In The Search for My Lara

6:46 pm HelenLJohnson 2 Comments

I have just come back from a fantastic day discussing all things geeky and tech at Liverpool Girl Geeks inaugural meet up event to celebrate International Women's Day. Naturally, I wore one of my Tomb Raider tee shirts; not that I need any excuses but it just seems right to represent team Tomb Raider on this day.

At almost twenty years old, the franchise has inspired not just women, but all walks of life who have crossed the threshold into Croft manor. Yet, it is the voices of women who admire and are inspired by Lara that I hear the loudest. This weekend at PAX East, Jenn Croft, one of the most influential Lara cosplayers around has been gathering fans from around the convention to take pictures and share out the Lara love. I know that this is part of the marketing for Rise of the Tomb Raider; however you can see the excitement on fans faces as they meet someone they admire. All of this is firmly rooted in how the franchise has been received over the years and through all the highs and lows, there has been an undercurrent of admiration for the British archaeologist who stole our hearts and our gaming time.

What is interesting is how individuals perceive the character of Lara Croft. After a 90s conception and two reboots, the story and personality of Lara has changed throughout the years. Where a person has picked up on the franchise combined with their favourite game in the series alters how an individual perceives Lara. This is very telling when we look at the growing body of fan fiction with writers creating their own timelines; while some dismiss any romantic notions, there are just as many if not more that try to explore the 'what ifs' with Lara had she had someone else in her life romantically. Some, like myself, try to weave together parts of all the timelines to create a Lara that is a product of 20 years of development. I'd like to call it bio-blending, remixing elements to create one solo narrative. 

This leads me on to my Lara. Who is my Lara? First of all I'll tell you who she isn't. The international sex symbol that had unrealistic proportions and was objectified as part of the male gaze. I'm not denying that people shouldn't see her as such a description; Lara was born into a time where Riot Grrl and being a 'Lad' was popular. Video games and the PS1 became part of late nineties culture, as did the models and marketing campaigns that went around them. Without a doubt, Lara can meet that description, but I never saw that side growing up. 

This is what makes Lara a fascinating character to study. Took at face value, Lara Croft is perhaps one of the most normal personalities in gaming. She has brown hair, brown or green eyes, no super powers, wears simple clothes and has a fairly modest inventory when she travels. If Lara was a real person, she could sit in a coffee shop and blend into the general public. It is what she does, and her adventures that are remarkable. In this respect, it is very easy for an individual to overlay personality traits on to, let's be honest, a fairly normal person. It is only in the most recent narratives that Lara has had a prescribed identity. In the older games, it was a lot less clear who Lara Croft was other than a gun toting bad ass. Well, if you went off the original bios that is. In the minds of thousands of gamers, we made our own Lara Croft and we grew up with her. Our Lara.

Let's get back to my Lara. She is a mix between Classic and Reboot, I can fully imagine that the Lara we see in Tomb Raider 9 develops and grows into the Lara we see in Tomb Raider 1, 2 and Angel of Darkness. She is extremely clever and although born into British society, would rather live to her own values. She isn't against relationships, indeed she has been in some and sometimes uses her charm to get her own way, but Lara just doesn't get time to invest in such things. For Lara, fighting doesn't always mean with weapons, she has times where she has to fight against herself, her heritage and society expectations. She attacks them to the best of her ability, even if sometimes she fails. She isn't, and has never been perfect but Lara lives her life how she believes it should be lived.
 I know some people will read that and think, "that's not Lara", and that is what Tomb Raider fans need to appreciate. There are many Laras, not one of them is the 'right' one. The franchise is too engrained in popular culture to overwrite previous incarnations. I want to know who your Lara is, I want to know why she inspires you. We are all correct and on International Women's Day, let us celebrate one of the women in gaming who has opened doors for many of us, despite only being made of pixels.     


  1. My Lara can easily blend with other people. She is brave, cautious, fast learner, studious and adventurous. She is real person who has her own demons to deal with like everyone else. And my Lara values true friendships.

    Thank you for this post, article i loved it. I played every Tomb Raider game, didnt like that Lara was used as sex object in previous games. My favorite Tomb Raider games are Legend, Tomb Raider 2 and of course favorite reboot 2013.

  2. As a long time TR fan , I fully embrace and celebrate all iterations of Lara Croft (though I'm partial to TR4 Lara and reboot Lara). I also never saw Lara as a sex symbol and was shocked/sad to see people reduce her entire character to her body .

    I agree that Lara from the reboot series could grow into Lara from Core games . She already has all the qualities - courage , determination , thirst for adventure etc . Its just that all these qualities did not come together effortlessly as a whole because Lara had yet to experience life and face situations that would test her mettle . This is why Tomb Raider 9 is such a pivotal journey for Lara and shapes her character thereafter as evidenced in Rise of the Tomb Raider where Lara is much more confident and in her element (With even hints of the sharp tongue she has in old games)

    Life is pretty messy and it takes a lot of guts , tears and patience to figure out and pursue your true calling in life . The reboot games are trying to do just that - they are showing how Lara figured herself out and embraced all her strengths to be a Tomb Raider and all the struggles behind it .

    So yeah .... my Lara is committed to live by her principles and choices even if it means being ridiculed by others and she motivates me to do the same