Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My love affair with......a woman.

In actually, this post is not nearly as naughty or interesting as the title suggests. Like many a male gamer nerd, I admire this particular video game lady, even though she's not real (Of course, unlike many of those males, I actually realize that she fictional). She was an inspiration to me as a young blossoming nerd, and guided me to the gate of my locked potential as a female gaming geek. This particular lady is none other than Lara Croft, heroine of the Tomb Raider franchise.

My introduction to her is kind of fuzzy in my head. I can't really quite remember where I had first heard of her, when I was 14 and in the 7th grade. I just remember asking for the first game for Christmas. What I do remember is that I really liked the fact that she was A) An Archaeologist and B) Female. These factors appealed to me as my passion was in history and I was cultivating a dream to become an Archaeologist someday, two very male dominated fields. With that fact and the fact that most good video games were targeted towards males, Lara Croft seemed very novel to me. Growing up playing male dominated video games made me sensitive to the fact that most females in video games were either always in need of rescue, background fodder or just plain sluts. There were some distinct stand outs on this - such as Samus from Meteroid, but they were few and far between. Now, granted, Lara wasn't exactly demure in her dress, and yes her breasts were so large it was boarding on ridiculousness. But she had some qualities I certainly admired - she was smart, could take care of herself, and was incredibly bad ass. But most importantly, she didn't need a man to save her. In fact she was the one kicking the boys' asses.

Lara made the game fun for me, and made it easy for me to fall in love with the series because it made the game more accessible for me. Lara became a pretty good role model for me, not the best, but a pretty good one. In such a media centric culture that teaches young girls to use sex and not their smarts Lara was a welcome change in male dominated video games. I also want to point that here that Tomb Raider was the first computer game I really got into, and my interest was really sparked by Lara Croft's strength's as the game's heroine. I won't credit Tomb Raider with my complete immersion into video games, there were others, but this was a giant leap into the world of video games for me.

My admiration and love for the character did not diminish as I went through the series. With Tomb Raider II we had the fantastic Venice levels, with the excellent and memorable motor boat jump (which was SUCH a pain to set up). Tomb Raider III, still my favorite TR game of all time brought me into India, Antarctica and the London Underground (A side note, through TR I got into Neil Gaiman - I was checking out a walkthrough [shhh!], and the author had creatively made up little fan fiction blurbs based on other novels, games, TV shows etc and the London Underground section featured characters from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. Neat!) Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation was a turning point for Lara's story, as we gained some interesting insight into her past and brought us back into Egypt (my fave ancient locale). But it also gave us the "death" of Lara Croft. I was wondering where the series was going to go, when Tomb Raider: Chronicles came out. The game was based on her friends gathering to remember Lara in what she did best - adventuring. I enjoyed this game greatly, but not the segmented feel nor the fact that no questions were answered. I got my answers with Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. Needless to say, it was a confusing storyline, with wonky control and just overall disappointing.

After in between each game, there were other games that I played an enjoyed. Tomb Raider was just left to the back of the shelf, as an IP that seemed to be dead after the last game. I lost interest as there were other games to play and explore. Females were getting more and more screen time in games and taking more lead roles. The balance was getting closer. Then, one day at the Game Stop, I saw Tomb Raider Anniversary Edition. I was seriously intrigued. I had heard about the re-release but never realized it would be that polished. My boyfriend ended up getting it for me for my birthday. The game was perfect. It brought me back to those days of first playing Tomb Raider, with some awesome additions, some new and some taken from the previous games. The game designers and marketers had definitely achieved their goal - the whole franchise was alive for me again. When we got an XBox360 one of the first games I picked up was Tomb Raider legend. I am not going to lie and say that when I got home I played it first thing. Truthfully, having a 360 was really novel and I went back to other games. Eventually, something else came out that really sparked my interest. Tomb Raider Underworld...

To Be Continued tomorrow, as I am tired and I need to wrestle the remote away from Ed. South Park is on the TV and I seriously loathe the show. It needs to go.

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