An essay on Lara Croft

I’m reminded of things I want to talk about all the time. I love many things and have much to say about most of them. A recent release has got me thinking about Lara Croft again, enough to inspire my next drawing even. So check out the drawing below, watch the Timelapse too if you want, and if you are curious you can keep reading to find out some of my thoughts on the hero of the Tomb Raider franchise, in particular her recent self.

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Lara Croft is one of my earliest gaming memories. A friend owned Tomb Raider II back when I was a kid, and we spent many hours playing it on their old Playstaion I. Frustrating as it was for me to get anything done in that game, Lara Croft became one of the first female gaming characters to shape my perception of women as a whole. I was introduced to her before the age when boys start to find girls attractive, but her gaming prominence extended well into my teenage years as well, so yeah, like many others I too was pulled in by the character’s sex appeal. She does have plenty. But unlike many others I don’t consider Lara’s beauty to be the secret to her success. It may have been what first caught many people’s attention, but that alone would not have been enough to fuel a series of twelve plus games. Something else kept us around.

Even from her early polygonal conception,

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when the most memorable things about her games were how impossible it was to grab onto a ledge, a few things were apparent about Lara’s character: She was an adventure seeking action hero on the trail of secrets from humanity’s past, akin to Indiana Jones; She had training and understanding in the use of firearms; She had a reputation, fame and resources to support her adventures; Above all else she was in it all for the thrill and the excitement. “I’m sorry, I only play for sport.” Throughout the following games players became more familiar with Lara’s attitude. She was a tough, athletic lady with an acrobatic fighting style and a quip or two when it mattered most.

We did, however, know little about her past, other than the fact her parents were not around, and they left her with a mansion and a butler.

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It was in the next trilogy of games, the Legend trilogy (named after the first game in this new series, Tomb Raider: Legend) that more light would be shed on this aspect of her story. After the death/disappearance of her mother, her father drove himself and his reputation to ruin in pursuit of finding her. These games focus on her getting to the bottom of the family mystery, putting her parents memories to rest along the way. Despite the dark tone of the plot, the games are made much more light-hearted, mostly to the credit of Lara herself. With a new plethora of side characters helping her, Lara goes through these adventures, and what I personally consider to be the height of the series, with a confident attitude and plenty of witty banter. Simply put, she made those games fun.

Then the reboot happened… Truth be told, I very much liked game one in this new trilogy. It was marketed as Lara’s new origin story. Gone was the confidence, gone was the wit and the humor and gone were her iconic dual pistols.

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The new Lara was an unsure, insecure and fearful young adolescent girl, with no experience and little to make her interesting as a person. But after all, that is what origin stories are for, right? Never mind the fact, that we got many glimpses into Lara’s past in earlier games, and saw that she was a fearless, cocky little girl in the face of dangers back then. In this version she is transformed into the woman we all know and love through this one experience, right? Well, kind of. There is a clear path Lara takes toward becoming the Tomb Raider here, her confidence, her skill, even her wit occasionally show signs of development.
“Seems anyone close to you has low survival odds.” Says Reyes, just after Lara witnessed another of her friends die.
“Better keep your distance then.” She replies, in probably the only Tomb Raider moment of the new trilogy.
By the very end of the game she finally has her guns back, she is standing triumphant over her captor as well as an ancient Japanese ghost, and her thirst for more adventure is awoken. Pretty awesome as far as origin stories go. Not the Lara of the past, for sure, but a satisfying tie-in to the old awesome action heroine we were waiting for. But sadly, there were more games to come.

I was baffled to learn that throughout the next game Lara NEVER held two pistols. Instead she got shoved into the new Hunger Games action heroine mold of “badass lady with a bow”. Everything that game one was building up to was gone. No wit, no humor, just the same stealth-action protagonist from the last game.

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I understand that much of this must have been game engine limitations, which is why the plot of the second game followed the first one’s formula so closely, but that was far from the only problem with new Lara. I did not recognize this girl. She was… boring. I wish there were a better way for me to say it, but that’s it. Never did she have anything but the most cookie-cuter, straight forward dialog.
“Forgive my daughter. She can be overcautious.” says Jacob, after his daughter just threatened to kill her.
“In her place, I would be the same way.” she replies, with no intonation, no expression of any kind. Old Lara would definitely have had something witty to say in that situation. Not even an attempt. And the game is just full of moments like these. Worst of all is the scene where Lara is standing over the defeated Trinity leader, Constantine, surrounded by fire and crumbling ruin. A situation practically served for a badass one-liner.
“It was not supposed to be like this.” he says, grasping his wound. “This was my destiny!”
“This was never your destiny.” She replies. Again absent any emotion what so ever.
I’d go on, but you get it at this point. Suffice it to say that I was hoping the latest game, Shadow of the Tomb Raider would at least try to bring some of the old Lara back, but no. Just more of the same. Boring dialog, no emotion save for constant self doubt and deprecation, no dual pistols.

Regardless of what the future brings for Lara, she will always be that same amazing influence on me that she has been. She was the first woman I remember for being in what was typically considered a male role, and she absolutely killed it. It makes me sad that new generations will see her as this female action hero stereotype they made her into, without any outstanding personality or traits of her own, but the games are receiving plenty of critical praise, and they’re all financial successes so… maybe it’s me. I hope to see the Tomb Raider truly return one day in all her former glory, in new settings and with new perspectives, but still remaining true to what made her into the icon she is. But if that Lara is truly gone, well, the old games aren’t going anywhere. Let the new fans have their hero. I already have mine.

DeviantArt link.

I’m considering buying an EA game at release

Here is a strange turn of events. I hate Electronic Arts. Despite growing up with the company being a permanent influence on my childhood I absolutely despise them on account of the crap they’ve been pulling for the past decade or so. I hold them single-handedly responsible for the ruination of one of my favorite sci-fi franchises (Mass Effect), I consider them one of the most prominent builders of the video game industry’s most resilient creative dead-end (But keep working Activision-Blizz, you are catching up!), and the sheer amount of unrestrained greed they exhibit at every release boggles my mind. And yet, for the first time I’m actually considering buying one of their upcoming games on release.

Trailers for Battlefield V have been under bombardment since they appeared on the web, just as the reveal of the game’s box art, that features (dramatic pause) A WOMAN!!! Now anyone who attacks the game for this has already either stopped reading, orĀ  has already written their response as to how wrong I am, even though I have literally not even started arguing yet. I know I am inviting trouble by even addressing any of this, but you know what? I started this site in part to share my thoughts on popular subjects. So here it goes.

Above this paragraph you can see the controversial trailer I mentioned earlier. As with all Youtube videos, however, the real entertainment is in the comments (provided you are not too squeamish about human stupidity, and what I really can’t call anything other than insecure sexism). To WWII enthusiasts I’m sure the problem is blatantly apparent: Women during the second World War were not front line fighters, despite what this trailer seems to be depicting. The response to this (as well as to the prosthetic arm) were, to say the least, a disaster. The irony is that besides those points, the trailer is as bog standard as they get. Now I’m sure that there will be tuning, and mechanical improvements, and quality of life improvements from previous games, but for someone like me, who is bored to death of the myriad of military FPS games, nothing at all new or interesting was shown. Just the bloody women.

Now before anyone starts tossing around the SJW accusations, I honesty think that this is good, but my reasons have nothing to do with social justice. Beyond the fact, that I truly believe diversity is a good thing, my reasons for liking this are purely selfish ones. You see, I like women. I pretty much always feel more comfortable in their presence than men, and I find them more intellectually stimulating to interact with as well (Though I’m sure this has much to do with the specific company I find myself in. Yay, Hungary… ). However, video games are foreign to many of the women in my circles. They either don’t care about them, or just don’t know enough about them to form any opinions. Since video games are possibly my most prominent hobby, that means that favorite conversation topic is useless. I want more women to like games. I want them to enjoy the hobby as much as I do. Thus I want them to feel welcome in the world of video games. It honesty blows my mind that there are so many men (or lets be honest, boys) who cling to the opposite.

Inclusiveness is probably the one thing EA consistently does that is good. The first FIFA game to include women’s teams was the first sports game I wanted to play since FIFA 2004. I remember thinking that this might be one of the ways to help elevate women’s football by making it popular among young girls, just as the men’s game is among young boys. Having Battlefront 2’s main character be a female imperial was also a breath of fresh air (that admittedly turned sour after she almost immediately joined the rebels…). Of all the shitty practices that EA indulges in I see no reason to chastise the company for one of the few good things it regularly does.

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The “historical accuracy” argument I actually find hilarious though. I am not well versed in the topic, so I don’t know if women occasionally fighting on the front lines was a thing or not (outside the French resistance). But at the same time I can’t help but roll my eyes at the sheer stupidity of bringing up the problem of realism in a Battlefield game. Were all these outraged people attacking EA with torches and pitchforks over the previous game, where half the soldiers on a World War I battlefield ran around with automatic weapons, or every other ludicrous piece of technology that at most only existed as prototypes at the time? We are talking about a franchise, nay, a genre where soldiers run around battlefields discarding half-loaded clips, or clips they fired a few shots out of. Where combatants can move at full speed after taking on multiple bullet shots, and even the slightly annoying red blur that covers their vision disappears after a few bandages are applied. Where death lasts no more than 30 seconds at most. When games are designed, the point is to take aspects of real life and adjust them to fit the comfort level of the players. To make deadly scenarios slightly less deadly. To make frustrating elements less frustrating, or even fun and exhilarating. They already bent the rules of physics and biology to make these games more enjoyable, I see this as no different. If anyone ever made a historically accurate FPS, it would be the most boring, non-enjoyable experience ever. War is not fun.

It’s also worth mentioning that the usual predatory business practices EA use in their big-budget titles are not going to be present here. Or at least that is what they have been saying as of my writing this (trust for EA is in short supply). In essence this is no different from when Marvel Comics made the character of Thor into a woman, or made Captain America black, or Spider-man Hispanic. Huge controversy, but in the end the comics never really changed anything. The same will happen here. People will realize, once they get over the anachronistic fighting females, that this is still just a Battlefield game. Another WWII FPS, that have been made a billion times in the past. And for that reason it will sell like all the rest, and both EA and the butthurt audience will move on like they always have. And maybe, just maybe, a change like this might bring on some new fans to the franchise, who now feel that much more comfortable with the character they get to play as (like myself, for instance). And honestly, those who decide to get out on the count of women and social justice “invading” their games, I feel justified in saying that gaming is better off without them.