Twenty years of an icon named Lara Croft

Lara Croft

It is famous worldwide for its archaeological forays, elegant acrobatics and art when beat a T-Rex to death. We speak of a British icon that has spent 20 years facing wolves, giant snakes and tops a little comfortable. Lara Croft is the most famous woman in the history of the game and, from the first Tomb Raider; his character has been the target of criticism and debate about its nature. As a tribute to his recently turned 20 years, we will review the different roles that had Lara, consciously or unconsciously, in our popular culture. Have you created such a school as indicated by their fame?

The pioneer

The first Tomb Raider from Core Design was a heats with more than 7.5 million copies sold. He was acclaimed for its unique range of exotic locales, intelligent puzzles, fluid controls and, uh, giant breasts. The star of the show was his enigmatic and athletic main character, which to the astonishment of many, was a woman.

Lara was not popular only in video games: it became a cultural icon. If there was a moment that marked his transition to general awareness, it was his appearance on the cover of the magazine The Face in June 1997. No mainstream magazine cover story had taken a character in the world of video games. He also shared space with another female culture banner of the moment: Gillian Anderson, Dana Scully X-Files

Tomb Raider triumphed deconstructing the industry standards. She demolished the figure of the damsel in distress expanding the range of female characters, although the rule that they must be objectified continues to sell this.

Heroes are traditionally male, with women stuck in a secondary role; and in this respect, Lara was news to the players. Wrote Nikki Douglas in 1999: “There was something refreshing to look at the screen and see myself as a woman. Even if he was making unrealistic missions, he still felt that was my behalf. In a game. How much have we expected to see this?”

Lara Croft
Image Source: Google Image

The controversy

It is clear that Lara Croft is a complicated character. On the one hand, it is that warrior hero who gave a twist to the industry, an adventuress to thousands of girls we wanted to imitate. On the other, it represents better than anyone the sexual objectification, women showcase, the first sexualization perpetuated in a saga. Wasp waist, ridiculously large breasts (because of a programming error that was never corrected), full lips … Behind her came other, more or less charisma and less media weight, but tracing its path sexualized.

We can mention two contemporary, without going any further. Jill Valentine and Aya Brea, protagonists of Resident Evil and Parasite Eve, were independent women, who faced danger fearlessly and did not need anyone ‘s help to move forward and fulfill its mission. In any case, it was they who were useful to their side.

However, the shower scene Brea in Parasite Eve II and blue top and miniskirt pretty impractical Valentine in Resident Evil 3 the sexualizaban an obvious way. And there may be mentioned more later names: Bayonetta, omnipotent gods witch fight against undressing; Sarah Kerrigan, Queen of reborn as Zerg Swarm in an anatomically perfect and deadly form, but with heels; Lightning, undisputed star of Final Fantasy XIII trilogy that manages to fight in a metal shell that leaves nothing to the imagination; and a long, long, sexist and so on.

A powerful and charismatic female character, but sexualized absurdly

This duality – powerful and charismatic female character but sexualized absurdly – remained in Lara Croft until 2013, when Tomb Raider drew a young, insecure, apprentice Lara and with all your emotions to the surface, in addition to a physical more realistic. This latest version of our heroine did not like at all, but has grossed more or less unanimous opinion regarding the treatment of the character: Lara Croft had taken a step forward. The facelift comes a little late, but never enough to join the popular clamor for a greater effort to build value women’s roles outside her tits. Tomb Raider has evolved, as does our society slowly but relentlessly.


Women are already 52% of the players, but their interests had never mattered as potential customers. It is already known: the female main character games do not sell the same, the creative freedom of creators is not debatable and a number of excuses anchored in obsolete prejudices. Digital activism has managed companies (some) rethink their strategies and consider nothing more and nothing less than half of the population.

Tomb Raider in 2013 there is a very significant advance: the legendary Lara Croft, which has changed its ways to become a better representation, or at least a more optimistic today’s society.

In the end, it is the Lara itself “kills” the stereotype of Lara, and that’s something quite powerful. Tomb Raider served to introduce more visibly women in video games and, over the years, claimed itself to better adapt to the times. This road will not travel alone and has needed help from many other partners. The first video game action heroine was Samus Aran. In 1986, Metroid, was clad in a magical futuristic armor until the end of the game, diving took off and watched her long blond hair. If you spent the game in some time, we showed in bikini. Not everything could be pretty. Nor she was the first protagonist and we had to Ms PacMan in the legendary Pac-Man, with his tie and painted to make it clear that it was a woman’s lips. But Samus itself was the first to travel, followed by Lara and Tomb Raider, the only two sagas with more than two or three games starring women.

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The merchandise

Financial failures directly affect the female characters, who often blame poor sales. It has been the case of Metroid: Other M, performed by an outside study to the saga that has plunged the character at the very low sales and, incidentally, by the absurdly sexist Samus and contrary to its origins treatment. Gamer already had problems that had Remember Me finding funding for the gender of their protagonist. The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite had to Ellie and Elizabeth, although companies decided that another guy with a beard and gun had to be the protagonist.

The indie scene itself is doing homework arranging tropes and has given us, for example, Crypt of the Necrodancer or Bloodstained Ritual of the Night, but the mainstream games reach a wider audience and always have a greater impact. So Lara remains an important figure and a leader in what a woman protagonist can get.

Another thing is that has sold well. Despite being the Tomb Raider with more copies on the market, Square Enix acknowledged that their profitability has been minimal and only reached after several years of the launch of the game and after re-launch in the new generation.

This is more the fault of ridiculous expectations of a company and the management of their investments as evidence that Hitman: Absolution and Sleeping Dogs were not profitable, and that games were very well received by players and critics. Having a woman as the protagonist is not the problem of Tomb Raider sales level.


Of course, the appearance of Lara is very conventional in the industry, and that helps. We talk about a white woman, tall, thin and heterosexual, a normative representation that fits into an industry dominated by those characteristics.

They are still taking baby steps to put characters of other races as protagonists, but you can already find cases even when it comes to women. There are Faith in Mirror’s Edge or Michonne in The Walking Dead: Michonne.

In this sense, one could say that Lara Croft has been a mirror in which to look for other video game players while simply has the attributes that characterize the rest of popular culture. The same portrait of a woman is constantly repeated in movies, comics, advertising and television.

And yet, it is curious that the most similar to Lara Croft portrait that exists in video games belongs to a man: Nathan Drake. The protagonist of Uncharted jump, fight, using firearms and discover forgotten ruins mythical secrets in the hands of God and man, like her.

Of course, the representation changes to benefit. You are not sexualized, even if Drake is strong and looking for players can see themselves represented on it. What you do is turn it into a symbol of power to portray him as brave, graciousness, friend of his friends and successful in their love life with women.

Although Drake has evolved greatly in their games, in the end due to a typical principles and topics and returns a complicated look to the old Lara Croft: Does being a woman really characterized or just had some attractive features for players who finished off physicist a woman?

The survivor

Fortunately, Lara Croft is no longer represented by the same attributes. It has always been an adventuress in Tomb Raider, but since 2013 its history reboot is completed with another form of empowerment, confidence and determination; features that we could understand better thanks to the screenplay of Rhianna Pratchett.

It had Noah Hughes, creative director of Crystal Dynamics, VentureBeat: “One of the objectives of the reboot was the characterization of Lara, celebrate their aspiration nature. We talk about someone athletic, bright and determined. We love the original Lara, but we also like the idea of broader representation in the games because there are many types of players out there.”

The current tagline Tomb Raider is “a survivor is born”. A survivor is born. Lara goes through a series of traumas before it can transcend naive girl to tough survivor. But both video games and other media, women are survivors where men are heroes, and that trope has only one reading: recompose them, they succeed.

In this Tomb Raider, the reassuring and topical male character, Conrad Roth, who takes on the role of father, always stifles Lara constant doubts. It seems that only through the teachings of Roth and physical protection, Lara can reemerge as “Survivor”.

As much as throughout the game he whispered, “You can do it. You’re a Croft “, not by virtue of his family name, inherited from her father, Lara has the intelligence, agility and strength to survive intense battles; when played and managed to Lara, seems rather to have achieved through effort, suffering and overcome what happens that simply being “Lara Croft”.

It is a message that seems almost returned to itself in the past: as much as is Lara Croft, is now another character, characterized and built otherwise.

The hope

With Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider released a few weeks ago, a new generation is discovering this Lara Croft. And I’m very envious that this image of Lara is the first who will know and that will last in your mind.

It is complicated encounter greater player 30 years not remember the first titles as a major part of their training in video games and personal development, where their problems are always present.

As demonstrated by a study of 2012 Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, analyzed 669 games in which its protagonists had discernible gender, only 24 women’s starred. The power of Lara Croft as a symbol for a generation of players is undeniable, even if only for lack of others.

Lara Croft has reinvented itself to suit the times

So Lara is not like other characters from the 90 If the industry loses, would be very serious.Mario or Sonic are basically nostalgic icons that are well maintained over time, but Lara Croft has abandoned its old characterization and symbolism to be something new. And more importantly: it has achieved while remain one of the few women protagonists financed by large companies.

It is the responsibility of the industry to include women in the development process and ensure portray women in a precise, complex, varied and healthy. The more credible they are, the closer we get to do this means safe for everyone and enriching space. And not only for women, but now they are the ones that need it most.

What better message to give young women the idea that someone who looks like they can change the world as it has Lara Croft? Fortunately, Lara is no longer so alone in this mission. More on