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Raiding Tombs

I have a special place in my heart for the original Tomb Raider game, but Lara Croft and I have never exactly been friends. People have talked a lot about how the third person view is used for sexualisation and the straight male gaze. For me, being so clearly separate from her made us enemies instead. Lara herself became as much a barrier to overcome as any spike pit or rampaging bear. Inside my head challenges became a battle to get her to follow my intended instructions. If she missed a jump, or hit up against a wall with an "oof" it was all her fault.

(Tangent: Is it possible for a game to include female groans or grunts without someone describing them as orgasmic? Women in action roles are going to make sounds of exertion or pain sometimes, deal with it.)

My treatment of Lara Croft when I was a teenager says all too much about the difficulties I've had relating to girls and women over the years. Women by default were always threats or competitors, almost never allies. It's conditioning I still have to check myself on. But if I had to have an adversarial relationship with someone Lara was a decent choice. Classic Lara Croft isn't a nice person either. She's a self-absorbed loner willing to go to extreme lengths to get the loot. I felt like I understood part of that, and in my imaginary battles with her we could both give as good as we got.

Somehow, through all our snarking, Lara and I would find our way into hidden, secret places, and it was magical. That much we could still share. Maybe we were friends after all, just in a very toxic way. That does sound a lot like high school.

I like unlikeable characters, especially as protagonists. I wanted Lara and me to push against each other but get through things anyway. That's just the way it was with us.

Now, with a new Tomb Raider I have a reworked incarnation of Lara to deal with. Fighting with Lara was always mean, but it would be worse now. This Lara has enough against her already and she's not the type to want to bicker with me.

I'm having two parallel experiences of the new Tomb Raider. In one I'm going along for the ride because it is a great game. I'd have to go into review mode for a thousand words to explain that properly, and I do keep wanting to add that it's a great game for a big budget mainstream title. In other words it suffers from predictable bullshit and doesn't have anything very meaningful to say. But if all you want is dumb action it's very slick and enjoyable.

In my secondary experience I'm pining for an actual Tomb Raider game, because that's not what this is. The phrase "Optional Tomb" says it all really. But more than that, I don't see this Lara ever developing into my favourite unlikable heroine. She was never supposed to of course, this is new canon. It's an origin story and she'll harden up a bit from overcoming hardships and killing so many people, but she could never be as mercenary as the Lara I know.

That's probably better for most people, I get it. And this is certainly no travesty like Metroid: Other M. This softer, more human Lara Croft is stronger than she's ever been, having to push past all the pain and fear to do whatever needs to be done. But I miss that hardarse treasure hunter. I'm sorry I didn't treat you better.