Would Tomb Raider have been as popular as it was without Lara Croft? Probably not.
It seems now that Tomb Raider and Lara are one and the same, that one could not have existed without the other: Tomb Raider without its iconic female lead would have been a lot less colourful and Lara Croft without such a ground-breaking game behind her (and a sense of Girl Power) would be just another large-breasted videogame female.
It’s also arguable that its success would not have been possible without Sony’s emergent PlayStation. True, Tomb Raider was also released on Saturn and PC but it was this new, club-cool games console where Tomb Raider found its natural home.
Lara quickly became synonymous with PlayStation, PlayStation quickly became the console of choice for that generation and two legends were born. Lara Croft and PlayStation were as much a part of Nineties Cool Britannia culture as Oasis and Damien Hirst.
But what of the game?
Well, the scenario was an instant classic: an Indiana Jones-inspired, boys own adventure, played through the ruins of ancient civilizations; it mixed puzzles, platforming and gunplay to brilliant effect. An epic soundtrack and ground-breaking graphics engine helped, as did the fact that the player followed a beautiful, strong and sassy female character around the entire time.
The cynical would say that she was only ever in the game to appeal to the gamer stereotype: single, lonely male, bedroom-bound geek. But then something surprising happened with Lara. She wasn’t just adored by the men who played Tomb Raider, but also by the women too. She was a woman excelling in a male-dominated world – both the one depicted in the game but also the wider videogames world too. For the first time, female gamers had a character they could strongly relate to.
Lara made it okay for women to play prominent roles in games and for women to play games. And, more than anything, that is how Tomb Raider – along with Lara Croft – changed the world of videogames forever.
The inclusion of a training level – Croft Manor – which took place in Lara’s home.