What is it?
The first Tomb Raider game was released in 1996 by British game company Core Design for the PC, Playstation and Sega Saturn platforms. Core Design developed the next five games in the series before North American studio Crystal Dynamics took over the reins and produced the action-adventure series since then.
Each instalment in the series has its own storyline, of course, but the general thread is that Lara Croft is the heir of the aristocratic Croft family. She is on a plane that crashes in the Himalayas and must journey back to civilisation. This journey kickstarts her transformation into an adventurer and treasure hunter.
As games in the action-adventure genre, the Tomb Raider titles allow the player to move by running, jumping and (unusually at the time of the first games in the series) swimming. Lara moves through ancient tombs and temples, fighting enemies, solving mechanical puzzles and avoiding traps. The earlier games were meant to evoke the feel of the 1989 version of the Prince of Persia video game.
Women and the Game
The protagonist of Tomb Raider was originally intended to be male, however the designers were concerned the story would be too similar to Indiana Jones, so the main character became female instead.
The character has been controversial over the years. Particularly up until the 2013 reboot of the series (largely written by Rhianna Pratchett, daughter of fantasy writer Terry Pratchett) portrayed her as a deeper, more nuanced person, her crop tops, daisy dukes and cartoon boobs earned her an image as, essentially, Barbie in boots and an object for the male gaze. Others have argued that her portrayal is a little more complicated than that and applauded her role as a strong female protagonist.
Either way, the character has certainly been iconic. Lara was honoured with the title of “most successful human video game heroine” in the 2006 Guinness World Records and Tomb Raider has spawned into movies, a TV series, comic books and novels.
Article in The Telegraph on Lara Croft as a female character
Article in Business Insider Australia on the importance of Tomb Raider to women
Article on trauma, Jessica Jones and Lara’s role as a hero
Feminist review of the series for Forbes