, and shot through with laddish humor. By 1991, Core had begun porting their games to consoles like the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo, with whose sensibilities they were perhaps a more natural fit. And indeed, the consoles soon accounted for the majority of their sales.

In late 1994, Jeremy Heath-Smith was invited to fly out to Japan to check out the two latest and greatest consoles from that country, both of which were due for a domestic Japanese release before the end of that year and an international rollout during the following one. The Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation were groundbreaking in a number of ways: not only did they use capacious CDs instead of cramped cartridges as their standard storage media, but they each included a graphics processing unit (GPU) for doing 3D graphics. At the time, id Software’s DOOM was in the vanguard of a 3D insurgency on personal computers, one that was sweeping away older, slower games like so much chaff in the breeze. The current generation of consoles, however, just didn’t have the horsepower to do a credible job of running games like that; they had been designed for another paradigm, that of 2D sprites moving across pixel-graphic backgrounds. The Saturn and the PlayStation would change all that, allowing the console games that constituted 80 to 90 percent of the total sales of digital games to join the 3D revolution as well. Needless to say, the potential payoff was huge.

Back at Core Design in Derby, Heath-Smith told everyone what he had seen in Japan, then asked for ideas for making maximum use of the new consoles’ capabilities. A quiet 22-year-old artist and designer named Toby Gard raised his hand: “I’ve got this idea of pyramids.” You would play a dashing archaeologist, he explained, dodging traps and enemies on the trail of ancient relics in a glorious 3D-rendered environment.

It must be said that it wasn’t an especially fresh or unexpected idea in the broad strokes. Raiders of the Lost Ark had been a constant gaming touchstone almost from the moment it had first reached cinemas in 1981. Core’s own Rick Dangerous had been essentially the same game as the one that Gard was now proposing, albeit implemented using 2D sprites rather than 3D graphics. (Its titular hero there was a veritable clone of the Raiders‘s hero Indiana Jones, right down to his trademark whip and fedora; if you didn’t read the box copy, you would assume it was a licensed game.)

Still, Gard was enthusiastic, and possessed of “immense talent” in the opinion of Heath-Smith. His idea certainly had the potential to yield an exciting 3D experience, and Heath-Smith had been around long enough to know that originality in the abstract was often overrated when it came to making games that sold. He gave Tomb Raider the green light to become Core’s cutting-edge showcase for the next-generation consoles, Core’s biggest, most expensive game to date. Which isn’t to say that he could afford to make it all that big or expensive by the standards of the American and Japanese studios: a team of just half a dozen people created Tomb Raider.

The Tomb Raider team. Toby Gard is third from left, Jeremy Heath-Smith second from right. Heather Gibson was the sole woman to work on the game — which, to be fair, was one more woman than worked on most games from this period.

The game would depart in a significant way from the many run-and-gun DOOM clones on personal computers by being a bit less bloody-minded, emphasizing puzzle-solving and platforming as much as combat. The developers quickly decided that the style of gameplay they had in mind demanded that they show the player’s avatar onscreen from a behind-the-back view rather than going with the first-person viewpoint of DOOM — an innovative choice at the time, albeit one that several other studios were making simultaneously, with such diverse eventual results as Fade to BlackDie Hard Trilogy, Super Mario 64, and MDK. In the beginning, though, they had no inkling that it would be Lara Croft’s bum the player would be staring at for hours. The star was to be Rick Dangerous or another of his ilk — i.e., just another blatant clone of Indiana Jones.

But Heath-Smith was seasoned enough to know that that sort of thing wouldn’t fly anymore in a world in which games were becoming an ever bigger and more visible mass-media phenomenon. “You must be insane,” he said to Toby Gard as soon as he heard about his intended Indiana clone. “We’ll get sued from here to kingdom come!” He told him to go back to the drawing board — literally; he was an artist, after all — and create a more clearly differentiated character.

So, Gard sat down at his desk to see what he could do. He soon produced the first sketches of Lara — Lara Cruz, as he called her in the beginning. Gard:

Lara was based on Indiana Jones, Tank Girl, and, people always say, my sister. Maybe subconsciously she was my sister. Anyway, she was supposed to be this strong woman, this upper-class adventurer. The rules at the time were, if you’re going to make a game, make sure the main character is male and make sure he’s American; otherwise it won’t sell in America. Those were the rules coming down from the marketing men. So I thought, “Ah, I know how to fix this. I’ll make the bad guys all American and the lead character female and as British as I can make her.”

She wasn’t a tits-out-for-the-lads type of character in any way. Quite the opposite, in fact. I thought that what was interesting about her was, she was this unattainable, austere, dangerous sort of person.

Sex appeal aside, Lara was in tune with the larger zeitgeist around her in a way that few videogames characters before her could match. Gard first sketched her during the fall of 1995, when Cool Britannia and Britpop were the rages of the age in his homeland, when Oasis and Blur were trash-talking one another and vying for the top position on the charts. It was suddenly hip to be British in a way it hadn’t been since the Swinging Sixties. Bands like the aforementioned made a great point of singing in their natural accents — or, some would say, an exaggerated version of same — and addressing distinctly British concerns rather than lapsing into the typical Americanisms of rock and pop music. Lara was cut from the same cloth. Gard changed her last name to “Croft” when he decided “Cruz” just wasn’t British enough, and created a defiantly blue-blooded lineage for her, making her the daughter of a Lord Henshingly Croft, complete with a posh public-school accent.

Jeremy Heath-Smith was not initially impressed. “Are you insane?” he asked Gard for the second time in a month. “We don’t do girls in videogames!” But Gard could be deceptively stubborn when he felt strongly about something, and this was one of those occasions. Heath-Smith remembers Gard telling him that “she’d be bendy. She’d do things that blokes couldn’t do.” Finally, he relented. “There was this whole movement of, females can really be cool, particularly from Japan,” he says.

And indeed, Lara was first drawn with a distinctly manga sensibility. Only gradually, as Gard worked her into the actual game, did she take on a more realistic style. Comparatively speaking, of course. We’ll come back to that…

An early concept sketch of Lara Croft.

Tomb Raider was becoming ever more important for Core. In the wake of the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation, the videogames industry was changing quickly, in tandem with its customers’ expectations of what a new game ought to look like; there was a lot of space on one of those shiny new CDs, and games were expected to fill it. The pressures prompted a wave of consolidations in Britain, a pooling of a previously diffuse industry’s resources in the service of fewer but bigger, slicker, more expensive games. Core actually merged twice in just a couple of years: first with the US Gold publishing label (its name came from its original business model, that of importing American games into Britain) and then with Domark, another veteran of the 1980s 8-bit scene. Domark began trading under the name of Eidos shortly after making the deal, with Core in the role of its premier studio.

Eidos had as chairman of its board Ian Livingstone, a legend of British gaming in analog spaces, the mastermind of the Warhammer tabletop game and the Fighting Fantasy line of paperback gamebooks that enthralled millions of youth during the 1980s. He went out to have a look at what Core had in the works. “I remember it was snowing,” he says. “I almost didn’t go over to Derby.” But he did, and “I guess you could say it was love at first sight when I stepped through the door. Seeing Lara on screen.”

With such a powerful advocate, Tomb Raider was elevated to the status of Eidos’s showcase game for the Christmas of 1996, with a commensurate marketing budget. But that meant that it simply had to be a hit, a bigger one by far than anything Core had ever done before. And Core was getting some worrisome push-back from Eidos’s American arm, expressing all the same conventional wisdom that Toby Gard had so carefully created Lara to defy: that she was too British, that the pronunciation of her first name didn’t come naturally to American lips, that she was a girl, for Pete’s sake. Cool Britannia wasn’t really a thing in the United States; despite widespread predictions of a second muscial British Invasion in the States to supersede the clapped-out Seattle grunge scene, Oasis had only partially broken through, Blur not at all, and Spice Girls — the latest Britpop sensation — had yet to see their music even released Stateside. Eidos needed another way to sell Lara Croft to Americans.

It may have been around this time that an incident which Toby Gard would tell of frequently in the years immediately after Tomb Raider‘s release occurred. He was, so the story goes, sitting at his computer tweaking his latest model of Lara when his mouse hand slipped, and her chest suddenly doubled or tripled in size. When a laughing Gard showed it to his co-workers in a “look what a silly thing I did!” sort of way, their eyes lit up and they told him to leave it that way. “The technology didn’t allow us to make her [look] visually as we wanted, so it was more of a way of heightening certain things so it would give her some shape,” claims Core’s Adrian Smith.

Be that as it may, Eidos’s marketing team, eying that all-important American market that would make or break this game that would make or break their company, saw an obvious angle to take. They plastered Lara, complete with improbably huge breasts and an almost equally bulbous rear end, all over their advertising. “Sometimes, having a killer body just isn’t enough,” ran a typical tagline. “Hey, what’s a little temptation? Especially when everything looks this good. In the game, we mean.” As for the enemies Lara would have to kill, “Not everyone sees a bright light just before dying. Lucky stiffs.” (The innuendo around Lara was never subtle…)

This, then, was the way that Lara Croft greeted the public when her game dropped in September of 1996. And Toby Gard hated it. Giving every indication of having half fallen in love with his creation, he took the tarting up she was receiving under the hands of Eidos’s marketers badly. He saw them rather as a young man might the underworld impresario who had convinced his girlfriend — or his sister? — to become a stripper. A suggestion that reached Core’s offices to include a cheat code to remove Lara’s clothing entirely was, needless to say, not well-received by Gard. “It’s really weird when you see a character of yours doing these things,” he says. “I’ve spent my life drawing pictures of things — and they’re mine, you know?”

But of course they weren’t his. As is par for the course in the games industry, Gard automatically signed over all of the rights to everything he made at Core just as soon as he made it. He was not the final arbiter of what Lara did — or what was done to her – from here on out. So, he protested the only way he knew how: he quit.

Jeremy Heath-Smith, whose hardheaded businessman’s view of the world was the polar opposite of Gard’s artistic temperament, was gobsmacked by the decision.

I just couldn’t believe it. I remember saying, “Listen, Toby, this game’s going to be huge. You’re on a commission for this, you’re on a bonus scheme, you’re going to make a fortune. Don’t leave. Just sit here for the next two years. Don’t do anything. You’ll make more money than you’ve ever seen in your life.” I’m not arty, I’m commercial. I couldn’t understand his rationale for giving up millions of pounds for some artistic bloody stand. I just thought it was insanity.

Heath-Smith’s predictions of Tomb Raider‘s success — and with them the amount of money Gard was leaving on the table — came true in spades.

Suspecting every bit as strongly as Heath-Smith that they had a winner on their hands, Eidos had already flown a lucky flock of reporters all the way to Egypt in August of 1996 to see Tomb Raider in action for the first time, with the real Pyramids of Giza as a backdrop. By now, the Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation had been out for a year in North America and Europe, with the PlayStation turning into by far the bigger success, thanks both to Sony’s superior marketing and a series of horrific unforced errors on Sega’s part. Nevertheless, Tomb Raider appeared first on the Saturn, thanks to a deal Eidos had inked which promised Sega one precious month of exclusivity in return for a substantial cash payment. Rather than reviving the fortunes of Sega’s moribund console, Tomb Raider on the Saturn wound up serving mostly as a teaser for the PlayStation and MS-DOS versions that everyone knew were waiting in the wings.

The game still has qualities to recommend it today, although it certainly does show its age in some senses as well. The plot is barely comprehensible, a sort of Mad Libs of Raiders of the Lost Ark, conveyed in fifteen minutes of cut scenes worth of pseudo-mystical claptrap. The environments themselves, however, are possessed of a windy grandeur that requires no exposition, with vistas that can still cause you to pull up short from time to time. If nothing else, Tomb Raider makes a nice change of pace from the blood-splattered killing fields of the DOOM clones. In the first half of the game, combat is mostly with wildlife, and is relatively infrequent. You’ll spend more of your time working out the straightforward but satisfying puzzles — locked doors and hidden keys, movable boulders waiting to be turned into staircases, that sort of thing — and navigating vertigo-inducing jumps. In this sense and many others, Tomb Raider is more of an heir to the fine old British tradition of 8-bit action-adventures than it is to the likes of DOOM. Lara is quite an acrobat, able to crouch and spring, flip forward and backward and sideways, swim, climb walls, grab ledges, and when necessary shoot an arsenal of weapons that expands in time to include shotguns and Uzis alongside her iconic twin thigh-holstered pistols.

Amidst all the discussion of Lara Croft’s appearance, a lot of people failed to notice the swath she cuts through some of the world’s most endangered species of wildlife. “The problem is that any animal that’s dangerous to humans we’ve already hunted to near extinction,” said Toby Gard. “Maybe we should have used non-endangered, harmless animals. Then you’d be asking me, ‘Why was Lara shooting all those nice bunnies and squirrels?’ You can’t win, can you?”

Unfortunately, Tomb Raider increasingly falls prey to its designers’ less worthy instincts in its second half. As the story ups the stakes from just a treasure-hunting romp to yet another world-threatening videogame conspiracy, the environments grow less coherent and more nonsensical in rhythm, until Lara is battling hordes of mutant zombies inside what appears for all the world to be a pyramid made out of flesh and blood. And the difficulty increases to match, until gameplay becomes a matter of die-and-die-again until you figure out how to get that one step further, then rinse and repeat. This is particularly excruciating on the console versions, which strictly ration their save points. (The MS-DOS version, on the other hand, lets you save any time you like, which eases the pain considerably.) The final gauntlet you must run to escape from the last of the fifteen levels is absolutely brutal, a long series of tricky, non-intuitive moves that you have to time exactly right to avoid instant death, an exercise in rote yet split-second button mashing to rival the old Dragon’s Lair game. It’s no mystery why Tomb Raider ended up like this: its amount of content is limited, and it needed to stretch its playing time to justify a price tag of $50 or more. Still, it’s hard not to think wistfully about what a wonderful little six or seven hour game it might have become under other circumstances, if it hadn’t needed to fill fifteen or twenty hours instead.

Tomb Raider‘s other weaknesses are also in the predictable places for a game of this vintage, a time when designers were still trying to figure out how to make this style of game playable. (“Everyone is sitting down and realizing that it’s bloody hard to design games for 3D,” said Peter Molyneux in a contemporaneous interview.) The controls can be a little awkward, what with the way they keep changing depending on what Lara’s actually up to. Ditto the distractingly flighty camera through which you view Lara and her environs, which can be uncannily good at finding exactly the angle you don’t want it to at times. Then, too, in the absence of a good auto-map or clear line of progression through each level, you might sometimes find orientation to be at least as much a challenge as any of the other, more deliberately placed obstacles to progress.

Games would slowly get better at this sort of thing, but it would take time, and it’s not really fair to scold Tomb Raider overmuch for failings shared by virtually all of the 3D action games of 1996. Tomb Raider is never less than a solidly executed game, and occasionally it becomes an inspired one; your first encounter with a Tyrannosaurus Rex (!) in a lost Peruvian valley straight out of Arthur Conan Doyle remains as shocking and terrifying today as it ever was.

As a purely technical feat, meanwhile, Tomb Raider was amazing in its day from first to last. The levels were bigger than any that had yet been seen outside the 2.5D Star Wars shooter Dark Forces. In contrast to DOOM and its many clones, in contrast even to id’s latest 3D extravaganza Quake, Tomb Raider stood out as its own unique thing, and not just because of its third-person behind-the-back perspective. It just had a bit more finesse about it all the way around. Those other games all relied on big bazooka-toting lunks with physiques that put Arnold Schwarzenegger to shame. Even with those overgrown balloons on her chest, Lara managed to be lithe, nimble, potentially deadly in a completely different way. DOOM and Quake were a carpet-bombing attack; she was a precision-guide missile.

Sex appeal and genuinely innovative gameplay and technology all combined to make Lara Croft famous. Shelley Blond, who voiced Lara’s sharply limited amount of dialog in the game, tells of wandering into a department store on a visit to Los Angeles, and seeing “an enormous cutout of Lara Croft. Larger than live-size.” She made the mistake of telling one of the staff who she was, whereupon she was mobbed like a Beatle in 1964: “I was bright red and shaking. They all wanted pictures, and that was when I thought, ‘Shit, this is huge!'”

In a landmark moment for the coming out of videogames as a force in mainstream pop culture, id Software had recently convinced the hugely popular industrial-rock band Nine Inch Nails to score Quake. But that was nothing compared to the journey that Lara Croft now made in the opposite direction, from the gaming ghetto into the mainstream. She appeared on the cover of the fashion magazine The Face: “Occasionally the camera angle allows you a glimpse of her slanted brown eyes and luscious lips, but otherwise Lara’s always out ahead, out of reach, like the perfect girl who passes in the street.” She was the subject of feature articles in Time, Newsweek, and Rolling Stone. Her name got dropped in the most unlikely places. David James, the star goalkeeper for the Liverpool football club, said he was having trouble practicing because he’d rather be playing Tomb Raider. Rave-scene sensations The Prodigy used their addiction to the game as an excuse for delaying their new album. U2 commissioned huge images of her to show on the Jumbotron during their $120 million Popmart tour. She became a spokeswoman for the soft drink Lucozade and for Fiat cars, was plastered across mouse pads, CD-wallets, and lunch boxes. She became a kids’ action figure and the star of her own comic book. It really was as if people thought she was an actual person; journalists clamored to “interview” her, and Eidos was buried in fan mail addressed to her. “This was like the golden goose,” says Heath-Smith. “You don’t think it’s ever going to stop laying. Everything we touched turned gold. It was just a phenomenon.” Already in 1997, negotiations began for an eventual Tomb Raider feature film.

Most of all, Lara was the perfect mascot for the PlayStation. Sony’s most brilliant marketing stroke of all had been to pitch their console toward folks in their late teens and early twenties rather than children and adolescents, thereby legitimizing gaming as an adult pursuit, something for urban hipsters to do before and/or after an evening out at the clubs. (It certainly wasn’t lost on Sony that this older demographic tended to have a lot more disposable income than the younger ones…) Lara may have come along a year too late for the PlayStation launch, but better late than never. What hipster videogaming had been missing was its very own It Girl. And now it had her. Tomb Raider sold seven and a half million copies, at least 80 percent of them on the PlayStation.

That said, it did very well for itself on computers as well, especially after Core posted on their website a patch to make the game work with the new 3Dfx Voodoo chipset for hardware-accelerated 3D graphics on that platform. Tomb Raider drove the first wave of Voodoo adoption; countless folks woke up to find a copy of the game alongside a shiny new graphics card under the tree that Christmas morning. Eidos turned a £2.6 million loss in 1996 into a £14.5 million profit in 1997, thanks entirely to Lara. “Eidos is now the house that Lara built,” wrote Newsweek magazine.

There followed the inevitable sequels, which kept Lara front and center through the balance of the 1990s and beyond: Tomb Raider II in 1997, Tomb Raider III in 1998, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation in 1999, Tomb Raider: Chronicles in 2000. These games were competently done for the most part, but didn’t stretch overmuch the template laid down by the first one; even the forthrightly non-arty Jeremy Heath-Smith admits that “we sold our soul” to keep the gravy train running, to make sure a new Tomb Raider game was waiting in stores each Christmas. Just as the franchise was starting to look a bit tired, with each successive game posting slowly but steadily declining sales numbers, the long-in-the-works feature film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider arrived in 2001 to bring her to a whole new audience and ensure that she became one of those rare pop-culture perennials.

By this time, a strong negative counter-melody had long been detectable underneath the symphony of commercial success. A lot of people — particularly those who weren’t quite ready to admit videogames into the same halls of culture occupied by music, movies, and books — had an all too clear image of who played Tomb Raider and why. They pictured a pimply teenage boy or a socially stunted adult man sitting on the couch in his parents’ basement with one hand on a controller and another in his pants, gazing in slack-jawed fascination at Lara’s gyrating backside, perhaps with just a trace of drool running down his spotty chin. And it must be admitted that some of Lara’s biggest fans didn’t do much to combat this image: the site called Nude Raider, which did what Toby Gard had refused to do by patching a naked version of Lara into the game, may just have been the most pathetic thing on the Internet circa 1997.

But other fans leaped to Lara’s defense as something more than just the world’s saddest masturbation aid. She was smart, she was strong, she was empowered, they said, everything feminist critics had been complaining for years that most women in games were not.

The problem, answered Lara’s detractors, was that she was still all too obviously crafted for the male gaze. She was, in other words, still a male fantasy at bottom, and not a terribly mature one at that, looking as she did like something a horny teenager who had yet to lay hands on a real girl might draw in his notebook. Her proportions — proudly announced by Eidos as 34D-24-35 — were obtainable by virtually no real woman, at least absent the services of a plastic surgeon. “If you genetically engineered a Lara-shaped woman,” noted PC Gaming World‘s (female) reviews editor Cal Jones, “she would die within around fifteen seconds, since there’s no way her tiny abdomen could house all her vital organs.” Violet Berlin, a popular technology commentator on British television, called Lara “a ’70s throwback from the days when pouting lovelies were always to be found propped up against any consumer icon advertised for men.”

Everyone was right in her or his own way, of course. Lara Croft truly was different from the videogame bimbos of the past, and the fact that millions of boys were lining up to become her — or at least to control her — was progress of some sort. But still… as soon as you looked at her, you knew which gender had drawn her. Even Toby Gard, who had given up millions in a purely symbolic protest against the way his managers wished to exploit her, talked about her in ways that were far from free of male gazing — that could start to sound, if we’re being honest, just a little bit creepy.

Lara was designed to be a tough, self-reliant, intelligent woman. She confounds all the sexist clichés apart from the fact that she’s got an unbelievable figure. Strong, independent women are the perfect fantasy girls — the untouchable is always the most desirable.

Some feminist linguists would doubtless make much of the unconscious slip from “women” to “girls” in this comment…

The Lara in the games was rather a cipher in terms of personality, which worked for her benefit in the mass media. She could easily be re-purposed to serve as anything from a feminist hero to a sex kitten, depending on what was needed at that juncture.

For every point there was a counterpoint. Some girls and women saw Lara as a sign of progress, even as an aspirational figure. Others saw her only as one more stereotype of female perfection created by and for males, one to which they could never hope to measure up. “It’s a well-known fact that most [male] youngsters get their first good look at the female anatomy through porn mags, and come away thinking women have jutting bosoms, airbrushed skin, and neatly trimmed body hair,” said Cal Jones. “Now, thanks to Lara, they also think women are super fit, agile gymnasts with enough stamina to run several marathons back to back. Cheers.”

On the other hand, the same male gamers had for years been seeing images of almost equally unattainable masculine perfection on their screens, all bulging biceps and chiseled abs. How was this different? Many sensed that it was different, somehow, but few could articulate why. Michelle Goulet of the website Game Girlz perhaps said it best: Lara was “the man’s ideal image of a girl, not a girl’s ideal image of a girl.” The inverse was not true of all those warrior hunks: they were “based on the body image that is ideal to a lot of guys, not girls. They are nowhere near my ideal man.” The male gaze, that is to say, was the arbiter in both cases. What to do about it? Goulet had some interesting suggestions:

My thoughts on this matter are pretty straightforward. Include females in making female characters. Find out what the ideal female would be for both a man and a woman and work with that. Respect the females the same as you would the males.

Respecting the female characters is hard when they look like strippers with guns and seem to be nothing more than an erection waiting to happen. Believing that the industry in general respects females is hard when you see ads with women tied up on beds. In my opinion, respect is what most girls are after, and I feel that if the gaming community had more respect for their female characters they would attract the heretofore elusive female market. This doesn’t mean that girls in games have to be some kind of new butch race. Femininity is a big part of being female. This means that girls should be girls. Ideal body images and character aspects that are ideal for females, from a female point of view. I would be willing to bet that guys would find these females more attractive than the souped-up bimbos we are used to seeing. If sexuality is a major selling point, and a major attraction for the male gamer, then, fine, throw in all the sexuality you want, but doing so should not preclude respect for females.

To sum up, I have to say I think the gaming industry should give guys a little more credit, and girls a lot more respect, and I hope this will move the tide in that direction.

I’m happy to say that the tide has indeed moved in that direction for Lara Croft at least since Michelle Goulet wrote those words in the late 1990s. It began in a modest way with that first Tomb Raider movie in 2001. Although Angeline Jolie wore prosthetic breasts when she played Lara, it was impossible to recreate the videogame character’s outlandish proportions in their entirety. In order to maintain continuity with that film and a second one that came out in 2003, the Tomb Raider games of the aughts modeled their Laras on Jolie, resulting in a slightly more realistic figure. Then, too, Toby Gard returned to the franchise to work on 2007’s Tomb Raider: Anniversary and 2008’s Tomb Raider: Underworld, bringing some of his original vision of Lara with him.

But the real shift came when the franchise, which was once again fading in popularity by the end of the aughts, was rebooted in 2013, with a game that called itself simply Tomb Raider. Instead of pendulous breasts and booty mounted on spaghetti-thin legs and torso, it gave us a fit, toned, proportional Lara, a woman who looked like she had spent a lot of time and money at the local fitness center instead of the plastic surgeon’s office. If you ask this dirty old male gazer, she’s a thousand times more attractive than the old Lara, even as she’s a healthy, theoretically attainable ideal for a young woman who’s willing to put in some hard hours at the gym. This was proved by Alicia Vikander, the star of a 2018 Tomb Raider movie, the third and last to date; she looked uncannily like the latest videogame Lara up there on the big screen, with no prosthetics required.

Bravo, I say. If the original Lara Croft was a sign of progress in her way, the latest Lara is a sign that progress continued. If you were to say the new Lara is the one we should have had all along — within the limits of what the technology of the time would allow, of course — I wouldn’t argue with you. But still… better late than never.

Did you enjoy this article? If so, please think about pitching in to help me make many more like it. You can pledge any amount you like.

(Sources: The books Grand Thieves and Tomb Raiders: How British Video Games Conquered the World by Magnus Anderson and Rebecca Levene; From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games, edited by Justine Cassell and Henry Jenkins; Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming, edited by Yasmin B. Kafai, Carrie Heeter, Jill Denner, and Jennifer Y. Sun; Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market by Sheri Graner Ray; The Making of Tomb Raider by Daryl Baxter; 20 Years of Tomb Raider: Digging Up the Past, Defining the Future by Meagan Marie; and A Gremlin in the Works by Mark James Hardisty. Computer Gaming World of August 1996, October 1996, January 1997, March 1997, and November 1997; PC Powerplay of July 1997; Next Generation of May 1996, October 1996, and June 1998; The Independent of April 18 2004; Retro Gamer 20, 147, 163, and 245. Online sources include three pieces for the Game Studies journal, by Helen W. Kennedy, Janine Engelbrecht, and Esther MacCallum-Stewart. Plus two interview with Toby Gard, by The Guardian‘s Greg Howson and Game Developer‘s David Jenkins.

The first three Tomb Raider games are available as digital purchases at, as are the many games that followed those three.)


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40 Responses to Tomb Raider

  1. SamLL

    June 2, 2023 at 5:08 pm

    Is Pac-Man in the Nintendo stable?

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 2, 2023 at 6:03 pm

      He is now. We play a Wii game with the neighbors in which he features quite prominently. ;)

      • Gordon Cameron

        June 3, 2023 at 12:27 am

        I still think of it as a Bandai/Namco character, and the rights are there though I guess he has been loaned out sometimes? Anyway, the ‘Nintendo’ line threw me a bit.

  2. Sebastian Gerstl

    June 2, 2023 at 5:14 pm

    “These were rather direct descendants of 8-bit games like Bounder: fast-paced, colorful, modest in size and ambition […]”

    Whoa… I could call “Corporation ” many things… a proto-FPS, a quasi-RPG, a precursory attempt at something like System Shock… But it definitely wasn’t your typical run-of-the-mill platformer or standard action title. It may have failed at what it set out to do, but it definitely was very ambitious!

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 2, 2023 at 6:12 pm

      Fair enough. I don’t think it was much of a bit either, so… edits made! Thanks!

  3. Rowan Lipkovits

    June 2, 2023 at 7:29 pm

    “best known as the mastermind of the Fighting Fantasy line of paperback gamebooks”

    When I think of Ian Livingstone’s career triumphs, I rather fancy putting Games Workshop and his related work with White Dwarf and Citadel ahead of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, but I really have no idea which one is the bigger concern.

    “a legend of British gaming in both analog and digital spaces”

    He got on board with Domark prior to the incredible roller coaster ride taking it through Eidos and Square, but is he known for any actual contributions to the world of digital gaming? His most notable digital game made prior to joining the board of Domark seems to be the rather unremarkable Eureka!

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 2, 2023 at 7:51 pm

      I’ll give you the second, but I’m going to hold fast on the first. ;) My feeling is that Games Workship was a pretty niche, nerdy thing compared to Fighting Fantasy, which was all over when I was in junior high in the mid-1980s. On the other hand, I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t into Warhammer. This is of course only one American perspective…


      • Rowan Lipkovits

        June 2, 2023 at 9:42 pm

        My reckoning simply has it that there were entire shops (apparently over 500 of them worldwide?) exclusively dedicated to Warhammer and its spin-offs, while there was never any such thing as a Fighting Fantasy store — they’d just quietly get a corner or a shelf at your neighbourhood bookstore. But absolutely it’s still possible to humbly rack up dozens of millions of sales through conventional retail avenues…

        (Just while doing a little Googling to substantiate my previous comment here I stumbled across a Facebook chatbot adaptation of Livingstone’s FF book Freeway Fighter, and had to go nip off to document it on Mobygames…)

        • Jimmy Maher

          June 3, 2023 at 6:05 am

          Okay, we can include it. ;)

        • Ross

          June 3, 2023 at 9:46 pm

          It was utterly bizarre to me the first time I saw one that there were entire Warhammer stores, rather than “general gaming store with a large warhammer section”. And this was as far back as the ’90s, when gamer culture was a lot less visible.

          • turn

            June 4, 2023 at 4:35 am

            Those little figures sure do have a massive profit margin.

        • FincasKhalmoril

          June 8, 2023 at 4:54 am

          Hello Jimmy and Rowan,

          long time reader (mostly a lurker, though) of this site and fan of pushing little painted model soldiers over the table reenacting historical and fantastical battles. Warhammer is part of thr latter, and I also am very fond of the early to middle phase of the Warhammer universe(s).

          As much as I love the inclusion of Warhammer into an article on one of my favorite blogs, it’s not Ian Livingstone who created the Warhammer hobby and set up the stores. Livingstone (not to be confused with the American game designer of the same time who is quite famous for his game Car Wars).

          Actually this credit goes to Bryan Ansell who took over Games Workshop in the mid (?) 80s and developed it from a „normal“ games publisher who made its living by republishing American RPGs for the British and Continental markets.

          Games Workshop at the time of Livingstone sold D&D, Runequest, Elric and many more RPGs, didn’t have iirc special stores and developed a small range of card and board games. Iirc they did already have tin soldiers at that time (under the Citadel label), but these were meant as collector pieces or to represent characters and monsters while playing D&D and its likes. Even the early White Dwarfs were just a normal magazine for nerdy gamers and only featured Warhammer (that only reached a stage somehow similar to its modern iteration in 1983) as some kind of battle simulation for rather general fantasy worlds.

      • Gordon Cameron

        June 4, 2023 at 4:36 am

        My main exposure to Games Workship (in the U.S.) during the mid-’80s was Talisman. I loved that game…

        • Sion Fiction

          May 5, 2024 at 3:39 am

          Yes, Talisman was great! The digital version on steam is in my backlog.

  4. Alex Smith

    June 2, 2023 at 7:43 pm

    “Domark began trading under the name of Eidos shortly after making the deal, with Core in the role of its premier studio.”

    This is technically true, but maybe not quite right in the realm of corporate shenanigans. Eidos Plc was founded in 1990 by a former British Ministry of Defence software engineer named Simon Streater to market a video compression algorithm he developed called Optima. In 1994, financier Charles Cornwall, the Rhodesian-born, South-African-bred son of a mining executive who began amassing his own personal fortune through savvy stock trading while in college, bought a stake in the company and became the chairman and CEO.

    In it’s first years, Eidos dealt primarily with the research community, but Cornwall recognized that there were great commercial possibilities for Optima. He saw a move into the game space as an optimal path to promote the technology. He forged a partnership with Domark, which used Optima in the game Tank Commander. The success of this venture spurred Cornwall to buy Domark in September 1995 to bring Eidos directly into video games. Eidos changed the name of Domark to Eidos Interactive in May 1996.

    In one sense, you could say that Domark changed it’s name to Eidos since that indeed happened, but it does leave the impression that this was just a name change and not a buyout by a new parent that provided said name. Certainly little old Domark would not have been able to pull off a purchase of British computer game titan CentreGold and its Core Design subsidiary itself; that deal was made possible by the financial muscle of publicly traded Eidos Plc and was all part of Cornwall’s ambition to turn Eidos into a leading multimedia technology company.

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 3, 2023 at 6:00 am

      In this case, I think I’m comfortable eliding those details in the article proper for the sake of readability. I actually phrased it as “trading under the name of,” which is a little more ambiguous. But as always, thanks for being such a fount of information about things I don’t know. ;)

  5. Keith Palmer

    June 2, 2023 at 10:14 pm

    My own recollections of playing Tomb Raider only go so far as a demo (and that was just because the end of the 1990s were a time of relative plenty when it came to Macintosh ports of big games). So far as the “Tomb Raider phenomenon” went, though, I am thinking back to a particular work of fanfiction. It featured the fourteen-year-old son of Lara Croft, fruit of a one-night stand with the X-Files’s Fox Mulder, who just happened to have replaced the less confident and competent giant robot pilot protagonist of the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion (relocated for this story from “Tokyo-3” to the central Massachusetts city its authors had gone to university in). You could perhaps determine whether the authors liked or disliked the remaining characters of the anime from whether those characters were immediately charmed or just frustrated and irritated by the way Lara’s son swaggered around with an automatic in a shoulder holster, tore around on a Corley motorcycle, tossed back cans of Guinness, already knew the story’s secret backstory involved X-COM (it did sort of indicate how much that game’s characters could grow on someone by who had replaced one other character from the anime), saved SHODAN from being hacked with the aid of his desktop-class HAL computer, generally overpowered every challenge of the original anime without much effort, and crossed the Atlantic by ocean liner to receive a title from the grateful and casual King of England (and Ireland again). There were other 1990s computer and video games mashed into the story too, but somehow all of this didn’t charm a certain number of vocal fans of the original Evangelion… I have to admit I just might be among them, too.

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 3, 2023 at 6:06 am

      Or maybe it was written by a time traveler who spent way too much time in this site?

    • Emily Fox

      June 4, 2023 at 9:19 pm

      Haha, we used to call those “crack fics” back in the day, that were just so over the top with their crossovers and ludicrous events that you felt like the ronald mcdonald meme. We all have a few that have stuck with us through the years, taking up brain space that could be put to much better uses.

    • doctorcasino

      June 7, 2023 at 1:57 pm

      Delighted I’m not the only one who remembers this unabashedly fannish magnum opus. At least in my memory, it made up for its absurdity with a brisk, chewy, pulpy kind of style. Real airport bookshop, beach-read stuff, in a good way.

      Lara herself eventually showed up to join the supporting cast and was treated with considerable reverence — though now encumbered with filial devotion to every other character who had fallen in love with the rakish young “DJ.” At least she was still raising tombs, scaling boulders, rappelling into secret government bunkers, etc.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    June 3, 2023 at 3:55 am

    Jimmy, I love most of the writing you’ve done on this blog over the years, and there’s some good stuff in this post – I’ve been a Tomb Raider fan since I was born and didn’t really know about Ian Livingstone’s past in the British tabletop scene – but I respectfully (and strongly) disagree with your conclusion that the “new” Lara is a sign that “progress continued” over Core Design’s Lara:

    1. A correction: Tomb Raider 2013 was the second reboot, not the first. That happened in 2006 with Tomb Raider: Legend, the first game in the series that Crystal Dynamics developed after Eidos took the series away from Core following Angel of Darkness, which was a long, messy story that multiple people have covered by now and it was probably worth more than a passing mention. Toby Gard also came back to the series with Legend, not Anniversary (Core was doing their own anniversary remake that Eidos and Crystal snubbed them on, the entire history of this series is messy) and vanished again after Underworld.

    2. You touched on this a little bit by including Toby’s comments, but there are still plenty of us who actually *like* the original Lara and feel like the newer versions of her character are a regression, not an improvement. Yeah, the old Lara had big tits and a revealing outfit, but she was a surprisingly compelling character even if Tomb Raider never exactly had Shakespearean writing. Core’s Lara was this cool, collected ice queen who stunned her stuffy aristocratic British upbringing so she could risk everything going alone on deadly tomb raiding expeditions because she genuinely believed it was the only way of life for her – her wittiness, sass and resourcefulness was what made her so enthralling. She may have been distant, mysterious, and morally questionable as well, but I honestly think this just made her character even more interesting and she usually did the right thing anyway.

    Compare this to the “new” Lara (or “survivor” Lara, as fans call her). Core’s Lara was shunned by her parents and ran off so she could go do her own thing, the new one obsesses over them and can’t get over her daddy issues. The old Lara killed out of necessity and didn’t dwell on it, while this Lara was portrayed as a survivor who can’t bear the thought of killing a person, even though she ends up gunning down hundreds of men on a small island anyway. The old Lara died in a lot of gruesome ways too, except that was usually entertaining – Tomb Raider 2013 has its Lara getting impaled and maimed in scenes that should honestly be fatal, but they aren’t and it’s almost like it’s glorifying this kind of gore… in a game that was allegedly supposed to be a more respectful interpretation of the character? They made two sequels to that game under the pretense that Lara would start as a scrappy survivor chick who doesn’t know how to raid tombs yet, and 10 years later she’s… still a survivor and not a “proper” adventurer. She never even got her dual pistols! :(

    This rant’s already gone on for long enough so hopefully you get my point. The discussion about Lara’s sexualization was always missing the point and the new Lara sucks, not because she isn’t well-endowed, but because she’s genuinely more boring, unlikable and poorly written than a character from a game that came out 25 years ago. I can’t speak for actual women (even though I’ve seen some of them express this), but to me the old Lara is still one of the best examples of a female character in any game even to this day, and it’s a shame you glanced over most of that in favor of saying “well the new Lara has smaller breasts, so she must be a better character I guess” like most mainstream gaming journalists did a decade ago. Good work on the rest of the post, but man this annoyed me

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 3, 2023 at 6:33 am

      Well, you’re of course absolutely free to like what you like, but a counterargument might be that a “cool, collected ice queen” is a one-dimensional male sexual fantasy, not a well-rounded (no, not in that way) personality. Plenty of girls and women did strongly sense this about the old Lara and found it off-putting. From this perspective, any attempt to humanize Lara, by giving a more complete picture of her background and motivations and insecurities as well as her bad-assery, might be counted as progress toward making gaming more inclusive and wiser about the world. The question of whether that was done well or poorly is a bit orthogonal to the argument.

    • Cereal Killer

      June 7, 2023 at 12:05 am

      Fair points on some of the issues with the remake, but arguing the original was anything more the a poorly sketched porn star is ridiculous. She had no personality, and was in no way remotely human – she was just a giant pair of tits with a British accent. I was firmly in the target demographic, but I felt embarrassed to be a gamer anytime one of those ridiculous commercials showed up on the TV.

  7. stepped pyramids

    June 3, 2023 at 4:51 am

    “[Unlike] Oasis… Spice Girls [had broken through in the US] barely at all”

    A bit of a chronological quibble here: The Spice Girls debut was in mid-1996, Tomb Raider was released in October 1996, and “Wannabe” wasn’t released in the US until January 1997, at which point it was #1 on the Hot 100 for a month. The album was the top-selling album in the US for 1997. So it’s technically true that Spice Girls hadn’t broken through in the US at the time Tomb Raider was released but literally from lack of trying.

    I think it’d be clearer to say they had “yet to break through”.

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 3, 2023 at 6:16 am

      Good catch. Thanks!

  8. Alex

    June 3, 2023 at 5:38 am

    I consider Tomb Raider 2 as THE Game of the 90s-Generation, which was my Generation. Not only was it a really good game on its own right, everything you wrote about these times I also consider true. A perfect figure for a wild time in entertainment culture. In the new millenium, I left Tomb Raider (and playing games) behind me for good, but it seems that Lara never left me completely. After a long period of hesitation, I took the plunge and bought the 2013 Tomb Raider on a sale. The new mature tone was a really positive surprise to me.

    I also had to discover that I still like these kind of games and that I´m still a fan of the series. Consequently, I also bought the newer games and I´m glad I did. Now I don´t know how much of an impact these games made on the contemporary gaming market, but I definitely know that the younger generation will never be able to experience the impact that the original two games had on entertainment culture.

  9. ces

    June 3, 2023 at 9:54 am

    >> If you ask this dirty old male gazer, she’s a thousand times more attractive than the old Lara

    lmao ok? no one cares. really interesting and seemingly feminist article until you felt the need to let us know what makes your dick hard.

    • Mike russo

      June 5, 2023 at 12:25 am

      That’s rather all in how you choose to read it. I didn’t at all get that idea.

      • Martin

        June 5, 2023 at 12:21 pm

        Are there any mainstream games out there where the main character is old, over weight or ugly (by any accepted standard) woman? If not, then it’s just levels of who thinks a particular character is OK and who thinks they are gender exploitative.

    • David Simon

      August 25, 2023 at 7:08 pm

      Yeah, I agree. The author points out, correctly, that we should expect more than just “hotness” from women characters in games. But then they undercut themselves by (even if just momentarily) reducing the improvements in the newer Lara Croft design down to that same metric!

  10. Leo Vellès

    June 5, 2023 at 2:36 pm

    I suggest to anyone wanting to try the original Tomb Raider but is put off by the graphics to try the Anniversary edition. It is basically the same game but it still looks very good by today’s standards

    • Steve Metzler

      June 7, 2023 at 10:51 pm

      Leo, hi,

      Like Jimmy, I’ve been around a long time, and have been programming computers for [redacted] years. I managed to get Tomb Raider running, in my own words from many, many years ago:

      “It’s possible to get this game running in its original glory, with a Glide wrapper that emulates an old 3DFX Voodoo card. The set-up is a bit complicated and involves VDMSound too, so…”

      But I’ll spare you that. On your advice, I just purchased the Anniversary edition from Steam. Should make for a nostalgic romp.

      • Leo Vellès

        June 8, 2023 at 11:15 am

        Hi Steve, I’m pretty sure you will enjoy it. I played it once when it was released, and again one more time a couple of years ago and it was still a very fun experience

  11. Kate Lynch

    June 5, 2023 at 8:51 pm

    a little addendum to lara croft and gender: for a lot of trans women trying to work on gender stuff, femininity is so stigmatized that playing women in video games is one of the few opportunities we have to explore gender. that said, i don’t really know a lot of trans women who connected with lara croft particularly. i’ve seen samus aran cited as an influence _far_ more often.

    personally croft was after my time – i never got into 3d games. for me it was alis landale of the original phantasy star.

  12. Marco

    June 5, 2023 at 9:45 pm

    I remember playing Tomb Raider through soon after it came out. What was very noticeable, compared with Doom and the similar games that were around beforehand, was the slower pace. While there certainly was combat, the primary foe to conquer was the terrain, by seeking out weak points and refining to the correct sequence of moves. This made it a bit like the 3D equivalent of The Lost Vikings (another of my old favourites).

    Over the past few months, I’ve been greatly enjoying working through that later trilogy – Legend, Anniversary, and the more ambitious if less successful Underworld. These are still very playable today in a way the originals aren’t, and Keeley Hawes’s voice acting did a lot to expand the fantasy cipher into a convincing character.

  13. Glorkvorn

    June 7, 2023 at 9:00 am

    “A lot of people — particularly those who weren’t quite ready to admit videogames into the same halls of culture occupied by music, movies, and books — had an all too clear image of who played Tomb Raider and why. They pictured a pimply teenage boy or a socially stunted adult man sitting on the couch in his parents’ basement with one hand on a controller and another in his pants, gazing in slack-jawed fascination at Lara’s gyrating backside, perhaps with just a trace of drool running down his spotty chin.”

    Who are these people? You didn’t quote anyone for this so it seems like it’s just your personal opinion. “Many people are saying…”

    Even if the game was just porn- and it really, really isn’t- what’s the harm in that? I just don’t understand the feminist thinking that anything that appeals to men’s sexuality is automatically bad and dirty. It just seems like neo-puritanism.

    Anyway, the unrealistic design of Lara just seems like a product of the technology limits of the time. She’s basically just a blob of triangles and spheres. They wanted “hot sexy babe” but the graphics weren’t nearly high-res enough for a realistic figure. If they had made here more realistic, it would have fallen into the uncanny valley. Better to be cartoonish and exaggerated. It’s like the original Mario, who’s face is all nose and mustache to make sure you know he’s “fat, goofy Italian” in the limits of a tiny 8-bit sprite.

    • xxx

      June 10, 2023 at 10:15 pm

      If you’re looking for anecdotal evidence, I was a gamer in the 1990s and that was my impression of Tomb Raider’s target audience, based on the advertisements, screenshots, and embarrassing lad mag pinups.

      As for the rest of this post, if you don’t understand why sexual objectification can be hurtful to people, you’ve got some learning to do.

    • Horkthane

      August 4, 2023 at 6:46 pm

      > I just don’t understand the feminist thinking that anything that appeals to men’s sexuality is automatically bad and dirty. It just seems like neo-puritanism.

      You and me both.

      Although I will say, as a fairly stereotypical red blooded male who unabashedly likes what I like, when I was 13 or so the emphasis in the advertising for Tomb Raider put me off. Hard to say why. I spent my share of time, perhaps too much time, eyeing PC Accelerator’s pin up girls. I was no stranger to sexy girls in print, with the profound fondness for them like a young boy with little hands on knowledge of the opposite sex does. But something about the marketing trying so hard to claim this Picasso like collection of polygons was “sexy” made even my hormone addled teenage self feel talked down to.

  14. Olof Kindgren

    June 14, 2023 at 7:02 pm

    Never played any of the Tomb raider games, although I actually own the first one for Dreamcast. That one is technically interesting since I think it’s actually using Windows CE, so likely ported from a Windows version for PCs.

    Anyway, I’m surprised no one makes the comparison to Modesty Blaise. From what I hear here, she very much sounds like a dressed down 90s version of Modesty. Her traits and the conflict between male gaze and strong character is very similar to my ears.

  15. O.B.

    December 2, 2023 at 5:35 pm

    There also exists a music video of the (very successful!) German Punk band “Die Ärzte”, wherein Lara is featured.
    The song in question is “Männer sind Schweine” (= Men are pigs), from 1998.
    Wiki says: “The video clip features a digital Lara Croft model.
    “Eidos Interactive” officially approved Lara’s appearance.
    It starts with the band performing the song in an old warehouse.
    When Lara appears, the clip transforms into a John Woo style action movie including excessive shooting, fist fights and many sound effects actually eclipsing the song.”

    I don’t know, whether links are allowed here, so simply look for “Die Ärzte feat. Lara Croft – Männer sind Schweine”


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