I recently finished Rise of the Tomb Raider which brings the reinvented Lara Croft origin story right up to where the original game kicks off. I’ve been meaning to revisit it for a while so I set off into the PlayStation original to see how it holds up, to see if I could still enjoy it, and to unpack some baggage about modern game design. But leave it to Katy to glance up and instantly cut through all the philosophical, ludo-narrative bullshit bouncing around in my mind by stating “it looks like Michael Jackson as Lara Croft in Minecraft”. It’s too perfect, especially the Minecraft part.
The blocky polygons and low-res textures of the 90’s are currently my jam. The 32-bit era of 3DO, PlayStation, and Saturn has replaced the classic 8-bit generation in my heart. I spend a lot of time looking at and thinking about those early 3D games and really never equated it to Minecraft’s look. It’s one of those cases of being so close to something and needing a little perspective which Katy unknowingly gave me. Tomb Raider is especially relatable as it’s also built on a block-based grid system. Lara’s animations all fit within the bounds of a single block and you come to use it as a measuring stick of sorts for navigating jumps and pitfalls.
Before the advent of fog (for better and worse) games simply let the limits of their worlds trail off into the black darkness. It works the same for both Tomb Raider and Minecraft to instill the sense of mystery as terrain, treasures, and terrors come rolling out of the blackness. Sure, it was a design choice for Minecraft and a technical limitation for Tomb Raider but the outcome is very much the same. Once Katy pointed it out I saw Minecraft in several of the game’s early underground jungle scenes… and yes, I also see the MJ resemblance in early Lara’s face.
I may be a decade late on this revelation but it’s been yet another angle to look at both games from. Believe me, it’s also the most positive correlation to modern game design that I’ve gathered. Video games have hardly done anything groundbreaking over the generations aside from refine their graphical fidelity, but all that is for a different post.
For today let’s just appreciate the ability of someone to make a goof and change your perspective at the same time.