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15 Things You May Not Know About Tomb Raider

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For almost 20 years, the Countess of Abbingdon—better known as Lara Croft—has been in hot pursuit of cultural relics around the world, and hasn’t let anything get in her way. Even if you’ve been behind her since 1996’s Tomb Raider, there are a few things about the hit game and its unstoppable heroine that you might’ve missed in the hunt for the Scion. 

1. BEFORE LARA CROFT, THERE WAS A MILITARY ACE NAMED LAURA CRUZ (AND BEFORE THAT, A MAN). 

While the game was in development, designer Toby Gard went through a few possible versions of the franchise’s heroine. In the earliest stages, the main character was roughly sketched out as a man. To differentiate the game from the Indiana Jones series, however, Gard and his team decided to make the protagonist a woman, and came up with a militaristic, South-American lethal weapon called Lara (sometimes Laura) Cruz

Eidos Interactive, the parent company behind Derby, UK-based Core Design, reportedly then asked for a more “UK-friendly” name (with the supposed aim of appeasing UK and U.S. audiences), so the Core team thumbed through the Derby phone book and voted on possibilities ‘til they settled on the surname Croft. 

2. CROFT MANOR WAS BUILT OVER ONE WEEKEND. 

Work on Tomb Raider began in 1993, took about 18 months total, and concluded with the game’s 1996 launch for PC/DOS, Playstation, and Sega Saturn. However, designer Toby Gard created Croft Manor, Lara’s stately family home (and the game’s training level), over one busy weekend, using the facade of Core Design’s studios in Derby for inspiration.

3. THE GAME WAS INSPIRED BY INDIANA JONES AND JURASSIC PARK. 

Similarities between Tomb Raider and the Indiana Jones films likely didn’t escape gamers, and the team at Core Design, who developed the original title, wanted it that way. The game honored Dr. Jones’ swashbuckling archaeology with its poison darts, booby-trapped boulders, and spiked pits (among other Easter eggs like the Ark of the Covenant being stashed at Lara’s mansion), but also paid homage to the bone-seekers of Jurassic Park with strategically placed Tyrannosaurids. Tongue-in-cheek references to Indy can also be found in the later Anniversary and Last Revelation editions of the game in the forms of a lost whip and hat (crushed against the underside of a massive stone ball) and a whip-toting skeleton, respectively. 

4. REAL HISTORY PLAYED A ROLE, TOO ... 

Lara sometimes tackles mythical forces and locales in the game, but she also visits real-life places of historical significance, too. Her time in Peru includes a visit to Vilcabamba, which was considered the Incan Empire’s last stronghold after the late 16th-century Spanish invasion of the region and was re-discovered twice before its excavation began.  

5. ... BUT ONE REAL-LIFE RAIDER WASN’T HAPPY ABOUT HIS NOD FROM THE GAME. 

The French archaeologist Jean-Yves Empereur, who famously discovered the remains of the Pharos lighthouse near Alexandria (one of the seven wonders of the world), “objected to the [the use of a] character of the same name and profession”—a French archaeologist dubbed Jean-Yves—in the series’ fourth installment. He received an apology from the game’s producers in 2001. 

6. TOMB RAIDER HELPED INNOVATE THE 3D-PLATFORMER GENRE AND PUT WOMEN IN LEADING GAME ROLES. 

Upon Tomb Raider’s launch, critics praised its innovative use of 3D graphics, puzzles, and a female lead—the New Straits Times predicted the game was “destined to spawn a host of imitators and make beautiful, tough no-nonsense adventure women the new protagonists of choice.” As MobyGames wrote in a retrospective, Tomb Raider was also an “unusually atmospheric platform game” which, “[unlike] the majority of its contemporaries, [took] a broadly realistic approach” with its real-world environments and human protagonist. In 2006, Toby Gard explained to The Guardian that Lara’s distinctive character brought unique value to the original game, too: “She was mysterious and had a danger about her [as opposed to] other female game characters that were basically sex objects.” 

The game’s all-around success led to plenty of lesser imitators, such as Escape...Or Die Trying, which one critic scorned for lacking “the sex appeal of Tomb Raider star Lara Croft and her game’s eerie, dangerous ambience.” 

7. LARA’S REALISTIC LOOK MEANT SHE WAS POSITIVELY ROLLING IN POLYGONS. 

In the same Guardian interview, Gard said he “was very keen to get Lara to animate properly, which no one else at the time was doing.” Lara’s resulting 540+ character-shaping polygons “made her move slowly but look realistic, which helped [players] empathize with her.” 

By the time 2008’s Tomb Raider: Underworld was rolled out, Lara had acquired a full 32,816 rendered polygons, making her the most detailed game character to date. 

8. TOMB RAIDER WAS AN INSTANT HIT, AND THE PLAYSTATION’S "KILLER APP." 

The franchise’s first game topped best-selling game charts within hours of its release and held the title for months to come (despite the release of Super Mario 64 several weeks earlier), and ended up selling close to 7 million units. Because of the attractive navigability of its 3D-rendering, it also gave a major boost to sales of the first Sony PlayStation, which licensed the next two Tomb Raider titles almost immediately and sold over 100 million consoles. 

9. IN THE LATE ‘90S, LARA WAS AN INTERNATIONAL COVER GIRL.

While the game itself got plenty of praise, Lara Croft herself was Core’s breakout star. In the late ‘90s, Lara appeared on the covers of publications around the word, such as The Financial Times and The Face (the latter with an eight-page spread) in the UK and TIME and Newsweek in the U.S., among others. Lara also showed up in ads and commercials for Visa credit cards, sodas, cars, and other products, was on a French postage stamp, and recorded songs with a member of the British band The Eurythmics (via a model who portrayed her at the time, and sang in character). A special diving suit designed for Lara by aquatic clothier Sola even made it into the second Tomb Raider game.   

10. SHE WAS ALSO A ROMANTIC ICON. 

After the release of Tomb Raider II, Eidos rep Cindy Church described the “really strange phenomenon” of Lara’s celebrity to The New York Times: “[People] talk about her as if she's a real person. A lot of people who play video games fantasize about her.'' Because Lara was “physically sexual” but also had “a personality behind her,” Church said, Eidos began receiving waves of flowers, gifts, and even offers of marriage from admirers around the globe. ''People all over the world have sent in their pictures,'' Eidos team member Tricia Gray told The Times. ''She's had dozens of marriage proposals and all these cheesy letters.'' 

11. HER CELEBRITY EVEN LED TO A COLLECTION OF DOLLS FOR ADULTS. 

In 2001, a line of Lara Croft dolls (modeled on Lara Croft: Tomb Raider star Angelina Jolie) were “[aimed] at young adults” and collectors, the Associated Press reported. Rather than being play-worthy toys for kids, the “curvaceous” dolls were meant to be treasured from a distance. 

12. TOMB RAIDER HAS A TON OF (USEFUL) GLITCHES. 

Thanks to the game’s generous 3D landscapes and the limits of 1996 technology, Tomb Raider contains a multitude of bugs and glitches that an enterprising player can use to their advantage. By utilizing the “Corner Bug,” for example, players can collect an otherwise unreachable Medipak in one level. 

One fan has compiled a long list and "how to" guide for such favorites as Get Stuck in the Wall, Skip to the Final Room, Jump Through the Wall, Inactive Lions 1 and 2, Glitchy Movable Block, First Room Alternate Route, and Aqueduct Shortcut. 

13. LARA CROFT’S FIGURE SPRANG FROM A PROGRAMMING ERROR. 

While not a proper glitch, Lara Croft’s notorious curves are also the result of an error by programmers in that, during a test-adjustment phase, her bustline was accidentally increased by 150 percent rather than getting the 50 percent boost supposedly intended by a designer (the team elected to keep the goofed version of her body for the game).

14. LARA CROFT’S AN ARCHETYPE FOR BADASS FEMALE CHARACTERS IN GAMING. 

While Ms. Croft has remained comically curvy in varying proportions over the years, most critics applaud the long-term effects of her Tomb Raider role and its fatal blow to gaming characters’ glass ceiling. Noah Hughes, Creative Director for Crystal Dynamics (which has developed new Tomb Raider titles, including the 2013 reboot of the same name), explained Lara’s lasting appeal to Digital Trends in 2014: “There is always some ‘X’ factor that can’t be quantified, but Lara is at the heart of Tomb Raider’s appeal. She represents adventure; with the passion to explore and discover, the resourcefulness to solve puzzles, the agility to scale anything, and the courage and determination to fight to the end. On top of all this, as a powerful female lead in games, Lara stands out.” 

The 2013 release Tomb Raider, a series reboot that shows Lara as a younger, less experienced version of the Lara we met in 1996’s Tomb Raider, further expands her backstory and personality, but features a physically toned down, more realistic heroine, too—one that developers hoped players would “want to protect” rather than sexualize, Kotaku wrote. Business Insider also commented that the franchise’s latest installation—which, as PC Gamer reported, has sold more than 8.5 million units, breaking overall, launch day, and first-month sales records for the franchise—is “historically” important for further improving upon Lara’s dimensions (or lack thereof) as a no-nonsense action heroine and better portraying women in games, period. 

15. TOMB RAIDER AND ITS STAR ACCOUNT FOR SIX GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.

Lara and her franchise, which has sold 42 million game units to date, have been immortalized with six Guinness World Records, including hat tips for most successful video game heroine, most recognizable female in a video game, most detailed game character, and highest grossing game spin-off. Guinness World Records' gaming editor Gaz Deaves told the Telegraph in 2010, ''Lara Croft epitomizes all that's great about video gaming and we're delighted to acknowledge her success by awarding her with six new official record entries including making her the most-famous and most-successful female videogame character in the world.''

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10 Fast Facts About Pac-Man

by Ryan Lambie

When Pac-Man emerged in the early 1980s, nothing else looked or sounded quite like it. Whereas most arcade games of the era involved shooting marauding aliens, Pac-Man looked like a miniature, interactive cartoon: a comical tug-of-war between a round, yellow character with an addiction to munching tiny white dots and a quartet of roaming ghosts with big, anxious eyes.

As we now know, Pac-Man was a massive hit, and its grip on pop culture is still strong today. But Pac-Man's success was far from certain; its designer initially had no interest in games, and the public reaction to it was initially mixed. Here's a brief look at some of the fascinating facts behind Pac-Man's making, its impact, and its legacy.

1. PAC-MAN DESIGNER TORU IWATANI HAD NO TRAINING AS A DESIGNER OR PROGRAMMER.

When then 22-year-old Toru Iwatani started work at Namco in 1977, he had no particular interest in designing video games. In fact, Iwatani initially expected that he'd work on pinball machines, but instead ended up designing the Breakout-inspired paddle games Gee Bee (1978), Bomb Bee and Cutie Q (1979). Two years after Pac-Man's release in 1980, he designed Pole Position.

2. PAC-MAN WAS DESIGNED AS A RESPONSE TO SHOOTING GAMES LIKE SPACE INVADERS.

Japanese arcades of the late 1970s and early 1980s were dark, masculine places full of space shooting games inspired by the success of Space Invaders—including Namco's own enormously successful Galaxian. In response, Iwatani began thinking about a concept which ran counter to those games.

"All the computer games available at the time were of the violent type—war games and Space Invader types," Iwatani said in 1986. "There were no games that everyone could enjoy, and especially none for women. I wanted to come up with a 'comical' game women could enjoy."

Iwatani began thinking about ideas based around the word taberu, meaning "to eat." And gradually, the concept of a game called Pakku-Man (derived from paku paku, a Japanese slang word akin to chomp) began to form.

3. PAC-MAN'S PIZZA INSPIRATION IS ONLY HALF TRUE.

By Official GDC - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

One of the great creation legends of game design is that Iwatani, while eating a pizza, looked down at the pie with a missing slice and used the outline as inspiration for Pac-Man's distinctive shape. The story was furthered by Iwatani himself; when Pac-Man fever was at its height, he even posed with a half-eaten pizza for a publicity photograph. But in a 1986 interview, Iwatani admitted that the legend was only "half true."

"In Japanese, the character for mouth [kuchi] is a square shape," Iwatani explained. "It's not circular like the pizza, but I decided to round it out." And thus, Pac-Man was born.

4. PAC-MAN'S GAMEPLAY AND GHOSTS WERE INSPIRED BY COMIC BOOK CHARACTERS.

As Iwatani continued to develop the idea of a game which involved eating, he added the concept of a maze, and then came the power pellet (or power cookie), a special item that allowed Pac-Man to eat his enemies. Iwatani later revealed that the power-up idea was inspired by Popeye, who often defeated his arch rival Bluto by eating spinach.

Pac-Man's ghosts were also inspired by comic book characters. "Pac-Man is inspired by all the manga and animation that I’d watch as a kid," Iwatani told WIRED in 2010. "The ghosts were inspired by Casper, or Obake no Q-Taro."

5. IT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST GAMES TO INTRODUCE CUT-SCENES.

Pac-Man's action is occasionally interspersed with simple cartoonlike interludes, where an enormous Pac-Man chases a terrified ghost across the screen. Iwatani dubbed these "coffee breaks" and imagined them as a means of enticing players to chomp their way to the next scene. Iwatani's programmers initially resisted the idea, arguing that the interludes added little to the game, but Iwatani ultimately won the battle.

6. THE GAME WOULD BE NOTHING WITHOUT ITS ENEMY AI.

Although Iwatani was the creative force behind Pac-Man, bringing the game to life fell to a team of four staff, including programmer Shigeo Funaki and sound designer Toshio Kai. Development of the game took around 18 months—an unusually lengthy production for the era—with the ghosts' behavior posing the greatest challenge.

As Iwatani himself admitted, "There's not much entertainment in a game of eating, so we decided to create enemies to inject a little excitement and tension."

One of the most ingenious aspects of Pac-Man is that each ghost behaves differently—one simply chases the player, two try to attack Pac-Man from the front, while the fourth will chase and then abruptly change course.

"It was tricky because the monster movements are quite complex," Iwatani said. "This is the heart of the game ... The AI in this game impresses me to this day!"

7. THE GAME WASN'T EXPECTED TO BE A HIT.

The first ever Pac-Man machine—then called Puck-Man—was installed in a Tokyo movie theater on May 22, 1980. As Iwatani and his team had hoped, the game was popular with women and the very young, but seasoned gamers—who were more used to the intensity of shooting games—were initially nonplussed.

The uncertainty continued when Pac-Man was shown off at a coin-op trade show later that year. Many of the American arcade operators in attendance thought that another Namco game at the show—a driving game called Rally X—would be the more popular of the two due to its faster pace. Ultimately, Pac-Man was picked up for American distribution by Bally/Midway. Its name was changed from Puck-Man to Pac-Man, and the game's journey to global popularity began.

8. IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL ARCADE GAMES OF ALL TIME, YET ITS CREATOR DIDN'T GET RICH FROM IT.

Selling 350,000 arcade machines within 18 months, generating millions in profits and yet more revenue from merchandising, Pac-Man was an international phenomenon. But Iwatani, like many designers and programmers working in Japan at the time—including Space Invaders' creator Tomohiro Nishikado—didn't directly profit from all that success.

"The truth of the matter is, there were no rewards per se for the success of Pac-Man," Nishikado said in 1987. "I was just an employee. There was no change in my salary, no bonus, no official citation of any kind."

9. THE HIGHEST SCORE POSSIBLE IS 3,333,360 POINTS.

Although Pac-Man doesn't have an ending as such, an integer overflow makes the 256th level impossible to clear. This means that if every dot, power pellet, fruit, and enemy is consumed on each of the 255 levels, the maximum possible score is 3,333,360 points. The legendarily dextrous videogame champion Billy Mitchell was the first player to achieve a perfect Pac-Man score.

10. IT'S STILL INSIDIOUSLY ADDICTIVE.

To celebrate Pac-Man's 30th birthday back in 2010, Google placed a playable version of the game on its homepage. According to a report issued by a time management company, the game's brief appearance managed to rob the world of around 4.8 million working hours. Google's first ever playable doodle, the search engine's anniversary version of Pac-Man can still be played today. 

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15 Surprising Benefits of Playing Video Games
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Complex, challenging, and ambitious, video games have come a long way since the simple arcade titles of the 1970s—and evidence is mounting that the benefits of play go well beyond entertainment and improved hand-eye coordination. In honor of Video Games Day (today), here are 15 ways games are programming better people. 

1. THEY'RE PRODUCING BETTER SURGEONS.

While you may think you want your surgeon reading up on the latest medical research instead of playing games, you might want to reconsider: a study of laparoscopic (small incision) specialists found that those who played for more than three hours per week made 32 percent fewer errors during practice procedures compared to their non-gaming counterparts.  

2. THEY MAY HELP PEOPLE OVERCOME DYSLEXIA.

Some research points to attention difficulties as being a key component of dyslexia. One study has shown dyslexics improved their reading comprehension following sessions of games heavy on action. The reason, researchers believe, is that the games have constantly changing environments that require intense focus.

3. THEY COULD IMPROVE YOUR VISION.

“Don’t sit too close to the television” used to be a common parental refrain without a lot of science to back it up. Instead, scientists are discovering games in moderation may actually improve—not strain—your vision. In one study, 10 weeks of play was associated with a greater ability to discern between different shades of grey. Another had participants try to play games using only their “lazy” eye, with the “good” one obscured. Those players showed significant, sometimes normalized improvement in the affected eye. 

4. YOU MIGHT GET A CAREER BOOST.

Because certain genres of games reward and encourage leadership traits—providing for “communities,” securing their safety, etc.—researchers have noted that players can display a correlating motivation in their real-world career goals. Improvising in a game can also translate into being faster on your feet when an office crisis crops up. 

5. PLAYERS CAN BECOME FASCINATED WITH HISTORY.

Many games use actual historical events to drive their stories. Those characters and places can then spark a child’s interest in discovering more about the culture they’re immersed in, according to researchers. Parents who have obtained books, maps, and other resources connected to games have reported their children are more engaged with learning, which can lead to a lifetime appreciation for history. 

6. THEY MAKE KIDS PHYSICAL.

While some games promote a whole-body level of interaction, even those requiring a simple handheld controller can lead to physical activity. Sports games that involve basketball, tennis, or even skateboarding can lead to children practicing those same skills outdoors. 

7. THEY MAY SLOW THE AGING PROCESS.

So-called “brain games” involving problem-solving, memory, and puzzle components have been shown to have a positive benefit on older players. In one study, just 10 hours of play led to increased cognitive functioning in participants 50 and older—improvement that lasted for several years. 

8. THEY HELP EASE PAIN.

It’s common to try to distract ourselves from pain by paying attention to something else or focusing on other body mechanisms, but that’s not the only reason why games are a good post-injury prescription. Playing can actually produce an analgesic (pain-killing) response in our higher cortical systems. The more immersive, the better—which is why pending virtual reality systems may one day be as prevalent in hospitals as hand sanitizer.  

9. YOU'LL MAKE NEW SOCIAL CONNECTIONS.

Gamers are sometimes stigmatized as being too insulated, but the opposite is actually true. The rise of multi-player experiences online has given way to a new form of socializing in which players work together to solve problems. But studies have shown games can also be the catalyst for friends to gather in person: roughly 70 percent of all players play with friends at least some of the time. 

10. THEY MAY IMPROVE BALANCE IN MS SUFFERERS.

Since it is a disorder affecting multiple nerves, multiple sclerosis patients often have problems with their balance—and no medications have been conclusively proven to help. However, one study showed that MS patients who played games requiring physical interaction while standing on a balance board displayed improvement afterward. 

11. YOU'LL MAKE FASTER DECISIONS.

We all know someone who seems to have a faster CPU than the rest of us, able to retrieve information or react in a split second. For some, that ability might be strengthened through gaming. Because new information is constantly being displayed during play, players are forced to adapt quickly. In one study, players who were immersed in fast-paced games were 25 percent faster in reacting to questions about an image they had just seen compared to non-players. 

12. THEY MAY CURB CRAVINGS.

Players preoccupied with indulging in overeating, smoking, or drinking might be best served by reaching for a controller instead. A university study revealed a 24 percent reduction in desire for their vice of choice after playing a puzzle game. 

13. THEY'LL REDUCE STRESS.

While some games are thought to induce stress—especially when you see your character struck down for the umpteenth time—the opposite can be true. A major study that tracked players over six months and measured heart rate found that certain titles reduced the adrenaline response by over 50 percent. 

14. GAMERS MIGHT BE LESS LIKELY TO BULLY.

Though the stance is controversial, some researchers have asserted that action games may reduce a bully’s motivation to—well, bully. One study that had players assume the role of both the hero and villain showed that those controlling the bad guy’s behaviors displayed a greater sense of remorse over their actions. 

15. THEY CAN HELP ADDRESS AUTISM.

Gamers using systems that incorporate the entire body to control onscreen movement have been shown to be more engaged in celebrating victories with their peers, which runs counter to the lack of communication people with autism sometimes present. A study also showed that sharing space with multiple players can also lead to increased social interaction for those with the disorder.

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