Sunday, 15 September 2013

Lara Croft

This blog post is about my greatest love affair. I haven't loved anything for as long as I have loved Lara Croft... aside for maybe blood relatives, but those are a given.

I can hardly remember getting the game for PC way back when I was 9 or maybe 10. The details are so fuzzy. What I do remember is seeing the box art in a big store, probably Currys, and asking my dad to buy it for us! I dressed it up as an educational game that would really, really help me get good scores on my SATs exams. I was being entirely truthful in my claims, or so I thought. I'd gotten the game completely mixed up with one I'd seen advertised on kids TV (I would bloody love to know which one, but after all these years I have completely forgotten all but tiny details.. I have a screen grab in my head but it gets blurrier and blurrier the more I focus on it...) The game (I think) was a problem solving digging game. I saw Tomb Raider and immediately decided it was definitely, definitely that one. Somehow I received parental approval and the game was bought.

"It's puzzles Dad!"

What I do remember is being thoroughly crap at it, as I am with all games. I was slow and clumsy and far too focused on doing things right instead of fast. I always died. I still do. I barely play games these days after more than my fair share of tuts, sighs and digs from reluctant spectators. I enjoy them. I got a rare chance to play TR: Legend at Uni because everyone else in the house was completely occupied with final projects and I maintain it was my best game experience ever. I got left entirely alone to explore bloody everything and collect bloody everything and even go back and do it faster and better AND complete her bloody house! Score. But anyway, that is now and not then. Back then, after my crapness incensed all those around me I eventually got used to watching my little brother play through all the best games. An expert at bosses, navigating his way through the plot at a speed that would fuel my ever increasing impatience. The faster he got, the more story I wanted. Games like MGS and FFVII I would start, but eventually give up and just watch my brother. TR was a little different however. I would snatch what chances I could. And loved it. 

This is my pride and joy: The Art Of Tomb Raider. Two mammoth art books in a hardback sleeve. 

I've grown up with Lara. I remember using my homework diary at High School to catalogue my saved up dinner money with a £29.99 goal: Tomb Raider II. I was a bit of a weirdo and drew her everywhere. I was definitely too young to know she was considered 'sexy.' To me she was the strongest woman I had ever known. She killed bears and sharks and tigers and climbed and back flipped. Also, she ran for like, a million miles. I remember starting cross country in PE and thinking 'fucking hell, how the hell does Lara Croft run fucking everywhere!?' (I really liked the F word when I was a kid) I would then sometimes press shift and let her walk for bit. Just incase I was running her into the ground. Cross country was hard as balls! 

She's been through more than her fair share of criticisms and redesigns. I want to write about how I saw her and how much I needed her as a ten year old girl. I don't remember being aware of the amount of male lead characters in popular cartoons and media, but I do remember unconsciously clinging to the franchises with female leads or favouring the female characters in an ensemble cartoon series. Misty was my favourite in Pokémon, Spinelli was my favourite character in Recess, Aeris and Tifa were my most trained up characters in FFVII, Pepper Ann was my favourite cartoon etc etc. There was nothing about Lara Croft that could put me off. Even the tarty marketing in magazines. I just didn't get it. It didn't cross my mind not to love her just because she was suddenly draped in red silk and semi naked. I don't bloody know why.
I love seeing her in different styles!

She had big boobs. Big deal. So did every grown up woman to me back then and the most beautiful woman of all was me mum. And she had massive norks! I only became aware of the controversy as a teenager and by then it was too bloody late. And also, I didn't agree. It made her no less stronger in my eyes. And I am far from alone. There are as many articles and arguments on Lara Croft being a pro feminist icon as there are on her being anti feminist. 

I can't pick just one!

I have loved every single incarnation of Lara since her first. However, if I hold a candle for her original design then I burn a whole village down for her TR: Legend redesign (Crystal Dynamics represent!) Maybe it's because I had such a good gaming experience with it. TRII is also one of my favourites.

I haven't as yet plugged my PS3 in. But when I do I am all over this Squenix version. I can't wait! And there's no one to tut! :D 

When I was about to take my driving test in 2011, I was so nervous. I was on Diazapam and had been struggling with anxiety for a couple of years. I text my mum the morning of the test to vent some of my nerves and probably came across as a bit neurotic. I was petrified. Mostly of shitting myself, but also because driving is scary and something I never wanted to do. I wish I still had the message that she replied with. It would take me hours to track it down in the memory of my iPhone (unless y'all know a trick?) However, I remember the content of it entirely and it is not the first time she has used this speech on me! It went something like: Don't be daft! Do you think Lara would be shitting it?! No! She'd drive her jeep over whoever got in her way!' There would have been so, so many curse words but you get the point right? It might be ridiculous to you, but Lara Croft has been my invisible guardian since that first game. My mum has cranked that line out for exams, interviews, meetings and god knows what else. Have you ever done a guided visualisation for confidence? Sometimes you are asked to picture the person who you think is the most confident and then imagine you stepping into them and becoming them. Mine is always Lara.
I have also been drawing her likeness for as long as she's been in this world. Thinking back, I probably (OK, totally) looked like a proper nutcase. But I drew her on exercise books, tables, homework diarys, I painted her life size on my bedroom wall when I was 13, cut her pictures out of magazines to make collages. When everyone else fancied Backstreet Boys, I fancied Lara Croft.

Kitty Hawk and Linjin: ma gurls!

And that love continues to this day. I am sure my drive to design my own characters is fuelled by my childish adulation of this fictional woman. It pushes me to put my ideas on paper. She brings out my passion to create. Without Lara Croft, Kitty Hawk (my number one girl!) wouldn't exist as she does. When I met Ian and we started hatching plans to make our own comics, he picked up on my love of Lara pretty immediately. As I'm sure many geeks will agree with me, our passions tend to be forever bubbling just below the surface of our everyday personas and meeting someone who echoes that in you often brings them unwittingly bursting out. Kitty Hawk is my answer to Lara Croft. I recognised a strength in her that took me back to being a 10 year old in love with a video game character. Kitty just does, as does Lara. Flaws or no, they are going to get the job done. And with Linjin, my own personal creation that has been maturing for friggin' years in the demijohn of my imagination, is my desire to create a character for young girls to want to engage with. An endlessly adventurous, boundless spirit. And whether they are small scale or not, it doesn't matter because they exist.

So my unrelenting thanks to Toby Gard, for giving me a hero, and indirectly spawning more.


bintykins said...

My mum just text me to say "Do u think Lara would be sat around on a Sunday infront of computer when its dry enough to be makin a hideout in the woods???"

Brilliant ^-^

Anonymous said...

Mental? Nah, I was always the same way about Sonic the Hedgehog.