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The First Heroine In Video Games

This week’s blog is dedicated to one of the most groundbreaking video game characters ever: Lara Croft.

Lara Croft is one of the most famous video game heroines of all time, and therefore, Tomb Raider one of the best-selling video game series, having sold 58 million copies worldwide.

The video game series has certainly had its up’s and down’s, but it’s still going strong. Even today, 25 years after the release of the first Tomb Raider game in 1996, Lara Croft remains an icon.

Here is a brief history of where Lara Croft has come from, where she is now, and what we can expect from her in the future.

Tomb Raider came at a time in which there were no female heroines in video games. Looking back at Peach from Mario Bros, video games always showed a damsel in distress, a girl in peril: but never a woman who could look after herself and fight for what she wanted.

Lara Croft has always been a cultural flashpoint, in direct relation to her gender. Over the years, she’s also served as an example of gaming evolution, particularly in terms of graphic design.

When Tomb Raider hit the games market, it did so with a good degree of corporate muscle behind it: the game was launched as a significant part of the Sony Playstation offensive. It was a game which deployed the latest in technical advances in games design.

Lead graphic artist Toby Gard went through many designs before reaching Lara’s final appearance. While adjusting the model, he accidentally increased the breasts’ dimensions, going for 50 and ending up at 150 percent. The rest of the team approved the change and that’s how we got a very realistic Lara (for its time) with extra large boobs.

With her “polygonal breasts” and breathy voice, it was hard for some critics to see her as representing more than a digitized sexual fantasy. However, some people saw it as a beam of hope:

There was something refreshing about looking at the screen and seeing myself as a woman. Even if I was performing tasks that were a bit unrealistic…  I still felt like, Hey, this is a representation of me, as myself, as a woman. In a game. How long have we waited for that?” (Nikki Douglass, game designer).

This was just the very beginning, proving to female players and game designers around the world that playing with a female avatar was possible. It inspired the next generation of women in this industry and it brought a new possibility to the equation: female characters can also be, not only plain avatars, but main characters.

Tomb Raider reworked a male-dominated genre and features a female central character: Lara holds a gun as she navigates a hostile landscape fraught with danger. Still, the gameplay of the early “Tomb Raider” games remained heavily influenced by the platforming of the 16-bit gaming era, the gaming genre ruled by Mario and Sonic. Lara was always more focused on solving puzzles and avoiding pitfalls than blasting her way through the enemies she met in the ancient ruins.

As for the future of our favorite female adventurer, Tomb Raider will be jumping onto our mobile screens this 2021 while we need to be patient for the sequel of Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Fingers crossed for 2022.

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