Lara Croft: from shy girl to Tomb Raider

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The latest Tomb Raider game is an origins story. Rebecca Armstrong meets games scriptwriter Rhianna Pratchett, who had the task of bringing a vulnerable 21-year-old Lara Croft to the masses

How do you tackle a national treasure? When it comes to reimagining Lara Croft, the answer is: carefully.

Click here to view the picture gallery of Lara Croft: then and now.

When archaeologist and action heroine Croft appeared in 1996's Tomb Raider, she caught the imagination of gamers, who got behind this fearless female protagonist (not least, I'm afraid to say, to look at her bum) as she swung, swum and fought her way to finding an Atlanean artefact.

Long hair, short shorts, sharp moves – it was a killer combination, and one that saw Lara shift games ( Tomb Raiders II, III, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, Curse of the Sword, The Prophecy, The Angel of Darkness, Legend, Anniversary, Underworld and – deep breath – The Guardian of Light), become a cover girl (notably on now-defunct British style bible The Face) and inspire two Hollywood films starring Angelina Jolie.

She's tracked down daggers, done battle with cults, found bits of meteorite with supernatural powers, looked for both Excalibur and her old mum and got into bother with crocodiles, giant spiders and dinosaurs. Posh, plucky and pretty, she's taken everything thrown at her with good grace, if diminishing profits. Is there anywhere left for her to go? Games publisher Square Enix thinks so, which bought Eidos Interactive, the company that created Lara, in 2009. It will be releasing the first Tomb Raider title since 2010 next month, which will delve into her past.

Rhianna Pratchett, award-winning video games scriptwriter and narrative designer, was the woman tasked, along with developers Crystal Dynamics, with bringing a new Lara to a new audience – as well as to the masses who have got to know her over the past 17 years. "I think everyone's aware of Lara, in the same way that everyone's aware of Beyoncé or the Queen - even my mum knows who Lara Croft is, although predominantly because my dad played the first three Tomb Raiders - he spent many happy hours following Lara Croft's bottom around," she says. (See what I mean about her bum?)

That Lara was a celebrity, albeit a virtual one, was something that hit Rhianna towards the end of the creative process. "I felt the weight of Lara bearing down on me. I'd been working on Tomb Raider for two and a half years and then, oh God, suddenly people had expectations and it all became very real."

In the Tomb Raider reboot, as it's described by its makers, Lara is a teenager, who, along with some of the crew of the ship Endurance, is shipwrecked on a tropical island that is packed to the palm trees with violent peril. She has yet to become the hardy heroine of earlier games – which, says Rhianna, is the whole point. "We took a bit of a risk in showing her being uncertain, being scared, and looking to others for help, which isn't normally what you'd expect from Lara Croft. We tried to look at all the traits that people associate with her – bravery, tenacity, resourcefulness – and rewind. Those traits are still there but they're buried below the surface so they come out during the game. Even she's not aware of them and she wrestles with what she discovers about the world and what she discovers about herself. She's not always comfortable with it."

Certainly, there were uncomfortable moments last summer when, during the games industry's largest event, E3, the trailer for Tomb Raider was shown and one producer was said to have referred to a scene in it, where Lara is threatened by a mercenary on the island, as being an "attempted rape". The media, both games and mainstream, exploded, with "video game hell" headlines, as well as more considered articles lamenting the fact that a female character was being defined by a sexual assault in her past.  Studio head Darrell Gallagher swiftly put out the following statement: "One of the character-defining moments for Lara in the game, which has been incorrectly referred to as an 'attempted rape scene', is the content we showed at this year's E3 where Lara is forced to kill another human being for the first time. In this particular section, while there is a threatening undertone in the sequence and surrounding drama, it never goes any further than the scenes that we have already shown publicly."

"I was really surprised at the reaction. I could understand why people were upset by what they thought they saw, but it wasn't [seen] in context," explains Rhianna. "While I'd rather things hadn't come out in the way they had, I think it created a valuable debate about the relationship between player and character, how we speak about our characters, how we speak about our female characters in particular, and I just hope it's not coloured people's perceptions too much, and that they try the game for themselves. It's so important to see that scene in context, it does have a power to it."

She believes that Lara’s vulnerability as a teenage girl makes her later evolution more impressive, even if creating a back-story that went against the existing Tomb Raider mythology was daunting. "There's been a few reactions along the lines of "how dare you do this to her?". Yes, she's vulnerable, but not because she's female but because she's human. We would all be vulnerable in those circumstances. She turns to the people she thinks are more capable with dealing with it and she realises that, actually, no-one is going to save her but herself... That's the arc that she goes through, from not thinking she's confident, turning to others, to realising that she's the only one with the information and know-how to save them all."

OK, so perhaps shipwrecking your national treasure and putting her through a media scandal doesn't sound as though it's a careful treatment, but when it comes to Lara Croft, both the character and the brand, it seems she's nothing if not a survivor.

Tomb Raider (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) is released on 5 March

Price: £49.99
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: 5th March 2013
Age Rating: 18

News
news
Voices
voicesThe Ukip leader on why he's done nothing illegal
Arts & Entertainment
artYouth club owner says mural is 'gift from the sky' so he can prevent closure of venue
News
science
VIDEO
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
people
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Resourcer

    £18000 - £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Resourcer Reports...

    B2B Bids and Tenders Pricing Specialist

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + excellent company benefits : Pro-Recruitment Group...

    Projects Financial Analyst - Global Technology firm

    £55000 - £62000 per annum + outstanding benefits and bonus: Pro-Recruitment Gr...

    SharePoint Administrator/Developer (C#, VB.NET, VISUAL STUDIO 2

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SharePoi...

    Day In a Page

    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
    Supersize art

    Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

    The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
    Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

    How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

    More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
    10 best activity books for children

    10 best activity books for children

    Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
    Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

    Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

    Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
    Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

    Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

    Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
    Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

    NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

    Politicians urged to find radical solution
    Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

    Ukraine crisis

    How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    A history of the First World War in 100 moments
    Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

    New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

    Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
    Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

    Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

    Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?