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Fun Zone | Game Design

Lara Croft a Living Person to Creator

* Adrian Smith discusses the inspiration for his digital heroine, one of the most popular video game characters ever.

October 26, 2000|SCOTT STEINBERG | Scott Steinberg is an Atlanta-based freelance writer. steinbergs@hotmail.com

Adrian Smith--creator of Lara Croft, buxom star of the best-selling "Tomb Raider" series--has guided his digital heroine through jungles, sewers and, of course, tombs. As one of the most popular video game characters ever created, Lara inspires loyalty, admiration and, sometimes, very strange behavior in her fans.

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Q: Without donning feminine adventure gear, how do you get inside Lara's mind?

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A: It's probably a lot easier than everyone thinks. Lara's a figment of a few people's imaginations. We always had a vision of whom she'd be, so it was easy to pigeonhole her into a specific role. We designed Lara's attributes, and her personality came naturally as a result.

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Q: What sort of background work goes into each game's production?

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A: We do it a strange way. First we consider background locations, then decide where Lara would go. Afterward, a story's knit around the location. Loads of research follows. We like to make "Tomb Raider" as factually correct as possible. Adventures are based on mythological characters and historical events. These topics yield ideas for baddies, traps and puzzles. Still, it gets harder every year.

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Q: How do you release a title every holiday season and still make it attractive to consumers?

A: That's the hardest part, not due so much to doing it as keeping the motivation. A year sounds like little time to gamers, but would you wait a year for a movie? We've seen "Tomb Raider's" focus change, driven by fan suggestions. But the team, testers and "Tomb Raider" players we know also get together to bash out ideas regularly. It's amazing how the most seemingly stupid idea winds up a great addition to the game.

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Q: Why is Lara so popular?

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A: People can relate to her as a character. She's frail, someone that you want to protect and nurture. Lara's a real woman, someone you could sit next to on the bus. Muscle-bound, gun-slinging heroes have too much testosterone for people to relate to. Nowadays, everyone wants to know a character. It's a person they aspire to be. I'd love to be a secret agent but can't. I can in a video game, though. Gamers like that about Lara. They'll never be a female adventurer, but they can if they play "Tomb Raider."

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Q: Where do you draw inspiration from for the heroine?

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A: We live with her. Employees treat Lara as a sibling. As our sister, we spend a lot of time thinking about what she'll do next. We talk about her as if she exists in this building almost. Inspiration's easy to come by, since she's a "living person" that we want to mature and grow old with.

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Q: What's the most eccentric thing a "Tomb Raider" fan's ever done?

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A: Recently, a guy cycled from Denmark to England because he wanted to meet Lara. We decided to make a big splash about it and set him up on a date with the model who plays her. It always amazes me how many people have taken Lara to heart.

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Q: As a single, empowered working woman, what's Lara looking for in a soul mate?

A: Definitely someone like myself: suave and sophisticated. Though she's strong, she's definitely got a feminine side that we've liked to play on. Lara's getting older, the old girl, and can't keep running about these temples and tombs. Maybe she needs to take a holiday and look for some romance.

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Q: And if there were one thing you could change about her?

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A: Probably that she lived closer to me.

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