My name is JP Janson De Couët and I write and interact with the Laraverse under the name Ostercy. None of my friends or family in real life play Tomb Raider (although they quite liked Angelina Jolie). I have a son and two cats.
When and how did you learn about the Tomb Raider series?
Tomb Raider was my first-ever experience of a 3D console game. I was attracted to the idea by my love of archaeology, history and Indiana Jones. Playing it took me three months and for much of that time I was scared witless.
Do you run a Tomb Raider fansite or blog? If so, what would you say was your biggest achievement to date?
I’ve run my Tomb Raider Fables site since about 1999 and the biggest achievement, I think, was running the fan fiction competitions called “The Village Of Tokakeriby Tomb Raider Story Writing Competitions”. I ran a small blog called “Not Culturally Relevant” up until the release of Tomb Raider 2013, in which I tried to fight what I saw as disrespect to Lara as a cultural icon. (And totally failed. :) )
From 1997 I was member of a discussion forum called “K Man’s”, full of Tomb Raider fans, and eventually I branched off to form The Dark Café, another discussion forum. From very early days I was banned from nearly all of the official Tomb Raider forums (and still am).
How has Tomb Raider changed your life?
Not in any tangible way. I did go through a bad patch of work harassment for being a TR fan, hence my Ostercy nickname and reluctance to release my real-life details. I’ve also spent a lot of time writing a lot of Lara and Natla fan fiction to not very much acclaim. :)
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’ve been a history and archaeology fan since I was very young. I worked in the local museum and joined the local archaeology society. My biggest childhood “hobby” was ancient coins and my father used to take me to coin shops where I could both spot a bargain as well as fakes. I have visited many of TR archaeological sites around the globe and I’m still utterly obsessed with history.
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?
Classic Lara Croft is a mixed bag. I think she may have been the product of a male-dominated industry to start with, but boy did she outgrow her origins. In the Core days, she was a feisty, clever and independent woman much beloved of both males and females. Don’t believe the modern politically-correct rewriting of her history. The “ice-cold sexpot with guns” sounds like a cheap characterisation, but in Lara, it wasn’t. She was an antihero with a sense of humour. She also had class - aristocratic, British, able to join in or leave aside high society at her own whim. Best of all, she had mystery and she had guts. She was the “cat who walked by herself”. Anyone who claims she had no characterisation before Crystal Dynamics got their claws into her just wasn’t paying attention.
What’s your favourite Tomb Raider game?
The original. It had a totally whacked-out plot, what with Natla and everything, and a couple of the best in-game surprises ever. Plus, thanks to the great sound effects, a total lack of background musak, and limited graphics, it was creepy as hell.
And your least favourite game?
Hard to say. I enjoyed Tomb Raider 2013 in the end but it was more like Resident Evil 4 (but without the zombies) than a Tomb Raider game. Otherwise, I’d have to say Anniversary.
Classic, Legend-Anniversary-Underworld or Reboot Lara?
Do you have any favourite Tomb Raider moments or quotes?
I liked some of the lines from the films. However, if I was going to nominate one killer exchange I’d go for:
Natla:”Too late for abortions now”
Lara: “Not without the heart of the operation”
What about least favourite moments? Is there anything you dislike about the games/films/comics?
I never felt the comics had much to do with Lara Croft. They reminded me of the Danger Girl comics. She looked like a pin-up with weird, tiny feet. I don’t have a great deal of hope for the new comics as I’m not a big fan of emo feminist stuff. I also feel that the characterisation of Lara in the game Tomb Raider 2013 is unbelievable and quite frankly a bit of an insult - the sort of “George Clooney as Batman” phase of the franchise.
If you could change one thing about the Tomb Raider franchise, what would you change?
I’d drop the concept of Tomb Raider as a not particularly good third-person shooter and go back to Tomb Raider. I’d dump most of the Hollywood music and dialogue and the background notes. I’d firmly reconfirm that Lara is the British (not half-British) Lady Lara Croft, treasure-hunting sociopath. I’d bin all future father figures and I’d get an actress who sounds like Lara. I ‘d draw a discrete view over the slightly ropey origins story and I’d bring back surreal ways to die as well as surreal supernatural baddies.
Which places would you like to see Lara explore in future games?
I’ve got a hankering for Mars.
Finally, if you could join Lara on one of her adventures, where would you go?
Paris is nice. We could have a few drinks and maybe a cigar at a pavement cafe.
A huge thanks to Ostery for taking part in our series of fan interviews. Feel free to visit his blog Not Culturally Relevant if you’re as passionate about Classic Lara as he is or check out his fan fiction on his website, Tomb Raider Fables.
You can find an archive of all our fan interviews over here.
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