I have a complicated relationship with the term “gamer.” Specifically, referring to myself as one.
I am quite confident in my geek bona fides, but gaming is another thing. I grew up playing PC games like Oregon Trail and Carmen Sandiego, but I never owned a console until I got a used N64 in college. (This was mainly used to play drunk MarioKart with my roommate.) I would never have considered myself a “gamer.”
It was my husband who really got me into gaming. He showed me the Star Wars RPG Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), he bought me a Wii, he let me play his account for the beta of my first MMO, SW:TOR, and we watched the Overwatch World Cup together.
So, now I’m a gamer, I guess. Except…I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that he hasn’t played first, or with me. That still makes me feel lacking, like I’m just…borrowing his hobbies, or something.
In my inane desire to change this, I somehow became fixated on Tomb Raider. The original game is a classic, and the 2013 reboot has the dual benefit of being both more feminist than the original and getting good reviews. Also, we already owned the game, and my husband never got around to playing it. I would be on my own.
So, I set the difficulty to “easy” and gave it a shot.
Tomb Raider follows a young Lara Croft on an expedition to find the lost kingdom of Yamatai, but her ship is wrecked and her crew is stranded on a mysterious island with a creepy cult and a strange reluctance to let anyone leave. Lara must crawl through gross caves, explore dark tombs, and go down a lot of zip lines in order to find her crew and get them all off the island.
Lara is exactly the kind of female main character I’ve been waiting for. She’s tough and scrappy, yet fiercely loyal to her crew, especially her best friend Sam. (Sam is a girl; there’s no romance here.) Lara’s got brains, brawn, and heart. Plus her costume redesign is spot on.
The gameplay is fun, and has plenty of assists like auto aim and copious checkpoints to keep it from getting frustrating for n00bs like me. The puzzle-type challenges are my favorite, figuring out how to get from once place to another. Lara gets to use several different weapons and tools, so you can kind of figure out a combat style that best for you as well as best for the situation.
Yeah, I’ve hit a couple spots I’ve had trouble with. I’m really bad at timing button presses. I also have a tendency to start combat by rushing in and just shooting at stuff without considering options. Usually I’ll hit a “tough combat” and die five times before I realize I was supposed to sneak around, or shoot an explosive to kill all enemies at once, or some other strategy that was obvious once I thought about it for two seconds. This gives me the strange feeling of both chagrin for having to die at least five times before I catch on, but also pride for catching on in the end.
I’ve enjoyed the story so much that I’m really looking forward to the new Tomb Raider movie coming out this year, which seems like it inspired by this game. Action movies with females leads are still relatively rare, and it would be really great to see this iteration of Lara on the big screen.
So, has playing Tomb Raider made me feel like a real gamer? Actually, kinda. As stupid as it sounds, I do feel more confident in my gaming abilities. Once or twice my husband has actually watched me play a video game for a change, instead of the other way around. I’m never going to play ranked PvP in a first person shooter or anything, but that’s not required and it’s not something I want to do anyways.