Over the past few days, we’ve had interviews from gamers and fan site owners from around the world but today’s interviewee is not only a big fan of the Tomb Raider games, he’s also been working within the games industry since 1994. Meet Jason W of Square Enix Europe!
Hi, I am Jason Walker, or Jay as most call me. I live in London, England. I’ve been working in the games industry 20 years now, starting at Codemasters back in 1994, before starting to work for Eidos in 1998. I’ve held a few positions here and survived quite a few changes in the company. We’re now Square Enix and I am currently the Mastering Manager and Licensing Coordinator. I’m a BAFTA member which means I take my movies (and TV) very seriously. Oh, I am a gamer too, although I don’t get a lot of time to actually ‘game’ even though I work on a lot of them.
When and how did you learn about the Tomb Raider series?
I was working on Brian Lara Cricket for the Mega Drive and they were very long nights, so it involved a lot of gaming magazine reading. I saw the articles about this new game with a female lead and since I had a PSX, I was very interested. I never got the largest amount of time to actually dedicate to it but I played it and loved it from the off. The fact I now work for the company behind the series and have worked there since Tomb Raider II gives you a small idea of how highly I rate Lara
Do you run a Tomb Raider fansite or blog? If so, what would you say was your biggest achievement to date?
My lovely partner (Laurie) runs Survivor Reborn so I help out on there. It’s a little hard sometimes as I have to be very careful with what I say. My biggest achievement, hmm, can I be cheeky and say “being a part of the series for the last 15 years”? Is that allowed?
How has Tomb Raider changed your life?
Pretty much completely I’d say. I now work on the series so it means I am living and breathing Lara/TR on a daily basis. Oh and the fact that through Lara I met my gorgeous fiancée Laurie. What more can you ask?
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 loved the Indiana Jones movies, watching them over and over. So I had a `Hollywood` interest in archaeology. However, through Laurie, I’ve learnt it’s not quite as glamorous as it looks in the films/games. I am very much a fan of history, and you could say that’s because of Lara, I guess.
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?
I’ve never looked at Lara as anything other than the heroine in our games. What’s not to admire about someone who after 18 years in existence STILL can hold people’s attention and kick ass in games? Oh and is still seen as the beacon for British gaming? We cannot control who looks at Lara so there will always be a set of people out there who show their disrespect very publicly towards not only Lara but the whole female gaming community. It’s a great shame, but I don’t believe Lara is made for THEM at all. The new rebooted Lara, I believe, goes further to strengthen the image of Lara as someone to look up to.
What’s your favourite Tomb Raider game?
This is a VERY tough one for me. I’ve worked here since Tomb Raider II, but in the Wimbledon office we didn’t get as closely involved until Angel of Darkness. In my job I constantly play the ‘opening’ sequence of the games when I quickly check my masters are working okay, so I never get to play through them fully. In terms of look and feel, I LOVED Tomb Raider II, but then I also loved Tomb Raider 4 as I loved the whole game being based in Egypt (having been there a few years before).
And your least favourite game?
Probably the Gameboy version. Sorry, cop-out answer but it was a pretty dire game. :)
Classic, Legend-Anniversary-Underworld or Reboot Lara?
Ahh, the never ending debate, Core vs Crystal…
Having worked with both development teams, it’s incredibly hard to be able to categorically say A is better than B etc. Without Core there wouldn’t have been a Lara, so I will always say the Classic Lara’s need to be shown the respect they deserve and NEVER forgotten. However, without Crystal, I truly believe Lara wouldn’t still be around. The game had hit that difficult stage like all long-term game series do, where standing still meant you were going backwards in the real world. Lara NEEDED to reinvent herself big time, and whilst Legend may not have been the best game in the world to do so, it didn’t half kick the gaming community back in line saying “Lara’s here still”, and the most recent game I feel is the reboot Lara truly deserved.
Do you have any favourite Tomb Raider moments or quotes?
There are so many great moments in the series. One of the best being when Lara walks through the undergrowth and the T-Rex comes bounding towards her in the original game. I truly loved that. As for quotes, hmm, that’s quite a tough one. Probably “You have my attention now, but I’m not quite sure I have yours” when she’s talking to Larson in the original game (I’m sure a fan will correct my wording but I know it was along those lines).
What about least favourite moments? Is there anything you dislike about the games/films/comics?
Like a lot of people I felt the `family` story in the newer generation of the games was a little too much ‘borrowing’ from the movies. I always felt Lara should be on her own and I liked that. Suddenly, having this mum/dad story attached just made it feel it was no longer a Tomb Raider game but a game about Lara Croft herself.
If you could change one thing about the Tomb Raider franchise, what would you change?
I personally think we need to get her back on track, so to speak. Get her back in tombs and stop telling a ‘personal story’ about her.
Which places would you like to see Lara explore in future games?
If it was up to me personally, I’d love her to go to the Middle East, Turkey, Egypt. Sand and tombs aplenty there.
Finally, if you could join Lara on one of her adventures, where would you go?
Disneyland. No, I kid I kid. It would have to be Egypt. Having Lara and Laurie as my tour guides would be awesome. Laurie can point out what’s what…and Lara can kill the baddies. :)
A huge thanks to Jay for taking part in our fan interview series! You can follow Jay on Twitter under the username @jaywalker2309 or find him over at the Survivor Reborn forums. Please note that the opinions expressed in this interview are entirely his own and not those of Square Enix.
An archive of our fan interviews can be found here.
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