Playing Tomb Raider II on the School PCs changed my aspirations forever

Lara Tomb Raider II leaning behind wall
(Image credit: TechRadar)

The bell rang, alerting us that rain was falling and the playground was officially a no-go zone. Thankfully, a wet break meant spending a little time on one of the school’s PCs.

Two options were readily available that didn’t involve any educational purpose; Command and Conquer: Red Alert and Tomb Raider II.

I’ll never forget that feeling of excitement as soon as Tomb Raider II was chosen. The menu opened and Lara Croft stands strong behind the game’s options as Mafioso Marco Bartoli stands directly behind her, illustrating early on that he doesn’t seem like a decent bloke.

The jade-covered background was rapidly branded into my mind, as was she, and for PC Gaming Week, this is a story of how the heroine of CORE Design's creation began a life-long inspiration for me.

Pardon me..

Opera House in Tomb Raider II

(Image credit: TechRadar)

With the stolen moments that my friends and I had with the game at school, they’re nothing short of memorable. One memory that’s still imprinted in my mind is the four of us crowded around the monitor, slowly inching towards the lethal swinging crate at the start of the Opera House level.

I’ll never forget the pressure of trying to execute Lara’s jumps with a few pairs of eyes surrounding me. Safe to say my friends quickly tore the keyboard from me as we opted for the ‘one death and you’re out’ gameplay policy.

Winston in Lara's home in Tomb Raider II

(Image credit: TechRadar)

From the first moment I’d taken control of the keys, I was enraptured by her. I’d never seen anyone else like Lara and I quickly became obsessed to find out more. Days went on when I wished for her demise, just so I’d be able to have another go at trying to progress.

Being the only girl in a group of boys in primary school was by no means short of fun, but after I’d discovered Lara Croft, something changed for me. I was always happy to ‘play’ army equipped with a stick for a gun, but when I’d found Lara, I had someone else to be.

I could be her. I’d find myself jumping out of the way of Bengal Tigers or trying to perfect her walk as I traced the line of yellow football pitch lines beneath my feet.

Opening the doors for me

Tibetan Foothills level in Tomb Raider II

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Over twenty-five years, I have so many memories of factoring her into my life. I fondly recall my parents so kindly purchasing one of the 9” dioramas for me from Woolworths. I hounded them to unscrew her from the wreckage base so I could take her around with me. It was safe to say that I was the only one who’d brought a Lara Croft figurine brandishing a harpoon gun to show and tell in my primary school.

When we’d been lucky enough to get our hands on our first PlayStation, the official magazine that was included in the box featured the current Lara model at the time, Nell McAndrew, showcasing what was coming up for Tomb Raider III. I took it to school every day and as I was so afraid that it would go missing, I’d tuck it behind me as I sat at the classroom desk. Since I’d found Lara, it was immediately apparent that I couldn’t be without her.

Tomb Raider II Bartolli Oil Rig

(Image credit: TechRadar)

For those formative years, and with being an only child, I truly believe that she helped me in so many ways that I know others may not understand. To me, she was strong, she was independent and she did it all with unbridled confidence. If she could, then why couldn’t I?

In the ’90s, Lara was one of the biggest gaming figures on the planet. As Tomb Raider became even more popular, the demand for Lara just kept on skyrocketing. She was the cover girl of thousands of magazines, quickly becoming every brand’s dream.

However, with the marketing briefs clearly wanting to push the boundaries and appeal to ‘certain audiences’, each render continued to become racier. Lara’s developers at the time, CORE Design, weren’t happy; yet with Eidos at the helm, CORE had found themselves often like Ms. Croft – stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Don't you think you've seen enough?

Tomb Raider 2 Lara running from Dragons Lair

(Image credit: TechRadar)

As a child, I couldn’t comprehend the thought process of putting Lara in provocative positions. I didn’t understand who was pulling the strings and why this was happening. To a seven-year-old Vic, Lara Croft was incredibly real. If she came to life when you paused the game in the Larazade TV adverts, it was obviously her choice to lay on a bed partially covered with a smile on her face, right?

With age comes the understanding of how problematic this can be, yet for me back then, I saw, and still do witness, a multi-faceted woman. I still look at those images and see a person who knows who she is. She doesn’t have to put aside her intelligence purely because she’s attractive; Lara doesn’t have to be one or the other to be accepted. She’s allowed to exude strength and sexiness without sacrificing her scruples - they can all coexist.

Vic Pheasey and Jason Chester at Hatfield

(Image credit: Vic Pheasey and Jason Chester)

Advancing into adulthood, I’ve always proudly listed my obsession, especially when it came to dating. I’d profess my love for her quite early on to gauge their reaction; if it wasn’t well accepted, I knew it wouldn’t work. Thankfully, six years ago I met another massive Tomb Raider fan online and we’ve been together ever since.

Wading through the toxicity that can be found within the community, you’ll find an incredible amount of talent pouring from the fans. I’ve been so incredibly lucky to have discovered dozens of artists, writers and streamers who are so kind to share their crafts with others; and I’m even luckier to be able to call some of them my dear friends - those including TechRadar’s very own Daryl Baxter.

If it wasn’t for Lara, I would have never co-hosted a podcast, I wouldn’t have even entertained the thought of having the opportunity to write this very piece. I’m forever grateful for finding Lara when I did. She’s changed my life in so many ways and I wish I could thank her for who she’s helped me become. Still, I can’t kayak, though.

Vic Pheasey

Vic is a talented freelance writer based in the UK, where her love for The Sims, Tomb Raider and other franchises shine. When she's not editing an episode of her podcast and away from her keyboard, you can typically find Vic admiring her Tomb Raider collection or talking about Lara Croft.