In 2003, my dad picked up a game called Tomb Raider III: The Lost Artifact out of the bargain bin at a garage sale. I, eight years old at the time, would spend the next several months sitting at the computer desk after dinner with my four-year-old sister, watching our dad play. I had dreams about going on adventures with Lara, fighting the same bad guys as her and getting caught in the same traps. When my third grade teacher told us to write about our hero, most of my classmates wrote about their family members, friends, or servicemen/women that they looked up to. I wrote about Lara Croft.
To Lara Croft, my childhood hero:
I was three and a half months old when Tomb Raider was released on October 25th, 1996, so one could say that I’ve literally grown up with Lara Croft. Her journey throughout each reincarnation of the series has reflected my own personal journey growing up as the youngest of the millennials of America. As the oldest child, I learned what it means to be confident in what I do from classic Lara. When I needed to learn how to be strong, I had the 2013 reboot to show me how. As long as Lara Croft has been in my life, I have loved her, looked up to her, and learned from her. Looking past her status as a sex symbol and seeing how utterly cool she is is not only something that I think everyone needs to learn, but it’s also something that I’ve always been able to do.
The first Tomb Raider game I bought with my own money was Tomb Raider Legend in 2009, right after my thirteenth birthday. I revered this incarnation of Lara, who was faced with betrayal from her college best friend, Amanda. Despite everything that happens between Lara and Amanda throughout the course of the game, Lara still chooses to spare her life in the end. As a thirteen-year-old dealing with the drama of eighth grade, this was a message that I didn’t know I needed to hear. But as a girl watching those final scenes unfold, it was incredibly important to me to hear what Lara had to say.
New Lara is like me, a young woman about to graduate/recently graduated from University with little to no experience with the “real world”. New Lara has the same ambition, but this time she’s in way over her head. She isn’t the seasoned fighter and cold, calculating tomb raider that we met in the 1996 release. She has to learn how to fight and defend herself, and she has to do it on the spot. It’s hard enough for me to fathom moving to a big city for graduate school. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through something like Lara does in this game and at this age. Even though I was only 16 when the game came out, I relate more and more to Lara’s experience the closer she, and I, get to 22.
Despite what critics or long-time fans may say about the trajectory of the franchise, Lara Croft will always have a place in my heart. Perhaps it’s my attachment to the game as something that has existed for as long as I have, or perhaps it’s my love of mythologies combined with a love for a strong heroine. Either way, Lara’s journey from hero to girl and back to hero helped me grow as a young woman and I’m looking forward to what the franchise has to give in the next 21 years.