December 25, 2009

Tomb Raider Player Survey

I recently connected with a new friend, Izzie, a student at the Sorbonne in Paris, who's doing a research project for a media studies class. She asked some interesting questions about how players of both genders connect with the game. I hope you'll give her a hand with her investigation.

Izzie writes: I'm conducting a small research and analysis about Tomb Raider for a class about "Media environment and sub-cultures of screens" (we study anything which uses the screen as a support, from internet to video games and cinema). I've read many studies about players' perception of Lara Croft but none were satisfying, so I'd like to initiate a quick survey on my own.

My subject is: What attracted you to the game?
  1. Was Lara's feminine identity what appealed to you?
  2. Was it more the gameplay/adventure history which got you into playing it?
  3. About Lara's physical appearance: were you ever annoyed by it or was it never a concern?
Feel free to add any comment, but you can just reply by yes/no.

Could you please indicate your gender (it matters since the research is gender oriented)? The only condition is that participants must be American (sorry about this restriction, but my research concerns American cultural studies).

If you'd like to participate, either post your answers in a comment here, reply to Izzie's thread on the Video Game Forums (you can read my response there as well), or send me a message and I'll forward it to Izzie. Thanks for sharing!

The deadline for submissions is January 15th.


  1. 1. No. When I got interested in Lara Croft I was very young and I didn't care if it was a female or a male.

    2. Yes. The adventure factor and the historical facts the game transmited us was enough to get me to like it.

    3. It was never a concern. The beautiful body was always a pleasent look, especially when Lara perfored all those acrobatic moves, but the "sexual" parts were never a major interest of mine.

    I am a Male

    (sorry about any English mistakes because it is not my mother language.)

  2. Sadly, like Lara herself, I'm a Brit and therefore cannot comment.

  3. 1 and 2. I started playing Tomb Raider both because Lara was a woman (how cool is that?) but also because of the exploratory/historic angle of the games. But I kept coming back because of the story lines.

    3. Lara's physical appearance has regularly annoyed me mostly because she can't be "real." (Like Barbie.) I always figured that was done to draw in the guys to play a game with a girl character. Obviously, it hasn't stopped me from playing!

    I am female and a resident of the US (Pennsylvania).

  4. Thanks so much for the replies, everyone.

    Hey, Ostercy. Good to see you. You're welcome to post if you want to, but unfortunately Izzie's study focuses on Americans. I guess we're just weird enough to merit further scrutiny. ;)

  5. 1.) Not at all. If the main character is somewhat believable, then I'm more likely to be drawn to the game.

    2.) Absolutely. I love mysterious looking and different far away places. Tombs and ancient forests etc fall perfectly into this category. Game play is also critical however. A game must to me be not only interesting, and somewhat of a challenge, but not so hard or unbelievable that it becomes frustrating.

    3.) No not really, the designers made her to look good, and I think they did a good job of it without making the character look slutty or obnoxious.

    Good luck!!

    David A.

  6. 1. I originally played TRIII. Yes, Lara's femininity played a big role in my choice. I liked the idea of a woman adventurer.

    2. Yes, I was intrigued by the plot and mystery of the game, along with the puzzle solving. I liked the battle/killing less.

    3. Lara's physical appearance was never a bad thing. The more realistic / sexier the better.

  7. David and nelson8862, thanks for your responses. Nelson, we need to know if you're male or female for the survey. Sorry if that wasn't clear. I'll edit the post to make it more noticeable.

  8. Was Lara's feminine identity what appealed to you? Before the game came out, there were many articles in game magazines that asked "would you play a female character?" as if this were sooo odd. Which it was at the time, but I was perfectly happy to play and cheer on Ms. Croft.

    Was it more the gameplay/adventure history which got you into playing it? I loved the adventure and exploration, and can still "see" many of the levels and areas of the first Tomb Raider especially in my head.

    About Lara's physical appearance: were you ever annoyed by it or was it never a concern? The only thing I ever thought with some amusement was that in the real world, Lara would tip over, purely as a gravitational fact.

    I am your basic female.

  9. Im British, so my comment doesnt count but i like doing surveys anyway, lol.

    1. No, i just wanted to play an Indiana Jones style game.

    2. Adventure games are always awesome.

    3. Yeah, it annoyed me a lot, especially in TR2,TR3 and Legend. She looks normal in Underworld though.

    Im Male.

  10. Hi Izzie,

    I’d love to help you out with your research! I’ve written and conducted my own research on similar subjects to the theme you seem to be exploring through your questions, so I will do my best not to get carried away. I am female and American.

    1. Was Lara's feminine identity what appealed to you?

    Yes. I thought a female protagonist in a game was super cool and a delightful change from the anthropomorphized game characters (which were generally male, come to think of it) and the usual male characters found in nearly every game at the time. Having a woman as the main character was probably the most striking and appealing aspects of the game simply because I wanted to go adventuring as Lara Croft and not as Mr. Generic Action Man.

    2. Was it more the gameplay/adventure history which got you into playing it?

    I especially enjoy action/adventure games, so, yes, the gameplay was definitely something which got me into playing. Puzzle-solving, exploring, gunfighting, and the locales/history are all a big draw that have kept me playing nearly all the TR games.

    3. About Lara's physical appearance: were you ever annoyed by it or was it never a concern?

    Yeah, I’ve found it irksome and an unfortunate feature that seems to be TR’s unsavory trademark. People unfamiliar with the games know about them simply because of Lara’s bust size and impractical outfits. It’s a sad reflection on American society that to make a game icon recognizable you feel like you have to design her to have exaggerated breasts simply because they’re there. In my past studies I’ve pretty much concluded that if you have a female character possessing attributes that are traditionally thought of as male, such as using weapons, being tough, having quick wits, intrepidness, athleticism, etc., then the female character is hypersexualized in an insane, panicky attempt to assure people she’s still conforming to female gender stereotypes and therefore “normal.” It’s annoying and belittling.

  11. More great responses! Thanks, everybody. :)

  12. American female at your service :D

    1. Was Lara's feminine identity what appealed to you?

    I do enjoy the fact that Lara is female because that helps me relate to her as a character, but it's not the only thing that appealed to me. Gameplay, Lara's character, the story and, yes, those sexy curves, are all a part of a delightful package deal.

    2. Was it more the gameplay/adventure history which got you into playing it?

    I was 11 years old when the first Tomb Raider game was released, and history was not my favorite subject when I first started playing. In my younger years, it was purely the fact that it was a beautiful woman (who was brunette, just like me!) doing these incredible things that made me want to play. Thirteen years and a degree in art history later, I'm playing the games with a deeper appreciation of the history and story involved. The fact that the writers consistently and creatively toy with the "monomyth" theory is immensely appealing to me as an adult, and it's one of the things that keeps me coming back to this day.

    3. About Lara's physical appearance: were you ever annoyed by it or was it never a concern?

    As stated in #2, I was 11 when Tomb Raider was launched, and thus very, very impressionable. I latched on to Lara Croft as a role model because she was beautiful, confident, smart, athletic and a bit of a smartass all in one kickass package. Because of this, my mother even *encouraged* me to play these games, despite the hefty amounts of violence (although she wasn't terribly strict with video games, otherwise). In fact, I'd go so far as to say that my emulation of Lara Croft in my earlier years helped to shape the bold, strong, confident woman that I am today. I never once felt bad about my body because Lara's body had a different shape than mine; rather, I was fascinated by the way she charged headfirst into life with cleverly calculated abandon. I loved the way that she interacted with her friends and her foes, I loved the way that she was a driven, self-motivated professional who always completed the tasks she set out to do (spiked pits and rolling boulders notwithstanding). I won't lie and tell you that I didn't notice her body, because her body is hard to miss. One of my favorite features of the later games is the ability to change her outfits, and it doesn't bother me at all when Lara decides to go diving into the Mediterranean Sea in just a black bikini. Her body is just a part of who she is, just as MY body is a part of who I am. As far as I'm concerned, if one were to ask Lara to get a breast reduction because her breasts are too big, it would be EXACTLY the same as asking someone to get breast implants because their breasts aren't large enough; in both instances, you're asking someone to change because YOU are uncomfortable with how they look, rather than being concerned with how they feel on the matter (I understand that Lara's not a real person, but let's be honest: why do people get offended by her body shape in the first place? Because it makes THEM feel uncomfortable). In regards to realism and Lara's bodily proportions: I urge those who dislike Lara's proportions to suspend disbelief while they watch 36-24-36 measurements leaping nimbly about while shooting at velociraptors, dragons, animated statues, mummies, giant lizards, viking thralls, and a doppelganger Lara (just to name a few...). ;P

  13. I know I missed the deadline on this poll but I found the questions interesting so thought I'd add my pennysworth.

    As a female I can't say I was ever offended by Lara's appearance. Frankly I was happy there was finally a female heroine! Someone I could relate to. I mean, before her, what or who was there that appealed to the female gamer? Back then and even now I don't think they realize how many of us there are...
    I enjoyed the tombs, artifacts and all the creepy stuff.
    I was first introduced to TR when she was on Sega Saturn. It wasn't until I got my first PS1 a year later that I bought the game. I have been playing and replaying it ever since, on my Ps2 and my Ps3 which I bought the orignal TR ps1 and ps2 games. Such a racket isn't it? :o)

  14. Jack & kristina, thanks for posting. Even if your answers didn't make it in time for Izzie's survey, it's still great to have your feedback. I'll be posting the final paper today in a new topic, so stay tuned... :)

  15. I'm a male, I had no say in playing the game. My father rented it when I was young about 5 and we played it as a family. My mother read the book and my father played and my siblings and I shouted at the screen. As I got older and the games evolved I did as well. Im from the video game generation from Mario World and the orignal Zelda to online multiplayer games such as Halo and Call of Duty I have seen it all. I thought it was cool that the main character was a female, and a badass one at that. I have played them all and I have never given her looks in the games to much thought. When I was younger and the played the first game with my family we all thought Lara funny looking. This was largly due to the graphics available to that timeframe. If you don't remember in the first game Lara had near perfect triangles for breasts. We used to joke if she ran out of ammo she could just run into whatever was attacking her and stab them with her chest. As I got older and the games advanced I thought of Lara as sexy sure, that was how she was depicted and her outfit was rediculous for raiding tombs. But having a female character wasnt the selling point, it was just a well done series. Up to a certain point. I feel they have lost their appeal after the third one. I want to mention that they didnt have to make Lara into an unrealistic figment of female eurotica to sell these games. We would have played them all the same. However they have to consider that gamers are largly male and teenagers or young adults and making Lara look like she did not hurt sales in any way. I play the new Tomb Raider release in 2013 and she is more normally scaled i suppose. Still hot, but normal. The games are great I play them no matter how they made Lara look.