In the absence of any substantial Tomb Raider news, I thought I’d devote some time to getting in touch with other fan community members to learn more about their projects and how they feel about the current state of the Tomb Raider franchise and fan base. I decided to interview one of my favourite people in the community: fan fiction writer, cosplayer, and fellow cat enthusiast Noelle “Pfangirl” Adams. Here’s what she had to say about Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider fan community, and her #LiveMoreLara lifestyle.
Q. So, tell us a little about your #LiveMoreLara initiative. What inspired you to start it and what advice could you offer to others who would like to “live more Lara”?
#LiveMoreLara is a hashtag I started using as a mantra much like Reboot Lara uses “Just keep moving.” In this case, it’s about upholding Lara’s values and attitudes, and applying them in your real life, especially when facing challenges or major choices.
Anyone can “live more Lara” because it applies to so much, and ranges from grand actions to simple everyday decisions. Think visiting ancient ruins as a vacation destination, or trying a physically (and mentally) demanding activity such as mountain hiking or scuba diving. Less extreme, it applies to things like trying something new and exotic off the menu of your favourite restaurant, applying for a dream job, or attending a meet-up despite your shyness.
At its core, #LiveMoreLara is about making the commitment to seize opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone, and then sticking to your guns.
Q. You’re also an avid cosplayer and have cosplayed as Lara on several occasions. What were your most memorable experiences of portraying Ms Croft and what did you find particularly challenging about bringing this iconic adventurer to life?
I’ve had the opportunity to be an official Tomb Raider cosplay ambassador twice in South Africa, for the release of Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration Edition, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Those experiences were made even more special because with Rise, fellow local ambassador Shay helped to assemble a handful of South African Lara Croft cosplayers at the expo where the game was being spotlighted. We all posed together. Meanwhile, Shadow’s release coincided with the first ever Comic-Con Africa, and I got to be on the show floor every day, taking pictures with people who were so excited to see Lara in real life.
I also represented Lara at a local convention attended by Tomb Raider senior community manager Meagan Marie. Meeting Meagan in person, and chatting to her about all things Lara, was another definite highlight of my cosplay “career.”
As for challenging, there are some days you look at Classic Lara’s shorts and just feel a complete lack of body confidence to pull her off. I don’t consider myself leggy, busty or as strikingly beautiful as Lara, and it’s easy to feel that you aren’t doing that beloved iteration of the character justice. I definitely feel more comfortable cosplaying Reboot Lara.
Q. It often feels like Tomb Raider press and fan events are limited to North America and some parts of Europe. Do you ever feel like living in South Africa prevents you from fully participating in Tomb Raider fandom?
Yes and no. I feel like so much participation in the Tomb Raider fandom is online these days. That’s where you can find all fan creation, from art to articles, cosplay, fan fiction, fan films, podcasts, mods and many more amazing creative projects. Online is also where I get to chat to other fans, a good many of who also live in out-the-way places, so you find solidarity in that. There are so many of us who just can’t afford to travel to the mega events, in London, for example, or Los Angeles.
That said, you certainly suffer from a sense of FOMO at times. I was very jealous of the escape room experiences that happened overseas to coincide with the release of the 2018 film, as well as the special fan screenings. Nothing took place locally, and that can leave you feeling very isolated.
I have attended a proper fan dinner, though, so I can’t really complain.
Q. You once wrote a four-part feature on the diversity of the Tomb Raider fan base and Lara Croft’s appeal to the LGBTQ+ community. Do you feel the Tomb Raider community is welcoming enough and does enough to protect its LGBTQ+ fans? And do you think the franchise itself is doing enough in terms of representation or is there still plenty of room for improvement?
Tomb Raider has a large, long-time LGBT+ fanbase. Apart from the stories I’ve heard of homophobic “that’s sick” shutdowns of debate around Lara’s sexual orientation on the Tomb Raider Forums, I can’t say I’ve encountered any unwelcoming attitudes. Many LGBT+ fans are productive, prominent members of the community and have been so for years. There are a load of LGBT+ allies with the same status in the fandom as well.
As for the franchise’s relationship to representation, I would love to see an LGBT+ character in the main video game series. Such characters have appeared in Tomb Raider comics in the past, in both the Top Cow and Dark Horse days. Honestly, first prize would be establish Lara herself as an LGBT+ figure, in whatever form – gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, etc.. Her defiance of norms naturally aligns with that, so it would be great if the franchise owners would just come out, so to speak, with something that makes a clear statement about the character.
That seems unlikely though. I get the sense that the IP custodians are extremely cautious about Tomb Raider having overt gay associations, and work hard to minimise it. We never get a Pride message from the studios or publisher. During the Reboot era, Sam and canonically gay Kaz were both essentially erased from the franchise off-screen. I also may be misremembering things, but I’m sure Shadow of the Tomb Raider did not include sexual orientations and gender identities in its opening “This game was made by a diverse team of…” disclaimer. That’s all disappointing for a franchise that centres on an iconic character who refuses to play by society’s convention-imposed rules.
(Fact check: The game’s disclaimer does mention gender identities but it does not explicitly mention sexual orientation. Click here to read the disclaimer.)
Q. You cosplay, you’ve written Tomb Raider fan fiction, and you’ve even written a book review for Tomb Raider Horizons before. Do you have any other Tomb Raider-related projects in the works or have any dream projects you’d like to work on?
I think my greatest dream would be to actually work on the Tomb Raider franchise in a writing capacity, and see my work become canon. Right now I don’t have any Tomb Raider projects in the pipeline – it’s hard to feel inspired when there is nothing officially going on – although I really do need to finish my Wonder Woman-Tomb Raider crossover fan fic.
I will say, though, that my Tomb Raider projects have led me to create my own original character, who is very much Lara inspired, but not a copy. It’s a WIP, but I plan to turn her adventures into a novel and/or comic series.
Q. So, let’s talk about Tomb Raider itself. What are your favourite Tomb Raider games and how have they inspired you?
I played the original Tomb Raider in the mid-90s from start to finish several times, although after that I sort of lost touch with the franchise until the LAU days. These days I would probably say that my favourite Tomb Raider games are Tomb Raider (2013), Tomb Raider (1996), Legend, and Lara Croft GO.
For the most part I wouldn’t say these games have inspired me. They’re wonderful wish-fulfilment escapism that combines all my favourite things: ancient myth and history, cerebrally-satisfying puzzles, globe-trotting adventure and dark supernatural horror. Tomb Raider (2013) was a bit different in that it was a powerful emotional experience in addition to all these other things. It was incredibly inspiring to be along for “little rat” Lara’s brutal, messy journey of coming into her own, and overcoming all her detractors.
Q. It’s a shame that this question has become so controversial of late but I have to ask it: What version of Lara Croft do you most identify with and why?
Definitely the Lara of Tomb Raider (2013), although I found myself losing that “connection” in Rise and Shadow as the character became more bland and nice, with all her edginess filed away. For the record, I love Classic Lara but emotionally I never felt connected with her. I could aspire and wish to be more like her, but I couldn’t identify with her because she’s too cool and aloof.
Reboot Lara I found far more relatable as an awkward archaeology nerd who demonstrates the full emotional spectrum. She proves you can be a hot mess of a human, struggling with doubts, anxiety and trauma, and still accomplish so much, and I think that’s important to see in media. Emotion is not weakness.
I just wish that after 2013 the brand decision-makers hadn’t lost their nerve in terms of character depiction. I wish we had got to see a Lara pushed to psychological extremes like in the first Rise trailer, and just generally not being such a sweet, accommodating (if obsessive) person. I think that would have made for a more compelling character evolution than the one we got.
Q. Do you have any prized pieces of Tomb Raider merchandise or memorabilia?
It’s difficult to get Tomb Raider merchandise in South Africa, and with the state of our currency it’s become prohibitively expensive to buy and import anything from overseas. That said, I have a small collection of merch, and I think my most prized possessions are two limited-edition Tomb Raider (2013) prints that I have framed and are now on my study wall. The first is a moody Indiana Jones-esque collage from Sam Spratt, and the second comes from Cate Rangel and shows Lara with a full-sleeve Yamatai-themed tattoo.
I also have a little goodie bag of limited edition Tomb Raider items, including pins, playing cards, lanyards, etc. My most treasured piece from this loot haul is a replica of Lara’s leather-bound Sisters of Artemis journal.
Of course, from a cosplay side, given the amount of work that went into them, my hand-made ice axes are my babies.
Q. Finally, what would you like from a future Tomb Raider game? Are there any particular myths or locations you’d like the series to explore next?
I really like the direction the series has been taken recently, off the beaten track to explore less famous legends and locations, so I would love to see that continue. Mongolia, or something in Sub-Saharan Africa would be great.
Mostly, I want to see the return of a Lara Croft who begrudgingly does heroic things on the side of adventuring, instead of volunteering to help all the time. While maintaining a full emotional spectrum, I want to see her have an edge again, even if she veers into misanthropic territory when she’s not engaging with friends and allies. On that note, I’d love to see an older Lara who is a seasoned, scarred and probably jaded adventurer; that would mix things up.
Also, more intricate puzzles. I’ve been playing through the Room series lately, and I would love to see Lara tackling those kind of elegantly designed, multi-layered puzzles in the tombs she explores.
I would like to thank Noelle for taking the time to participate in this interview. If you would like to learn more about Noelle and her #LiveMoreLara initivative or hire her for a project, please visit her website, Pfangirl.Com.
All of the photographs featured in this article were provided by Noelle and the photographers have been credited accordingly.