The Average Gamer

Tomb Raider Deaths are a Bit Weird

Tomb Raider - Bodies
Some time ago Tomb Raider creator Toby Gard filmed an interview with Critical Path about playing Lara Croft, in which he said:

“People just loved killing her. People would constantly take her to the very highest places and throw her off head-first. There was a strange power thing that people were experiencing over this virtual character, and I think part of it was made stronger by the fact that she was a very strong character, she was super tough.”

I was one of those people. In fact, my very first website was Lara Croft’s Death Archive, a collection of screenshots showing how Lara could die. It was never about getting power over a strong character for me. In fact, I never considered Lara to be particularly strong. She was just there – another videogame hero, albeit one with a long ponytail and the ability to keep her aim while backflipping.

Thoughout Tomb Raider 3, I’d been impressed with the range of ways she could die. When my hard drive failed and lost my save at 80% of the way through the game, logging these deaths with a screenshot seemed a good way to keep myself entertained while repeating the puzzles.

I built the site on on Geocities back in the late nineties and, alas, the screenshots are probably gone forever, thanks to a more recent hard drive failure. Here’s the homepage, thanks to the Wayback Machine. It was 1999, the Internet was different then. Shut up.

Anyway, I didn’t think I’d find killing her all that fun after seeing the trailers for the current Tomb Raider. Old Lara was very doll-like. While I found her death animations hilariously grisly, there was no getting around the fact that she was a bunch of pointy polygons. Deliberately killing New Lara would be rather twisted, glorifying in the death of a real character.

I asked the writer of the new Tomb Raider, Rhianna Pratchett, if this had ever been a consideration during the development of the game – if avoiding this grisly treatment was something the team had consciously tried to do.

“I don’t know, we do have quite graphic kill animations in this Tomb Raider, as has been widely reported,” replied Pratchett. “That has nothing to do with me, I have to say, and as player, it’s not something I particularly need but it does underline the brutality and the perilous situation that Lara’s in.

Tomb Raider - Lara Croft Bloody“It is a kind of nod – Tomb Raider has always had quite brutal kill animations- but now we’ve got the fidelity of graphics to really make them kind of…

“I do end up watching the game rather than playing the game because the nature of what I have to do… …the reason being so that I can stop and pause and go back and re-listen to a line, which you can’t do when you’re playing. And every time I saw the death animations… [mock gasps in horror] Oh no! They are quite brutal. I really hope less people deliberately try to kill Lara because that is a little weird. We’ll see. I’m sure there will be someone that will.”

Indeed, there are quite a few people. A quick search of YouTube reveals there are plenty who do. Perhaps thankfully, the audience doesn’t seem to be there as most of these videos have less than 3000 views.

Now Lara may start out as a very humanised character. You may care for her, inhabit her or cheer her on but after the sixth time I accident impaled her on a tree, she became very much a toy again. I started appreciating the art that went into crafting these brief death scenes. They’re gruesome and off-putting and they very much do their job of punishing you for failure. You should probably look away now.

Tomb Raider - Lara Croft Impaled by a sword Tomb Raider - Lara Croft Implaced by a Tree