So I’m sat here at Manchester Airport, waiting to depart to Los Angeles.
It feels very surreal. I have been abroad before, but flying somewhere for a Holiday (vacation for you Americans) and being flown to the developers of your favorite franchise are two very different things. I’ve been
thinking about the how far I’ve come as a Tomb Raider fan and as a person.
As a child and later a teenager, I had some rough years… some? No, my entire adolescence was a total nightmare if I’m honest. I first played Tomb Raider when I was lucky enough to receive an old Celeron PC, already quite dated for the time. I was instantly hooked by the game. It was just the escapism I needed. And so I started my journey as a Tomb Raider fan. It was a rough start.
I come from a rough upbringing and my country folk are old fashioned. Kids in my school, who had already chose me as a target for bullying, used my interest in the game as an added form of torture; “OMG HE PLAYS A GAME WITH A FEMALE PROTAGONIST!” Ironically, these children were playing Tomb Raider II just a couple of years before and were talking about Lara’s, erm, shapes all day long.
Those years were a mix of many unfortunate events and situations, which led me developing a monster-case of depression.
In 2003, I started playing Tomb Raider the Angel of Darkness. Can you imagine the FPS I had on my Celeron machine with only 8mb of video and 64mb of RAM? It was little more than a slide show! People
complain that the game is full of bugs and has horrible controls whilst I was just happy that it actually ran. It was my emotional liberation.
I finished a good half of it until I managed to save up for a better video card.
In 2005 (ish?), I finally got a stable dial up (lol) internet connection and was finally able to communicate with like-minded Tomb Raider enthusiasts. The first friend I made (and the only friend I actually had at that time) was Kirsty from Gibraltar. She was going by the alias theOriginalTombRaider at the time. It’s actually quite funny how we met. She spammed me on trcomm.net (that website is dead by now) asking me
to join her own forums!
I needn’t say how extremely important my Internet access was to me. I didn’t have much communication with the outside world. My only friend in real life was my dog; a dog which was eventually killed by a twat of a neighbor.
I remember when Stella sent me the original games (the only copies I could get in my area didn’t have cutscenes or music) + AOD and that massive Comic Compendium from Topcow. It was one of the best days of my life! I started playing the games all over again because I wanted to hear the music and see all the clips!
So here was I, depressed, alone (at least in real life), with no hope for future. All I had was this Online communication with other Tomb Raider fans and the games itself. At some point though, I gave up. I think it was my 19th birthday when I went on MSN and told Kirsty that it would probably be our last chat. We spoke for many hours until it was like 6AM in the morning. I vaguely remember what she was telling me then
but those words are the reason why I’m still here.
To be fair I would have given up ages ago I think. Playing these huge and difficult levels from the classical Tomb Raider games took me away from all the problems. I also started learning 3DS Max around that time and started producing TR related renders.
Years went by, things changed, a lot. I moved to the UK. I finally started to live, though I must say I still get nightmares about my past every now and again. I can’t even explain what I first felt when I first went to Derby; the place where Core Design was based. At the time they didn’t have Lara Croft Way there but just being in the same town, standing outside ex-offices, made me dizzy with excitement. It brought back memories of when I was playing Tomb Raider 2, trying to escape the ‘real world’. I met loads of fellow Tomb Raider enthusiasts on places like Myspace, many of whom I met years later.
A couple of years later I started my website (the one you’re on now!). I managed to interview the heroes of my past; people who shaped the present me. Meeting Shelley Blond got me quite starstruck at first; I wasn’t starstruck even when I personally met Lady Gaga, lol. This just explains how important and dear the Tomb Raider games are to me.
Lara not only took me away from my problems and “introduced” me to Kirsty, who then talked me out of doing something unfixable. Lara was also a great teacher for me. Nah not in a cheesy “SHE IS A STRONG CHARACTERRR AND I WANNA BE LIKE HERRRR” way, though maybe that also; but I started practicing my English because I wanted to know what she was talking about in the games and to communicate with people on forums. I learned 3DS Max and loads of other software packages because I wanted to know how the game was made. Those skills are the reason why I’ll be graduating with a First Class Degree.
And yeah, I’m going to LA now, to report to you all about E3 and the new Tomb Raider game! Why am I writing all this? I don’t know. I just feel like it. I feel like every Tomb
Raider fan has a story of their relationship with the game, and you just read some of mine.