Archaeology of Tomb Raider: In the Spotlight: Helen J

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Archaeology of Tomb Raider: In the Spotlight: Helen J
Interviewer: Kelly M
Interviewee: Helen J
Date(s): February 16, 2014
Medium: online
Fandom(s): Tomb Raider
External Links: In the Spotlight: Helen J – The Archaeology of Tomb Raider, Archived version
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Archaeology of Tomb Raider: In the Spotlight: Helen J was conducted in 2014.

Some Excerpts

How has Tomb Raider changed your life?

For the past two to two and a half years it has been my escape, whether that be through cosplay, writing, forums or playing the games. It was my Masters year in university and my mum was spending months at a time in hospital or at home with me as her carer. I had something else to focus on and look forward to. I have also had great trouble trying to find a job and the money from the Etsy store really keeps me going. I have made so many new friends through the online community, and without TR, all this wouldn’t be possible.

Before that, TR definitely made me love gaming and inspired me to build a collection that heavily features female protagonists.

What are your thoughts on Lara’s image? Is she simply the product of a sexist gaming industry or can she be seen as a positive role model?

I never thought about it until I was older, as it never occurred to me when I was seven, eight, nine, that Lara was anything other than a woman who loved going on adventures. To me, she was strong, independent and valued knowledge. When I see some critiques of classic Lara, I think to myself ‘that isn’t the Lara I grew up with’. I find Legend more degrading than any other game as her vast knowledge didn’t shine through.

I still believe however that if we didn’t have Lara, other female protagonists may have had a worse treatment. Just looking at Jade from Beyond Good and Evil or D’Arcy from Urban Chaos. You can see how TR has helped the validity of the female protagonist. What we have to consider is that a game does not live in a vacuum and therefore we must accept that there are multiple ways of reading the context, because of individual or group ideologies. All characters I have mentioned are filed in the ‘Sexy Heros’ chapter in the book ‘1000 Game Heros’. Not female, not action, but sexy with an opening paragraph that states that “these heroines [look] like sex-objects created for the benefit of men…with Lara Croft just Indiana Jones in drag”. The book chose to focus on the attire rather than the overarching narrative, with a rather negative viewpoint on the female protagonist. The gaming industry isn’t the sole factor to ‘sexist gaming’ or Lara’s sexist label. The wider media, cultural notions and individual traits bond together to create something that very often goes beyond the original creations’ intention.

When and how did you learn about the Tomb Raider series?

It was 1997. My next door neighbour had a Sega Saturn that I used to play on and when I had broke my leg, he gave it to me and showed me a box of games that I could choose from. I hadn’t played TR before that but I loved the picture on the cover, probably because it had a woman with brown hair on it! Although I was only 7/8, I kind of related to this image. I was surprised, and thankful that my mum never looked at the age rating!