January 11, 2006

Close Reading 2--Tomb Raider

If anyone has any suggestions on how to make this a better close reading please let me know because I don't think I did it correctly.

Laura Croft is one of the first female main characters to hit the gaming world. She sparked a phenomenon of a series of action adventure games and two box office hits. Croft is an educated, sleek, and sexy equivalent to Indiana Jones who goes on missions to find ancient artifacts around the world. Even though she is seen as a sex symbol to men she appeals to the ass kicking side of women.

In the original Tomb Raider for the PC Laura has been hired to track down ancient artifacts that are pieced together to create the Atlantean Scion which is a device that in the wrong hands could case mass chaos and millions of deaths. She travels to a tomb in Peru where she encounters bad guys and rabid animals. She leaves nothing alive however does leave a track of empty gun shells. She visits many recognizable places such as Greece, Rome and Atlantis. In the end she finds that she has been set up to return the device to the wrong hands and so she destroys it. The back-story of the game is set to engulf the player and inevitable become Laura Croft. Men and women both enjoyed this game because of its action and adventure, but opened up the world of gaming to women that sparked a gaming revolution.

As a woman I was fond of Tomb Raider because I related to Laura more than any other main character. She is seen as a feminist icon for her sensuality, roughness, self-confidence and strength. I wanted to be just like Laura as a young girl because she was an awesome archaeologist who didn’t take crap from anyone, especially men. My favorite part of Tomb Raider was touring her home. Players had the ability to tumble through the spacious rooms, travel to her library and swim in the pool. However, the game play is an important aspect of the game as well.

Throughout the series Croft travels to several different parts of the world on different adventures collecting artifacts. The 3D graphics hold their own in the game because the locations are extremely recognizable. London has the essence of the English lifestyle. However, the graphics are disappointing because they are not complete. When a player reaches the end of a pathway and tries to turn around, the graphics stall and the player is looking at a pit of nothingness for two seconds. The controls are not the greatest because sometimes Laura doesn’t respond to the command and the player is stuck in a corner frustrated. However, overall the game has its good points such as its many locations and tasks.

Laura Croft not only is the main character, she is the female’s version of Indiana Jones with her lust for adventure. She is a sultry action fighter who has influenced many girls to become more than what they are…girls. She teaches girls to stand up for themselves, to have the motivation to become what the want in life and to kick butt at anything they do.

Posted by Kayla Lukacs at January 11, 2006 02:58 PM | TrackBack

Kool, Kayla!

However, you mentioned the "Indiana Jones" thing a couple times - maybe just once is all that's needed. I loved TR on PSX, and TR2 on PSX is still one of my favorite games of all time... that one bit in Venice, I think.. with the speedboat? Super fun!!! TR3, although gorgeous was far too difficult and easy to get lost it - I've heard it was rushed to market, as are many games, for the holiday season, which explains why. TR3 DID look incredible though.. Lara finally lost the pointy boobs and the backgrounds were not as polygonal.. good story though, lots more action and goofy bits.. such as the ability to shoot monkeys, then you felt bad...

TR though.. the first one, the whole "Atlantean" deal.. I still remember fighting that weird, "Lara" clone, only her skin was inside out.. good stuff.

Posted by: Mike at January 11, 2006 06:05 PM

Kayla, part of what you've written is a plot summary, in which you retell in your own words significant events in the fictional world.

I got the term "close playing" from Tevis Thompson, who presented a conference paper that centered on the pleasures of jumping as implemented in the Mario games.

What, precisely, did you learn about Lara when you toured her home? What specific actions or props help you to understand specific details about the character, the game, or the reasons why you enjoy playing the game? Make me feel like I'm there with you in Lara's house, or trapped in a corner where the game engine won't let me turn around, and make me feel the frustration of having to restart a level because Lara got hung up on a corner and got killed because the PC wouldn't do what you wanted her to do.

When that happens, are you mad at Lara for being stupid? Mad at yourself for not using the controls efficently? Mad at the designers for causing your experience of a particular session on Lara's virtual shoes to fall short of what you carry in your head as the idea of a PERFECT implementation of interacting with a game world via the digital body of Lara Croft?

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 11, 2006 06:44 PM

Laura is so rude sometimes...

Posted by: Stephan Puff at January 11, 2006 08:56 PM

I like the ending paragraph about what Laura Croft teaches girls. I agree, there is more to Laura than a pretty face. She challenges our ideas of gender. Even though she can be seen as an objectification, she can also be seen as an icon for the strength of a woman.

Posted by: Evan at January 12, 2006 03:02 PM

like Bond or Indiana Jones shows the strength of a man? I don't know if that is a realistic strength, nor the ideal we might want to teach our children. Laural seems to think that to convey a message[like strength of a woman] programmers have to relate to the girl. I don't know how Laura Croft is relatable to the strength of a woman...it must "It's a woman's turn to be the strong sexy hero" that pushes this game.

Posted by: Stephan Puff at January 12, 2006 03:22 PM

One question to ask yourself since this game is still very widely associated with a male audience and fan base. How many boys would have played Tomb Raider if they really felt that they were somehow taking on a feminine role?

Posted by: Leslie Rodriguez at January 12, 2006 11:08 PM

We should not devaluate any gender strength (including masculine gender strengths). When I said "strength of a woman," I was referring to what we typically associate with male strength.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make was that gender distinctions were being blurred by giving Laura Croft "kickass" strength. Although the issue of patriarchal values comes into play, Laura does teach some basic (mostly American)universal values like going for your dream and determination.

Those values do not devaluate femininity, but in some strange way complement it. Although programmers are not going to think of these issues, they come out, whether good or bad. I would rather be optimistic than cynical, thinking about what you could take out of things like these and being hopeful about it.

Posted by: Evan at January 12, 2006 11:56 PM
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