Interview: Kelly M of Tomb Raider Horizons

So, tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Kelly M, I’m originally from Gibraltar, but now living in the Netherlands, and I’m the admin of Tomb Raider Horizons. My background is actually in Chinese Studies and international relations but archaeology has always been my one true love.

Hobbies and interests include archery, blogging, video games, reading travel literature and books on archaeology, travelling, spending quality time with my partner, friends and cats, and hanging out online with fellow TR fans. Oh, and fantasising about winning the lottery, quitting my job, and visiting all the places Lara’s been to.

Kelly M, admin and chief content creator for The Archaeology of Tomb Raider
Kelly M, admin and chief content creator for Tomb Raider Horizons.

When and how did you learn about the Tomb Raider series?

I discovered Tomb Raider at a friend’s house all the way back in 1996 or 1997. He had installed a demo for a game called “Tomb Raider” on his PC and when I heard the game had a female protagonist who could give Indiana Jones a run for his money, I was naturally drawn to it. I was about 16 at the time and had been playing video games since the early 90s but no other female video game character had captured my attention quite like the resourceful, intelligent and confident Ms Croft.

A few hours later, I had explored every inch of the City of Vilcabamba – several times over, in fact – and had fallen madly in love with the game and its star. Several months later, my mum gave me a PlayStation 1 for my birthday and I immediately rushed out to the shops to get myself a copy of Tomb Raider 2, which had just been released. Shortly after that, I finally got around to playing Tomb Raider 1 in its entirety. The rest, as they say, is history.

Do you run a Tomb Raider fansite or blog? If so, what would you say was your biggest achievement to date?

Well, yes. Yes, I do. In fact, you’re reading it right now. ^_^

With regards to personal achievements, I’d say my biggest achievement is launching this blog and meeting so many wonderful people from around the world, albeit via Twitter and Facebook. I’m obviously biased but I think that the Tomb Raider fan community is one of the most welcoming, creative, and inspiring fan communities I’ve ever had the pleasure of coming across. Part of the reason I’m still blogging today is due to the overwhelming support and positive feedback I’ve received from fans.

How has Tomb Raider changed your life?

It’s hard to quantify but I think it’s safe to say my life would certainly be different without Tomb Raider. First of all, I wouldn’t be writing this right now or running Tomb Raider Horizons. Second, I wouldn’t have met so many fantastic people online or spent countless hours playing the games. And third, I’d have one less role model in my life. Lara’s confidence and bold nature have been an inspiration, even if I’m still painfully shy and socially awkward in real life.

Were you interested in archaeology before discovering Tomb Raider? Have the Tomb Raider games and films inspired you to learn more about ancient history?

I was interested in archaeology and ancient history long before Lara turned up on the gaming scene so I was attracted to Tomb Raider because I was interested in the past rather than the other way round. When the demo for Tomb Raider 1 came out, I was actually in the middle of working on a project on Peruvian art and motifs for my GCSE in art so, naturally, a game which was partially set in the Peruvian Andes was too good to ignore.  I had hoped to study archaeology at university but was dissuaded by my teachers, who believed there was no future in archaeology.

Although I regret my decision not to pursue a career in archaeology, I’m still very much taken by the subject and spend a lot of my free time reading about ancient civilisations and the measures taken to protect the world’s cultural heritage. Tomb Raider Horizons is just one of the many ways I indulge my passion for the past.

What are your thoughts on Lara’s image? Is she simply the product of a sexist gaming industry or can she be seen as a positive role model?

Honestly, I hate these questions as they always make me feel like I need to justify Lara’s existence or defend the way she looks. There’s no doubt that she was designed with a male audience in mind – it *was* the 1990s after all – and this is made painfully clear in the commercials and promo art used to promote the earlier games, some of which were downright dodgy.

Having said that, if people look past her physical “assets”, they’ll realise that Lara is an intelligent, resourceful, and determined woman who knows who she is and what she wants from life. She knows how to live in the moment and is always eager to learn more and expand her horizons. Surely these are positive qualities that anyone should aspire to. Of course, the less said about her lack of concern for ancient relics or endangered wildlife, the better.

What’s your favourite Tomb Raider game?

Tomb Raider 2. It’s the first Tomb Raider game I played in its entirety and its perfect combination of exciting, exotic locales, brainteasing puzzles, and vehicular theft have made it the game I measure all other Tomb Raider games against.

And your least favourite game?

I’d probably say Tomb Raider Chronicles as I really, really hated the VCI levels and thought the game was far too short and somewhat dull and uninspiring. It really didn’t have much new to offer in terms of gameplay and its episodic nature made it feel more like an extension of Last Revelation rather than a full game in its own right. I also wasn’t particularly fond of Tomb Raider 2013 or the new, supposedly “more human” Lara Croft. It’s certainly revived interest in a franchise many gamers had given up on or have ignored completely but I miss the gameplay, adventure, and dry humour of the Core Design games.

Classic, Legend-Anniversary-Underworld or Reboot Lara?

Classic Lara will always be “my” Lara. Her rebellious nature and no-nonsense attitude are what drew me to the games in the first place and I personally think Crystal Dynamics – and the movies – did the series a disservice when they made Lara’s parents the main motivation behind her exploits. LAU Lara had her moments and I loved Keeley Hawes’ voice but I haven’t warmed up to Reboot Lara at all.

Update: I’ve changed my mind about Reboot/Survivor Lara now that I’ve played Rise and Shadow.

Do you have any favourite Tomb Raider moments or quotes?

There are too many favourite moments to choose from and many of these have already been mentioned by the other interviewees, so I will say the moment when Lara swims through a small underwater tunnel in the City of Khamoon, pulls a lever, and surfaces in a huge room decorated with papyrus reeds… and the Tomb Raider theme starts playing. Major kudos to composer Nathan McCree for that wonderful and unforgettable musical cue. Even after all these years, I still remember how I felt when I heard that tune start up as Lara swam into that room.

As for quotes, my favourites include “Well, you have my total attention now. I’m not quite sure if I’ve got yours though” (Tomb Raider 1), “Pardon me, if that was just your way of trying the doors for me” (Tomb Raider 2) and “Death by irony is always painful. Amateurs.” (Legend). These all perfectly sum up Lara’s no-nonsense attitude and dry wit.

What about least favourite moments? Is there anything you dislike about the games/films/comics?

I’m a little wary of the direction Crystal Dynamics are taking the Tomb Raider franchise in with their latest game but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt for now. One of the things I dislike about the newer games was the decision to change Lara’s backstory completely, though, to be fair, they probably did this to maintain some form of continuity between the films and the LAU trilogy. I felt this undermined Lara’s character somewhat as they shifted her focus from exploration for exploration’s sake to simply following in her daddy’s footsteps and searching for her lost mother. I much prefer the rebel who turned her back on high society to pursue a life of thrills and adventure.

If you could change one thing about the Tomb Raider franchise, what would you change?

I would have changed the plot of Tomb Raider 2013 completely and set the game in the Himalayas. This would have been a fantastic nod to Lara’s original backstory, where she survives a plane crash and has to battle the elements and treacherous landscape in order to find her way back to civilisation. I personally would have preferred this over the horror-themed and over-violent TR 2013.

Which places would you like to see Lara explore in future games?

I have an impossibly long list of places so I’ll try to keep this short. Since the new Lara specialises in Asian archaeology, I’d love it if she went on to seek out the lost tomb of Genghis Khan, an adventure which would probably take her deep into China’s north and north-western regions before ending up in Mongolia. Just imagine exploring the grassy Mongolian steppes on horseback or visiting abandoned cities in the Gobi and/or Taklamakan deserts in search of clues to the tomb’s whereabouts.

I’d also like to see her visit the Middle East, a region that’s been largely ignored by Ms Croft. Countries like Iran, Iraq and Jordan have a wealth of archaeological sites for her to explore (and pillage). Or how about a visit to some of Africa’s ancient sites, such as Axum, Great Zimbabwe or the cities of Sub-Saharan Africa’s medieval kingdoms? With countless sites to explore, the world is Lara’s oyster. I just hope Crystal Dynamics remembers what made the Tomb Raider games special: the tombs.

Finally, if you could join Lara on one of her adventures, where would you go?

Wow, where to begin? I’d probably leave places like VCI HQ and the RX Tech mines off the list but I’d probably be willing to tag along on most of Lara’s adventures… so long as she did all the hard work.

I’d like to thank myself for taking part in my interview. You can find me on Twitter under the username @TRHorizons, on Instagram or on my Facebook page. And you can learn more about Tomb Raider Horizons by checking out the “About” page.

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About Kelly M

Kelly McGuire is a writer, part-time translator, and gamer who is passionate about archaeology, language learning, travel, and wildlife conservation. She tweets under the username @TRHorizons and is the admin and chief content creator for Tomb Raider Horizons.

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