Why does Sam matter?
Here’s why Sam matters to me.
Tomb Raider is one of the first games I played when my parents offered my brother and I a Playstation. It was our first console and even though we didn’t have many games, I remember how in awe my 7/8 year old self was at the time. Even if I was just a kid, it was amazing to realize that my brother wasn’t the only one who could incarnate a ‘super hero’ of his gender,now I could too. I could be this badass British woman who kicks ass and takes name and who has a weird obsession with doing headstand just to climb an obstacle (show off!).
I also remember that, even though I’ve never been close to my brother, we were morphing into a real team when we were playing the game together. Maybe that’s why I’ve never seen Lara as a lone wolf so much, because I remember Winston (the fridge part is a nice memory, even if it makes you sound like a psychotic person) and all the characters that were around her along her adventures. Not only that, but I also remember how I used to look for game guides with our very slow 56k Internet connection (I don’t miss that time!) to guide my brother through the game when it was his turn to play.
The thing is, although I look fondly at this part of my childhood, I can’t really tell you what the plots of the games were. I was young and even when I played as a teenager, I only remember bits and pieces because although I loved playing this badass woman, I couldn’t relate to her. Over the years, she looked less and less like a normally constituted person with a soul (triangle boobs, really? Can you even run with that?) and increasingly like a Terminator.
I slowly lost interest as a result, focusing on other role models, because I was lucky enough to be born in a time when strong women were starting to appear on TV. Time flies and before I knew it, I was a young adult, finishing my Masters degree and ready to take on the world (things didn’t go as planned, kinda like with the search of Yamatai but that’s another story). And what do I hear one day? They are releasing a Tomb Raider reboot, with a Lara who’s practically my age! I was ecstatic, memories of my childhood came flooding back and I couldn’t wait to play it, to incarnate my girl Lara once again, now that I’m older and wiser. Of course, I expected a lot.
And boy, I wasn’t let down, it was AMAZING! Unlike the games of my childhood, I didn’t just appreciate Lara character, I fell in love with it. She wasn’t a cold robot killer anymore; she was human, flawed, beautiful and struggling to find her path, just like we all do at her age. And Lara wasn’t alone, she had her mentor/father figure, friends and more importantly, her bff Sam.
This time, the plot was captivating. I was so immersed into it, ignoring everything just to play the game (I played it several times since and I’m still amazed). I wanted to save my homegirl Sam, not because the game was telling me to, but because the character that plays the “damsel in distress” wasn’t weak or annoying, she was also strong, funny and witty, she was Lara’s rock, her motivation when she wanted to give up. Their connection was so organic and beautiful. And the end of the game was just iconic.
It was like I had found my Lara Croft, badass and yet human, strong and fragile, a woman who gets hurt, who suffers but who keeps going, someone not to mess with yet still shy and bookish because women are not one-dimensional characters. This Lara inspired me, and a part of what makes her even more likeable was her relationship with Sam, no matter if romantic or platonic.
After finishing the game, I needed to know more about them so I started reading the comics. Rhianna Pratchett and Gail Simone did a wonderful job portraying Sam and Lara, as individual and as friends. It was all I could ask for.
Oh but why do all good things come to an end?
Suddenly Sam was written off in preparation of the new game. I had a bad feeling, and it turned out I was right…
Although I liked playing ROTTR, it lacked something and I can barely tell you what the story was about. Despite Jonah’s presence, Lara was less human, like a part of her was missing, funny, just like Sam… When I played the DLC Blood Ties, I couldn’t help but think how Sam was to Lara what Amelia was to her father Richard, and yet, Sam was still nowhere to be found. Why does Lara need to be a lone wolf when even her mother and father left her letters telling her she didn’t have to be alone, that they wanted her to be loved and caredfor? It was supposed to be a reboot, a fresh start, so why does Lara have to slowly go back to the killing machine she was in the previous generation of the game?
I understand that the studio wants to please old and now fans, but you can’t please everyone. TR2013 was a commercial success, so why disregard the new generation of fans to try and seduce players that won’t like the reboot version anyway?
A lot of new video game heroes and heroines have companions going on adventure with them and they are no less of a success, so why couldn’t Lara Croft be one of them? Why couldn’t she have Sam going with her, being there, if not physically, through video recordings or over the radio? And Jonah could help too but having him isn’t enough or the same. His relationship with Lara is different, he’s like a big brother, but with Sam, Lara lets herself be, like she does with no one else and that’s what’s missing now…
After reading the last Tomb Raiders comic arc, I have little hope of seeing Sam again – it’s like the years of canonically strong bond between them never existed, and seeing Lara turn back into a loner just breaks my heart.
I’m not sure I want to invest my time, money and love into supporting this franchise if that’s where the story is headed and I don’t think I’m the only one: there are articles that prove Sam is loved as a character and the humanized version of Lara too.
Sam matters to Lara’s story, to us, to me… please don’t write her off.
I know it’s already long, but I’ll just finish with this. Lara Croft isn’t a one-dimensional character, Lara Croft doesn’t have to be cold, Lara Croft doesn’t have to be a stereotype. My Lara Croft is a wonderful young woman who can go on adventure and still have friends, people to come home to. My Lara Croft falls, struggles and gets back up again, not for her dead father’s memory, but for herself, for her friends that she loves and who care for her. My Lara Croft could be so much more if only you could give her a chance…