This week’s fan interview turns the spotlight on one of my favourite Tomb Raider fan fiction writers and cosplayers. Say “hello” to Noelle, aka Pfangirl!
I’m Noelle Adams, a professional writer, blogger and cartoonist living in Durban, South Africa. I’m 32 years old and I currently work full-time as a copywriter in the advertising industry.
My interests are pretty diverse (I’m a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt) but I’ve always harboured a deep love for pop culture in its many forms – film, comics, video games, cartoons, etc. In fact, pop culture is the subject of my long-running blog, Pfangirl Through the Looking Glass.
More recently I started dabbling in cosplay and fanfic writing, but I’ll discuss that more in a moment.
When and how did you learn about the Tomb Raider series?
I remember when the first game came out, and the reaction was just so outstanding – not just in the video game press, but the media in general. I remember Lara becoming an instant phenomenon. Given that Action Adventure has always been my favourite video game genre, and given that Tomb Raider actually had a badass female lead, I desperately wanted to play it. I eventually got to do that in early 1997 when it became one of the first PC games I ever bought. I must have played it from start to finish about 6 times.
Do you run a Tomb Raider fansite or blog? If so, what would you say was your biggest achievement to date?
Not a dedicated one, but more and more Tomb Raider content has been slipping onto my pop culture blog. Out of interest the most read post in my blog’s 10 year history was a piece I wrote last year examining the “Is Lara Croft gay” debate. Evidently it’s a hot topic.
How has Tomb Raider changed your life?
Well, it’s been a very long time since I was last really sucked into a fandom to the point that I sit and think about it at random times of the day, and feel inspired to create things (stories, artwork) to express – and share – my feelings of appreciation and adoration. Tomb Raider 2013 changed that.
Because of Tomb Raider, I started writing fan fiction. I’m currently in the process of writing my second Tomb Raider story, which is likely to be novel-length by the time it’s complete.
I undertook my first proper cosplay project, complete with on-location photo shoot and travelling to rAge, South Africa’s biggest gaming convention, where my Reboot Lara was very well received.
The biggest – and possibly weirdest – way that Tomb Raider has changed my life though is that, indirectly, it got me to examine my sexuality. The “Lara-Sam-Are-They-Aren’t-They ” debate saw me read a ton of surprisingly sweet, credible fan fiction that really opened my mind to the alternative; what a relationship with another woman could be like. I’m grateful for that. I feel more comfortable and happier in my skin now.
Were you interested in archaeology before discovering Tomb Raider? Have the Tomb Raider games and films inspired you to learn more about ancient history?
The first movie I ever saw at the cinema was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indy was one of my greatest childhood heroes, so yes, I was definitely into archaeology before Tomb Raider. I think at one point, I wanted to be an archaeologist in-between desires to become a detective, secret agent and cartoonist.
More seriously though, I love ancient history. My father used to tell my Greek myths and legends as bedtime stories and I studied Classical Civilizations at University. I own a whole bunch of books on the topic. And as far as I’m concerned, when I’m travelling, it’s not a proper vacation if I’m not scrambling over dusty ruins, and visiting ancient temples.
All this said, the Tomb Raider games have certainly educated and inspired me. For example, I didn’t even know the Yamatai and Himiko tale had a real-world origin; I initially thought it was just something invented by the game makers. I would also just add that I really enjoyed looking for relics in the latest game – their write-ups were really informative.
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 think Lara’s image is a complicated one. Ultimately I’d say she’s a bit of both. The way she was marketed in the past – all boobs and come-hither poses – certainly reflects a sexist industry. Looking at the character herself though – her independent, unapologetic spirit and everything she’s accomplished on her own terms – she’s definitely a positive role model. Of course it’s very hard to separate the two, but either way, as far as female video game characters go, I think she is the definitive First Lady of Gaming. And I think her evolution as a character reflects attitudes and changes within the industry as a whole.
What’s your favourite Tomb Raider game?
For being what I consider a “proper” Tomb Raider game, with all the elements I have come to expect of the franchise, I would say the original 1996 game. I have also recently thoroughly enjoyed playing Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. It might be substantially different from the other games, but I really enjoyed the puzzle-solving in it.
And your least favourite game?
I haven’t played enough of the series to really comment fairly (I’m rectifying that right now) but I do remember how Angel of Darkness was slammed on release. People seemed to loathe it, going on about how it was a franchise killer. That is the game I’m expecting to like the least when I get around to playing it.
Classic, Legend-Anniversary-Underworld or Reboot Lara?
I’m going to be the minority here and say Reboot Lara. Classic Lara is unbelievably cool and badass, but apart from admiration, I never really had an emotional connection with her. Reboot Lara, however, I really relate to. Playing the game, I really wanted her to succeed despite the ridiculous odds stacked against her; I felt absolutely horrible when I got her killed.
To be fair, though, right now Reboot Lara is a bit too bland; admittedly too one-note. But this makes me very excited for the promised evolution of her character. I am so looking forward to accompanying her as she becomes more like Classic Lara: cool, confident and never without a witty comeback.
I really enjoy the potential inherent to Reboot Lara: that she is going to grow beyond a shy, young graduate who relies on her seniors for advice, to someone who takes charge by default. From doubting herself, she comes to realise and trust in the amazing capabilities she has always possessed.
Do you have any favourite Tomb Raider moments or quotes?
Two from the latest game: The radio tower climb, and, when facing the monstrous Somali Solarii, her comment, “I’ll show you what this little rat can do.”
What about least favourite moments? Is there anything you dislike about the games/films/comics?
I really loathed the films. Angelina was a great Lara, but I thought the movies were rubbish. Other than that, I’ve never been a fan of killing endangered and exotic animals. That aspect of the games has always made me feel quite guilty.
If you could change one thing about the Tomb Raider franchise, what would you change?
The “Daddy’s girl” backstory that has crept into prominence, particularly since the first film. Blergh.
Although I think it’s being handled a bit better in the reboot, I don’t like the idea of Lara following in her parents’ footsteps. It is such an overdone storyline and it deprives Lara of her agency. Instead of being an independent woman, with her own goals and aspirations, she is forever operating in the shadow of a male figure. It’s lame.
I always really adored Lara’s first origin story where, after finishing school, she survived a plane crash, had to fight her back to civilisation, and, inspired by her freshly discovered resourcefulness, promptly turned her back on the expectations of her aristocratic family. That she still finds success on her own terms, that’s more like it! Hell, I would even have been happier if one of her mentors, like Roth, was a woman.
Which places would you like to see Lara explore in future games?
It would be controversial, no doubt, but Africa would certainly be someplace different. Ethiopia perhaps, with its supposed links to the Ark of the Covenant? I don’t really mind where Lara adventures next, though. I hope more that she does it alone, returning to her “lone wolf” roots.
Finally, if you could join Lara on one of her adventures, where would you go?
Given that she is so knowledgeable about East Asian Archaeology, I think she would make a spectacular tour guide in that region. Otherwise, South America.
A huge thanks to Noelle for taking part in our series of fan interviews. Feel free to follow her on Twitter (@pfangirl) and/or check out her blog, Pfangirl Through the Looking Glass. You might also enjoy her Tomb Raider fan fiction, the 3-chapter story Can’t Go Home and its sequel, Easier to Run. Please note that these stories explore mature themes and may not be suitable for all readers.
You can find an archive of all our fan interviews over here.
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