Rise of the Tomb Raider(s)

At ten years old, I was gifted my first video game: Tomb Raider: Underworld. The game was definitely too challenging for me at that age, the weeks that it took me to complete the first level acted as evidence of its difficulty. Although I was accomplishing almost nothing other than repeatedly dying, for some reason I persevered. 

Tomb Raider had hooked me. I loved playing as Lara Croft, the fierce and intelligent (and British!) heroine. How anyone could make gunning down supernatural enemies look elegant and strangely feminine I will never know. When my aunt first gave me a Tomb Raider game, she told me that Lara “is like a female Indiana Jones.” That description proved to be so accurate that whenever I come across a person who somehow doesn’t know who Lara Croft is I describe her to them in that way. 

“A female Indiana Jones,” I say. “And my childhood hero.” 

Though video games are often cited in popular opinion as the source for negative behavior in children and particularly in teenagers, Tomb Raider had an overwhelmingly positive impact on me. By following Lara’s adventures, I learned to be curious, to be brave, to be forceful, to be commanding, to be independent. In Tomb Raider: Legend, Lara has two men who provide tactical support through a comms unit in her ear. But for all of the resources sitting at their fingertips, Lara always proves to be the most knowledgeable.

As a malleable, debilitatingly shy girl, Lara’s influence was invaluable to the formation of my self-confidence. Her example was far superior to many representations of women in media. She does not make enemies of only men or only women. She does not serve under any man. She trusts her gut but also listens to the advice of her companions. She deals well with grief when she must but perseveres on her mission when the two sadly coincide, she recognizes false friends and fights against them, she had a valuable relationship with her father, and she continues to have valuable relationships with people her own age. Lara defies stereotypes.

I eagerly look forward to playing the optional Croft Manor levels because it feels like both her home and my home, too. “This looks like it’s in Tomb Raider,” “I feel like Lara Croft,” and “Yeah, I know about this from Tomb Raider” are all things that have actually left my mouth in public. I have played some of the games more than ten times, so it shouldn't be any surprise that it has become a frame of reference for me.

Lara seems like an old friend now. An old friend who has supported me, guided me, and helped me rise to any challenge.