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Vanessa in 'VSD Jeux (November 1997)

Lara Croft: what a phenomenon! Vanessa Demouy incarnates Lara Croft!
by Florence Serpette

She's on the headline of the newspapers, fashion designers are crazy about her, more than 2.5 millions of fans fantasizes on the exciting shapes of that cold blooded killer. Combining the intrepidity of Indiana Jones to the sex appeal of Sharon Stone, here is Lara Croft, first virtual star and heroine of Tomb Raider, a worldwide hit that wasn't scheduled by the marketing gourous.

Falling madly in love with a shapely game heroine, enough to declare her your flame, hoping to meet the real one and to tinker with a photo of your wedding, is it possible? Crossing from virtual to this reality, some players went nuts for that neo-star created by the English Toby Gard at Core Design at the time. No doubt that miss Croft, main actress of the Tomb Raider game, virtual bombshell with a dual seducing attribute and selling booster of game consoles bewitched the players. A numerical beauty of bits and polygons slipped in a skintight t-shirt and fitting shorts, she strolls her provocative shapes in total 3D and real time, and puts herself in your hands to bring you back her treasure going through the mazes of that adventure/action game. She doesn't talk: she shoots, jumps, and fights, for your eyes only.

An heroine of pixels

With her "two exciting B-52 shells", evaluated by Toby Gard as "150 pixels around the Y axis", she drive crazy the gamers hearts and flip over those of the professionals. More than two and a half millions of earthlings have already succombed to her charms, of whom 300000 in France, a memorable high score since good games rarely go over 100000 copies. The result: she gets the highest position on the podium of video game heros, beside the famous Mario and Sonic. Even her, weekly beacon of fashion currents, displays her glamorous polygons on glazed paper. Gucci has drawn her a bikini, the U2 group has invited her in their video clip shown on the largest video screen ever seen on its tour. An album is out. Rumors talk about a movie, comics, and even a perfume! (TN: I heard of a cartoon show too!) Could we be at last ready to fall for a virtual creature far more perfect than Pamela Anderson, Ophélie Winter and other Spice Girls, unable to do even the tenth of what this fighter achieve?

Beautiful and intelligent

"She imposes respect, Toby Gard jokes. She's untouchable, modest, sure of herself and independent. Men imagine she belong to them, and the women, that they'll get through without the men." However, he admit he had to fight to impose that girl, and prove wrong the marketing studies who condemned the presence of a woman at the proscenium. In fact, Lara isn't the first heroine, and the few kamikazes before her didn't make it. Pionner, rare female game conceptor in a male surrounding, Muriel Tramis knows it. Heroine by herself, who once was a specialized engineer for missiles guidance in aerospatial has already created two fighters: the first, airline pilot in 'Fascination', and the other one, an adventurer in 'Lost in Time', didn't reach stardom. "I had a hard time imposing them. Seeing the sales rate, the third got back to the drawer, she says. Lara is beautiful, intelligent and intrepid: all at once! Even if she kills alot, it's a change from the classical princess-to-deliver. I think we are ready to love virtual stars, adds Chine Lanzmann, animator of the 'Cyber Culture' show on 'Canal+'. But, must she absolutely have such big breasts?

Became men, the players of the Nintendo generation now look towards heros of their age. "I thought they prefered to play with women, continues Toby Gard. Lara is a logical conclusion of that idea." Ideal companion of the lonely player, Lara sticks to the feminine ideal of the 18-22 now using a Sony Playstation. Tough, autonomous and dominant, could Lara reassure men in those time of crisis?

"It was love at first sight", admits Jean-Louis, about thirty, director of a publicity agence, not remotely attracted to women, playing two hours per day, six on weekends. "Lara is stronger than all the other guys: shapely, entertaining, even a bit hard, when she jumps. We can't let go of her, we give ourself a lot of trouble, it requires tough love!" "If she was for real, I wouln't recommand her, ironizes Toby Gard. Lara is an armed psychopath."

On the Internet, Lara has struck: in addition to the official WEB site, there is more than 2500 others dedicated to her, showing pirate images of our beauty bare naked. On the newsgroups, comments flow: "It's surprising to be in the skin of a woman.", or even "I'd like to control her in undies: we are still player and gentlemen, but no less man." Some admit "science-friction" sessions, joystick in hand. Others are cold as stone: "Meet her? No! The graphic fantasm won't get us!"

"This confirms the highly plastic desire nature of humans, analyzes Samuel Le Pastier, psychoanalyst. Everybody sees what he wants to. Couldn't she correspond to the desire of recovering the object-woman lost today?" Couldn't the woman also be the future of video games? The answer of Lara's "father": "Tomb Raider gave birth to a new kind of game, many titles coming out around the end of the year have an heroine as main character (TN: à la DOOM). But people will get tired of it. That's why our next hero won't be feminine." Rumors talk of a game starring Leviathan. A monster can hide another one.

Fuel of success

How did Tomb Raider became a worldwide best-seller? Autopsy and analysis of the components of the Lara Croft engine.

Gifted creators

Developped by the Britannic Core Design creation studio, a subsidiary of the publisher Eidos Interactive, Tomb Raider includes all the current technical hype to excite the players: three dimensions and real time. Interactivity at its peak: the player completely submerged becomes part of an incredible adventure.

A shapely beauty

That girl, she's incredible! Her "charisma", her more-than-generous bust, her graceful jumps, her gentle shrieks, her stop gasps interlaced with some provocative pelvis movements able to break any heart: those are the cleverly dosed ingredients to conquer the planet of players - at 96% masculine.

A cunning editor

Quoted on the stock-exchange at the New York Nasdaq, Eidos Interactive develops, edits and distributes games for PCs and PlayStations. Opportunist, this society has just signed an exclusivity agreement with Sony, by means of a sum whose amount haven't been unveiled: the PlayStation will be the only console to have the next versions of Tomb Raider.

An agressive marketing

In front of the success of Tomb Raider, the marketing men at Eidos are putting together a line of derived product at Lara's effigy to accompany the coming out of the second installment: RedSkin Jackets, watches, action figures, discs, Comics... In total, the worldwide budget released for the launch of Tomb Raider, is 20 millions of Franc (TN: ~6.7M$ US).

An efficient word of mouth campaign

Those who practiced Lara can't get over it... and tells around! Because of that, Lara Croft's feats became hot conversation subject between those who love her and the others, of which the papers and newsgroups on the Internet largely beneficiates, on the same level as the follies of the Sharon Stone and other Naomi Campbell.

An awaited sequel

The iron must be worked while it's still hot, says the proverb. Tomb Raider II is the worthy suite of the first episode (see below). Technically better, its principle stays however the same. Eidos Interactive gave themselves the objective of selling over 500 000 copies in the Hexagon, which is 200 000 more than the first installment.

One in the name of God: Lara and her men

Tomb Raider's success comes from its creator, Toby Gard. We met him. (Interview by Florence Serpette)

'VSD Jeux Passion': How did Lara came to life?

Toby Gard: We wanted to create something new. At the time, the idea of a woman as the main character was despised by the marketing people: the studies has showed that a game centered on a feminine hero has never been sold. In fact, I think there never was a good game with an heroine... We had to fight to get Lara to be the main character. It seems to me that from a certain age, men prefer to play with women in action and "beating" games.

VSD: Is Lara your female ideal?

T.G.: Lara is far from it, she's a psychopath armed with a pistol...

VSD: Is your girlfriend jealous of the woman you created?

T.G.: She has no reason to. Lara is made of polygons!

VSD: How do you analyse Lara's worldwide success?

T.G.: A strong character is nothing without a good game. And Tomb Raider is a good game. If we push around Lara with big marketing campaigns, everybody will get tired of her. Remember Sonic's (Sega's mascott) downfall since the lack of new exciting games of quality.

VSD: In your opinion, would Lara be as popular as she is if she was born earlier?

T.G.: We didn't have the technology to create her ten years ago: the games were in two dimensions, deepless. Nobody would have fall for a shapeless Lara.

VSD: What do you think of the surprising reactions of some players?

T.G.: I'm glad people appreciates her. The 'Nude Raider' thing: it had to happen, but once the mystery is unveiled, she looses her seduction power. In despite of that, she's now part of the public domain and no one can control her.

VSD: Today, you created your own society: Confounding Factor. Why did you gave up on Lara?

T.G.: I imagined Tomb Raider four years ago: for me, it's far behind. With Paul Douglas, my partner and lead programmer on Tomb Raider, we created our own society to have the freedom to go to the next level. Our current project will be incredible. After the big success of Tomb Raider, Eidos wanted to exploit Lara with sequels. We had better ideas. Peoples don't want the sames things again and again.

Goodbye 'Coeur Caraïbes', hello Vanessa Croft

Text David Téné, photos Yves Bottalico

Vanessa Demouy discovered Tomb Raider and her virtual star Lara Croft at the time of her interview for Playsation Magazine.
She became a complete fan. She dreams to have the part of Lara Croft on the big screen, Core Design has put her on stage in custom sets.

It's easy to imagine Vanessa Demouy as our intrepid and sexy heroine. Both of them not only have an adorable face and generous shapes, but also a fighter's nature: one like the other had to come over the obstacles one by one to get to the level of star.

"Lara is an adventurer, a real one. She is in a dangerous universe, full of traps and wild beasts, in which normally you don't expect to see a woman. She manages it pretty well. Furthermore, she's pretty..."

Vanessa knows Lara like the back of her hand. So, if Tomb Raider becomes a movie, it's a certainty, she will be the main actress:

"I love that game. I think the adventure and combats mix is well-balanced. If we make a movie out of it, I'd really like to have the part of Lara Croft who, for once, is the good guy. I can easily see it directed by John Woo, with his both classical and completely crazy style. I'm sure he would perfectly render on screen the Tomb Raider universe."

She think of John Woo, but also Quentin Tarantino, or even Luc Besson:

"With Nikita, Luc as done a great movie: he gave the chance to Anne Parillaud to prove that women could have the leading role in an action movie. From Mad Max to Terminator, muscles men are the way to go... Women must be satisfied with parts of kind girls a bit brave who waits to be delivered. Or those of villainous traitress, always cute, but with a bad background. Its time for the movie directors to start having some imagination. To get inspiration from video games!"

So, Core Design wrote a fool-proof scenario for Vanessa Demouy. In order to show us that she's more than a classy model...

Where to buy the outfits shown on the photos:

Givenchy Tel: 0142655454
Go Sport Minitel: 3615 Gosport
Pony (Jean, maillot). Tel: 0237299028
Quicksilver. Tel: 0559515757
Thierry Mugler. Tel: 0145444444

Article taken from the French magazine "VSD Jeux Passion" published in the November 1997 Special Issue. Thanks go to Amonbofis from Tomb Raider, la Série (French TR site) for the translation and to Nicolas Pérusse for proof-reading. The Croft Times.