What Makes Tomb Raider Special?
With this year marking Tomb Raider’s 20th anniversary I wanted to write a little bit about what the franchise means to me. Admittedly, in recent times I haven’t been keeping up with the franchise, but it was a major part of my childhood. I use to buy each new game on launch and have completed a few of them. I remember I had this goal to try and get through all of them. I ended up spending whole days just playing Tomb Raider. Unfortunately I lost the save very close to the end of the 3rd game and I kept getting stuck in the same place in the 4th game.
My first memories of Tomb Raider are of awe and wonder. It was one of the first games we got for the Playstation and before that point I’d never experienced an adventure game in which you could swim, climb and drive vehicles (over the entire series the choice of vehicles is also varied from boats, to skidoos, bikes to canoes.) My most vivid memory of my early video game experiences was in the original Tomb Raider, in which that first pool of water was revealed. The music was mysterious and enticing. I made a beeline for the water because I was so excited to jump in and explore its depths. I don’t get such simple pleasures from video games nowadays, but back then I’d never played anything like it before. I really felt like I was being adventurous through my exploration of what Lara Croft could do. The variety of locations and the lure of history/mythology was exciting, even though I never fully understood what was happening. I felt a whole range of emotions during these games too, including curiosity, surprise, excitement, tension, relief and even fear – well I was young and those moving statues in the third game genuinely creeped me out… In fact they still do.
While I always enjoyed games, Tomb Raider is the one I’m most thankful towards for getting me into this hobby. It was the first time I got to control a female character and Lara Croft is an amazing role model in that she’s attractive, and yet also smart and capable at the same time. I remember a lot of girls back then saying that they aspired to be like Lara Croft. There’s the other side to this where she was also thought of as a sex symbol, but this was more prevalent in marketing than in the games themselves. She was an appealing character to both female and male fans alike. I haven’t come across another female protagonist since that would be able to fill that role as well as Lara Croft did. As games are often thought of as being masculine I’ve had to deal with many misunderstandings about my hobby and the way it reflects on me as a person, but Tomb Raider was one of those games that didn’t seem to be thought of in this way. It was one of those games that I could enjoy talking about with other girls and they didn’t think it was weird.
Tomb Raider also inspired me to want to learn how to make my own games. In reality we don’t often come across opportunities that can give us a sense of adventure, but Tomb Raider allowed me to experience this feeling from a young age. I enjoyed it so much that I soon began to crave the idea of being able to create my own adventures. I use to draw out my own level designs with a similar complexity to what I’d experienced in Tomb Raider. I’d imagine my own female protagonists running through them as well. Ok, I’ll admit, all of my ideas back then were basically copies of Tomb Raider.
Nowadays we have loads of adventure/action games to choose from, but they don’t elicit the same excitement in me as when I first experienced Tomb Raider. As such I will always have fond memories of this. By invoking so many different emotions in me Tomb Raider showed me just what video games could be capable of.