The internet keeps reminding me how old I am this week with the celebration of 20 years of Tomb Raider, which means it was about this time 20 years ago that I was seated in the sun room of my mothers house as a 16 year old kid experiencing one of the greatest games of its era. Not only was Tomb Raider a groundbreaking game of it’s time, but it was an incredible bonding tool for my family. You see Tomb Raider had such incredible appeal to it that it is one of the few games (if not the only one) that I played through completely with my mom. My mom is a HUGE Tomb Raider fan if you can believe that, and our time experiencing Tomb Raider on my PS1 is one of my favorite gaming memories.
It all goes back to the first time I rented the game. It was over Thanksgiving weekend, which was a family tradition back in the rental days. We would stop in to Blockbuster or Video Universe and hope they had a copy of the game we were hoping for. I had shown my mom a preview article of Tomb Raider from the latest issue of Gamefan magazine and we both were excited to explore the dark caves and ancient cities shown in its pages. So when we picked the game up from the store we all gathered around the TV and got lost in it.
The iconic title theme is a memory trigger for us. The way the music starts quietly and builds with the choir and strings was startling at that time. We were still crawling out of the chip tunes age and to hear this kind of music was still a new and impressive thing from a video game. That theme ushered in a game where before long we were diving from ten story tall cliffs and battling velociraptors in hidden valleys. Tomb Raider was a game of it’s time, with a silly adventure story and a hero that defied expectations and the rules of gravity. It was ’90s entertainment at its best through and through.
My mom would struggle with the tank controls and John and I would laugh at the way she’d scream when she would accidentally leap into a pit of spikes or run face first into a wall while trying to escape an oncoming boulder only to be crushed. It was all part of the fun to watch mom die over and over again and complain that Lara wasn’t listening to her controller directions. But somehow Mom made it through all of it. The Gorillas, skateboarding thugs and Atlantean aliens. She mastered it all!
So Tomb Raider became a family favorite that we’d go back to and play over and over again. We picked up every sequel and though they were good, they were never as good. Mom never had as much fun with them either, which probably factored into how I felt about them too.
A few years back I surprised mom at Christmas with the gift of a refurbished PS1 and her very own copy of Tomb Raider. She loved it and even played through the campaign again on her own all these years later. I was happy I could box up that memory and experience and give it to her again all these years later. You see, Tomb Raider is an example in our family of how video games can be a meaningful addition to family life. There’s never been another game (except Mario Kart 64) that brought us all together like that. So it really is special to me.
So in closing, as we celebrate Tomb Raider and it’s 20 years, I celebrate the anniversary of a great family moment in time. And as we approach Thanksgiving now, 20 years later, maybe the family should take one more trip underground to discover the Atlantean Scion, and thwart Natla one last time.