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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Service Desk Analyst - Application Support - Central London

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Service Desk Analyst (App...

    Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Support Engineer (Windows Server, Exchange Server)

    £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Support Engine...

    Ampersand Consulting LLP: Server / Infrastructure Engineer (Exchange, Windows, VMware)

    £32000 - £38000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Serv...

    Ampersand Consulting LLP: Virtualisation / Cloud Infrastructure Engineer (VMware, Cloud)

    £38000 - £44000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Virt...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum