15 April 2014

A few weeks ago, Meagan Marie announced that she would be leaving Crystal Dynamics and will be moving to Ireland to join the team at Riot Games. Since that day I've been trying to figure out just what to say in this article. Each time I sat down to write, the blinking cursor would remain in a solitary position, waiting for the words. Every introduction felt cheesy or bland or generic.

Her departure from Crystal leaves me with mixed emotions. In a way, I'm happy that she's embracing new challenges and pursuing adventure. Yet, there's an undeniable sadness that comes with every Facebook update or Twitter message from her.

Photograph by Ljinto
Initial Introduction
Meagan entered Crystal Dynamics at a time when the company was introducing the idea of a complete reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. A lot of gamers were initially taken back by the new direction with many doubting that the concept would even work. Even from the start, her job was by no means easy.

One of the first things she did was to set up additional social media websites, including Flickr and Tumblr. Regularly updated albums gave a first hand perspective of gaming events and studio life. The Tumblr page developed into the ultimate resource for Tomb Raider fans with daily postings ranging from fan projects to official announcements, podcasts and on-tour reports. She also formed the Fansite Directory and contacted a number of website owners to personally introduce herself and present each site with an official fansite badge aswell as a place on the Tomb Raider blog. In 2011, Meagan also contacted a number of artists for special artwork commemorating Lara's 15th Anniversary.

An Industry Icon
As the months went on, the projects she created flourished. The Tomb Raider Blog not only delivered fresh content but also gave the spotlight to individual fans and projects. One of my favourite features, The Crystal Habit Podcast, allowed gamers to obtain a behind the scenes glimpse at Crystal as well as uncover new secrets about the upcoming game. In recent recordings she encouraged and gave advice to fans who wanted to get into the video game industry, by conducting interviews with many employees at the studio.

Recording the podcast at E3 2011. Photo from Crystal Dynamics' Flickr.
While the community events became more frequent nearer to Tomb Raider's release date, Meagan also arranged several meetings just months after taking the role and travelled around the world to meet and form closer relationships with those she spoke to online. She treated fans like the gaming press by showing them exclusive previews and demos ahead of the release date and encourage discussion.

She has not only been a fantastic Community Manager but an incredible icon in the video game industry. Last March she posted an article called "What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?" Inspired by Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, which challenges the reader by posing the question in the first chapter. Meagan's answer? "I'd write this blog". Her article describes her encounters with sexism in the video game industry, especially at events. It's not the most comfortable thing to read, but it is important.

My Most Memorable Time
During the Eurogamer Expo in 2012, Meagan arranged a community event at Square Enix Europe on the second day. The group was much bigger than before and while everyone was a little reluctant to speak at first, that shyness eased off during the night. After a Tomb Raider gameplay preview and a mini Q&A, we travelled across Wimbledon for a group meal. Just before ordering dessert, one of the waiters came over and announced that we had to leave. Being at the far end of the table and unaware of what was said, I was a little confused about why everyone was suddenly leaving, but I've played enough zombie  games to know to stay with your group. 

Photograph by Survivor Reborn

We retraced our steps back to Square Enix Europe and decided that, since the night was still young...ish, we should head into a nearby Tescos and buy vast amounts of assorted ice cream and wine. The cashier gave us strange looks as she scanned probably the eighth tub of ice cream, Meagan more than most as she was paying. Minutes later we were back at Eidos and curled up in chairs in the press section. We played the demo while eating ice cream and catching up. It was such an incredible night!

Closing Words
...And Meagan

Thank you so much for everything you have done for the community. I will genuinely miss you, but I know you will rock it there at Riot. It's an amazing new stage in your life and I hope that you will enjoy every minute of it. I also hope to hear more of your exciting adventures whether they are community days, cosplay days or world domination.

You wrote an article last year on Tumblr called "Dear Lara, Thanks for Everything" which detailed your journey becoming the Tomb Raider Community Manager and the months leading up to the game's launch. I had A LOT of difficulty writing this article, but I kept on thinking back to that post.  As you wrote an article about your role model, I thought I would write a similar article about mine...

4 April 2014

Question Friday is a new feature on the site which focuses solely on you, the Tomb Raider fans. The community is a passionate and vocal group who are not only intelligent but also interesting. Each person has their own opinions on the franchise and their own experiences. Hopefully with this feature we'll unearth some information about eachother and strike up some new conversations.

Since this is the first question, naturally it should be about how you were introduced and later became a fan of the series. Whether you were introduced to the games through a family member, cosplay, or just by browsing on the shelves of a video game store.

Many of us have friends online that we talk to through written communication only,  and while it certainly has its benefits, it can sometimes be difficult imagining a human face behind the words. Finding out about how others were introduced to something you share a passion for can help build this connection. :)

How did you become a Tomb Raider fan?

You can answer in the comments below, write on our Facebook wall or send us a message on Twitter. I look forward to reading your stories!

Artwork by Andy Park. To read more about his work, check out his website HERE. This piece was made to celebrate 15 years of Tomb Raider. You can find out more about the celebration, HERE.

27 January 2014

Today is Community Manager Appreciation Day! For those who aren't so familiar with the tradition, the fourth Monday in January is reserved for thanking our community managers for being incredible throughout the year.

The Tomb Raider community is vast. There are so many fansites, forums and social media pages that, even being in the fandom, it can be quite overwhelming to think about the size of it. It's also a pretty demanding community and it's one that seems quite divided in it's interests; what makes a Tomb Raider game, Tomb Raider? What makes Lara, Lara?

Being the Community Manager for the Tomb Raider series is such a monumental task.

Meagan is not only a wonderful and loving person who is amazingly dedicated to the fandom but she is also a pillar of strength in the community. If you ask her a question, she will do her best to get you the answer quickly. If you have a concern, she will address it. She gives help to those looking for work in the video game industry as well as giving tips to fellow cosplayers.

She's not only focuses on the community as a whole through regular updates such as podcasts, newsletters, forum posts and Tumblr but she also provides so much support to indivduals; helping projects and fansites, and going far beyond expectation!

Of course I can't write this post without mentioning her article regarding sexism in the video game industry that she wrote a few months ago. I love that an article like that was posted and got so much media attention, I love that Meagan wrote it, and I love her actions at PAX when the interviewer stepped over the line. She is, without a doubt, the perfect role model.

Thank you for being awesome, Meagan!

Photo from the Tomb Raider Tumblr page.

30 October 2013

Relive is a new feature on the site which  revists specific moments in the Tomb Raider series. Today marks Guns and Grapple's fifth anniversary (we'll do something special soon!) so I wanted to return to a level which had a major influence in my childhood...

"Ah, and you are the world-famous archeologist adventurer Lara Croft, ja? No, no, I am the reknown archeologist adventurer Werner Von Croy and you will do as I say! Go to wall and pull the lever!"
- Von Croy

It occurred to me the other day that I had passed the age that Lara was when she first embarked on her adventure with Werner Von Croy at the start of The Last Revelation. Despite passing that age a few years ago, I felt mixed feelings at this realisation. That level had a huge impact on me when I was a child; growing up I wanted to embody Lara in some way*, and that level built the foundations of which that dream was built.

At the start of the game, the player is introduced to the game's mechanics through a cleverly designed tutorial. While traditionally game tutorials can be slightly uninteresting, Core revisited one of Lara's first adventures taking place at Angkor Wat. In the level, the player controls a 16 year old Lara on an adventure to find the Iris with Werner Von Croy. Von Croy is a world renowned archaeologist, an achievement he is not the least bit humble about. Lara's appearance on the quest may be slightly strange, but considering her family's fortune and her adventuring buddy's absent enthusiasm for actually solving any puzzles himself, it becomes pretty apparent that his parasitic actions are as honest as his intentions.

The level is most remembered in the series for the introduction of Lara's backpack, which she continues to wear throughout many memorable adventures; from that moment she became the adventurer we loved.

The flashback is split into two sections; the first shows the player how to control the character and informs them of new movements added to the game since the last time we met Lara. The second part is a timed level in which the player uses their new knowledge to try to beat Von Croy to the Iris. Although given the sudden appearance of the time trail, you weren't punished for failing to get there ahead of your opponent.

As a child playing this level, I used to be terrified of the time trial, but thoroughly enjoyed and continuously played the first part of the game. At the time, I memorised the location of all the golden skulls with my four year old mind thinking this was the greatest achievement ever! And I loved how karma came back to Von Croy, and the banter between the two characters.

There's been a number of forum threads over the years asking fans what moment they think of when they think of the series, for me, my mind returns to Angkor Wat and being four again.  

* I've learned through my carelessness, I obviously focused on the side of the character which would randomly swan dive off the side of cliffs after saving. 

Photo from Katie's Tomb Raider Screenshots

9 October 2013

If we look through the blood, combat scenes and napalm arrows, Tomb Raider (2013) is a visually stunning game. That moment when you reach the radio tower, and you're alone, surrounded by the beauty of Yamati is personally one of my favourite moments in the title. You're able to temporarily forget the challenges that have happened and what awaits the protagonist, in favour of a few seconds of serenity.

Been There, Drawn That is a website which recaptures that beauty through watercolour drawings retelling the story in the form of a journel. Christina does a fantastic job at drawing the numerous characters and recreating important scenes from the game while at the same time reflecting the same emotion experienced while playing through the section.

There are two previews below, but make sure visit the website at:
to see the entire project!

[The previews contain spoilers for Tomb Raider 2013]

Preview #1

Preview #2