In just a few months the most recognisable female video game character of all time will make her return. The latest Tomb Raider is a reboot that aims to redefine what the both the franchise and its leading lady for a new generation.
To find out just how developer Crystal Dynamics aims to do this, we spoke with lead Writer Rhianna Pratchett, daughter of the celebrated
fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett, who talks about growing up on games; art director Brian Horton, who discusses recreating a gaming icon; and creative director, Noah Hughes, who tells us how the island Lara finds herself stranded on works.
Can you remember your first contact with Lara Croft?
Rhianna Pratchett: My dad played the original Tomb Raider first. I don't know if he wanted all the fun first or if he wanted to check if it was suitable for me. Probably he just wanted all the fun! He actually spoiled the whole T-Rex coming around the corner bit!
What was the allure of working with Lara?
Well, it's Lara Croft! Given that I've written a couple of female action heroines [Faith from Mirror's Edge, Noriko from Heavenly Sword] before, this was sort of going back to the genesis of them and by that I don't mean the first one, I mean arguably the most famous one. Even my mother has heard of Lara Croft.
What did you feel was important to keep or to do away with from previous iterations of Lara?
For me, I felt that the slightly unapproachable British Ice Queen was not as appealing as it was when she first came out. We're living in a different climate. Rich characters throwing their money about... To be fair it's partly the film's fault as well. She needed her sharp edges rounded off a little bit.
She does still come from money. She's uncomfortable about it for a couple of reasons. She very much wants to make it on her own, partly because her parents are missing. They don't feature at all in the story [of the game] but they are missing. Touching the family money would mean acknowledging that they're really gone and that they're not coming back.
What was your reaction to the internet explosion after the supposed attempted rape scene trailer and interview that followed?
The thing is I wasn't announced at the time so I wasn't able to come out and say 'actually, this is what we're doing in this scene'. I can totally understand why [it sparked controversy], there was limited information out there and some things were said that were just not accurate.
I think everyone who's talked about it since has talked about context. There's no flick switch to bad assery, that scene happens, she has to deal with it, but her character is not changed because of it. This isn't I Spit on your Grave or the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Not to sound dismissive, but when you see it as a whole, she's gone through lots of challenges before that and there are many more challenges after that.
So the quote [from Executive producer Ron Rosenberg] about players wanting to protect Lara...
I'm not going to say that every player has the same relationship with their character. I actually think that scene has more power for players that feel that they are that character, because it is uncomfortable. It should be uncomfortable.
It just shows that there's not necessarily enough knowledge about video games for people to stand up and say 'That's not what it's like.' People just think 'Videogames are for kids and it's rape and ARRRR!' There's just not enough knowledge to counteract bulls**t headlines.