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Pop Culture: Two Decades In, Lara Croft Still Reigns Supreme

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It’s hard to believe, but we’re just one year away from the 20-year anniversary of one of pop culture’s biggest gaming icons: the birth of the one and only Tomb Raider, Lara Croft.

Created by Core Design and released in October 1996, the Tomb Raider as we know her has undergone a series of changes over the last two decades. Advances in technology have seen a mass of polygons turning into a lifelike (and at times, enhanced) version of Lara developing throughout time, while gameplay has become more immersive and storylines have become more intense.

But while some video game characters which were popular in the 90s are now recognized as classics, such as Sonic the Hedgehog, it is Croft’s Madonna-esque reinvention that has seen her breaking records left right and center in the 21st century.

Today, the character has evolved under the guidance of Crystal Dynamics, who took over from Core Design in 2006, and as such it was recently announced that the latest Tomb Raider reboot had sold 8.5 million copies. This was a record for Crystal Dynamics. Studio Head Darrell Gallagher said: “Tomb Raider ignited and expanded the fan base, pushing the series to a new level. The game’s incredible sales success reflects the passionate response of players.”

Without a doubt, this “passionate response” has been bolstered not only by the consistently high standard of games produced, but also by the merchandising empire that is the Tomb Raider brand.

In fewer than 20 years, the franchise has managed to produce comics, animated series, amusement park rides and two movies – not to mention its influences amongst a plethora of gaming platforms.

The Tomb Raider brand has managed to keep itself alive by moving with the times – for example, the online gaming world, which has grown immensely in popularity in the last decade, has opened its doors to the British archaeologist.

Croft’s brand has even made its way into the online gambling market, lending the Tomb Raider name to slot games at http://cad.SpinPalace.com, while its presence in the mobile market is also on the rise. This month, Square Enix announced that it would be launching an “endless running game” for iOS, Android and Windows devices based on the video game heroine.

Of course, the journey has not been without its bumps in the road – after rising to the top with the first three monumentally successful Tomb Raider games, Core Design ran into disagreements with Eidos, its parent company.

The result was, some years later, a rushed release of Angel of Darkness, which became something of a laughing stock amongst the fan community thanks to a whirlwind of gameplay problems.

Thankfully, Crystal Dynamics saw the opportunity to swoop in and rescue the franchise from crashing and burning completely. What has resulted is Croft’s induction into the Walk of Game in 2006, and a subsequent string of successful annual releases.

It seems that everything Miss Croft touches turns to gold, and with the latest release, Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming out later this year, it doesn’t look like she’ll be hanging up her pistols any time soon.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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