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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Back to the future for Lara Croft
Eidos Creative Director describes Anniversary
Tomb Raider's Lara Croft is one of the most enduring figures in video game history. To mark the start of her second decade, publisher Eidos is releasing a "re-working" of the original game.

In 1996 Tomb Raider helped establish the PlayStation as a serious contender in the videogame industry.

The game's curvaceous heroine Lara Croft became an icon in her own right,

sparking a movie and an ongoing debate about the representation of women in games.

Only two years ago the Tomb Raider franchise was in parlous health. The sixth iteration of the game proved a disaster and the second film based on the game, starring Angelina Jolie, was mediocre at best.

Eidos went back to the drawing board, hired new developers and reinvigorated the franchise with Tomb Raider: Legend. The same coders - Crystal Dynamics - got the task of re-writing the original classic.

To Eidos, Lara Croft is the undisputed queen of the digital domain.

Ian Livingstone, Eidos's product acquisition director and the man seen as the guardian of Lara Croft, said: "The whole world has fallen in love with Lara. She's gone beyond the games niche and is now a mass market, entertainment property.

Eighth incarnation

"She has survived the test of time. Rather like James Bond has had over 40 years in the film business. Lara Croft has had ten years in gaming, and two blockbuster movies."

But is re-writing an 11-year-old game the sign of an industry short on original ideas?
Lara Croft alongside underground waterfall
Academic papers have criticised Lara Croft's role as a sex icon
Mr Livingstone said: "Cinema has shown that film goers like to see sequels or remakes of classics. The first Tomb Raider was a classic. We had requests from people to bring it up to date.

"We wanted to take all the seminal moments that everyone remembers from the first Tomb Raider and into an enhanced title, using technology from Crystal Dynamics, to make the game we always wanted to."

The game is only being released for PlayStation 2, PC and PSP and not for the next-generation consoles.

An eighth Tomb Raider for the new consoles is already in development, so perhaps Anniversary can be looked upon as one for nostalgic gamers.

It also provides a welcome new title for PlayStation 2 owners, while other developers are leaving in droves.

Sexy beast?

But to some Lara Croft is nothing more than a hyper-sexualised, male fantasy. Scores of academic papers have been written about her in the last 11 years.

In an influential academic paper in 2002, Helen W. Kennedy said the question surrounding Lara Croft was simple - is she a "positive role model for young girls or just that perfect combination of eye and thumb candy for the boys?".

Lara Croft facing waterfall
Tomb Raider: Anniversary features an underground adventure
She wrote: "It is also increasingly difficult to distinguish between Lara Croft the character in Tomb Raider and Lara Croft the ubiquitous virtual commodity used to sell products as diverse as the hardware to play the game itself, Lucozade or Seat cars."

Unsurprisingly, to Mr Livingstone, she is a positive role model and, helpfully, a vehicle for selling herself and other company's products.

"She was the very first female character seen in a video game of any worth. She was all of the things that men liked, and all of the things that women liked too."

He added: "She's strong, intelligent, independent, sexy, of course. She's an explorer, an archaeologist; she's got a great career.

"She's not a size zero. She is a positive role model for many people, and men and women like her in equal measures."

According to Eidos, more than 50% of Tomb Raider players are female.

Money maker

For a game running on a seven-year-old console, Tomb Raider Anniversary certainly boasts an impressive graphical sheen and is perhaps one of the best-looking titles ever produced on the PS2.

The animation flows and there is an intelligence to the control system which makes the title feel fresh and less of a remake.

Mr Livingstone believes that Lara Croft has also helped grow the videogame industry at large in the UK, over the last decade.

He said: "The whole industry has matured. In the UK the videogame industry is very much part of the creative industries.

"It contributes 0.75% of the UK's GDP, dropping over two billion pounds to UK plc's bottom line, employs over 25,000 people in the games industry, either directly or indirectly," he said.

He added: "It's no surprise that Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto, two of the industry's biggest titles, were made in the UK."

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