Week 4 Discussion: Rebooting Tomb Raider

Tuesday 30th January
15.00-16.00 Prep Session (optional)
16.00-18.00 Main Discussion
Learning Centre UG10

Until relatively recently, Lara Croft has held an ambivalent place in gaming culture, one encapsulated in the question that provides the title for Helen W. Kennedy’s 2002 essay ‘Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo?’

In this seminar we’ll consider the recent ‘reboot’ of the Tomb Raider franchise. Developed by Crystal Dynamics and written by British videogame writer Rhianna Pratchett, the two most recent games—Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015)have provided the character of Lara Croft with a new avatar design, purpose and origin story, contributing to Square Enix’s attempt to reframe the franchise for new audiences. Parting ways with the franchise in early 2017, Pratchett remarked

But, I like to think we did some good things. Maybe shifted the gaming landscape a wee bit. And that feels damn good.

Rhianna Pratchett (@rhipratchett – January 3, 2017).

Our discussion will assess the legacy of the Tomb Raider reboot: what is the value of reconceiving of such franchises? In what ways do the narratives and mechanics of Crystal Dynamics’ recent Tomb Raider games engage with the franchise’s history? In what ways do they fail to escape its problematic shadow? How do they effect and/or reflect recent changes in the industry and culture of gaming?

Please read the following two articles before the seminar, which consider Tomb Raider (2013) through feminist and postcolonial frameworks respectively:

Esther Stewart-MacCallum, “‘Take That, Bitches!’ Refiguring Lara Croft in Feminist Game Narratives”, Game Studies 14.2 (December 2014)

Kristen M.S. Bezio, ‘Artifacts of Empire: Orientalism and Inner-Texts in Tomb Raider (2013)’, in Contemporary Research on Intertextuality in Video Games, ed. by Christophe Duret and Christian-Marie Pons (Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, 2016), pp. 189-208

In the hour before the discussion (3-4pm) you’re welcome to join us in playing sections from Tomb Raider (2013) and, if we have time, its sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015). If you’re unable to make it, feel free to flick through playthroughs of the sections below:

https://youtu.be/FRUFr-0u978?t=16m44s  (16:44 to end of video)

https://youtu.be/x_Ow26-mBGo?t=10m24s (10:24 to 37:26)

Optional extra reading:

Kennedy, H. W. (2002) ‘Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo?: On the Limits of Textual Analysis’, Game Studies Volume 2(2) [online]. Available at: http://www.gamestudies.org/0202/kennedy/S


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