On Death and Tomb Raiding

death and tombraider

I recently read this article on Polygon about the violent/gory death scenes in Tomb Raider and how they’re unnecessary. Some comments even tipped into suggesting it’s torture porn and/or uncouth because of Lara’s gender.

First of all, Lara Croft does not need your protection.

I’ve wanted to talk about her death scenes for some time now, because they have been so impactful on my playthrough experience. Truthfully, I had no idea these scenes were so controversial because they’re so meaningful to me.

I think these scenes serve as a grim reminder of Lara’s own mortality. In the vast majority of video games, the death of your character is inconsequential. You just reload and start from the last checkpoint. While that’s also true in Tomb Raider, watching my horrible death FEELS more like a consequence. It matters. And yes, a few seconds later you do restart from the last checkpoint, but those few seconds are a time of mourning and reflection. It’s not just about shock value. It’s a moment to replay what went wrong.

I’d also like to add that in Lara’s character, I am viciously, violently murdering people – from slitting throats underwater to stringing them up in a tree with an arrow. There’s even a scene in a side quest where Lara murders a little girl’s father immediately after telling the girl to run back to her mother. Presumably, the girl is within earshot of her father’s death if not totally able to witness the whole thing.

So why, in this world of gratuitous violence, should Lara be exempt? At the very least, her death scenes seem pretty reasonable to me. And at most, they really enhance my experience by helping me get further into her character, understand the extend of her risks and appreciate the limitations of her athleticism.

How do you feel about graphic character deaths in games?

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October Manifestations

I’ve been starting each month with Gala Darling’s Radical Self Love Almanac. October is all about embracing luxury. Amazingly, after filling out my chapter for the month, I pulled the Empress for my tarot of the month ritual. She’s all about – you guessed it! – luxury! So from the first of the month, I’ve been in a luxe state of mind.

Less than two weeks after I accepted this energy, I’ve had many opulent experiences come my way.

On October 2nd, I was invited to a preview party for the holiday Sugarfina line. It was held at Park Avenue – a swank restaurant that changes with the seasons. They served endless champagne, some of the most delicious and inventive hor d’oeuvres, AND let us sample all the candy we could handle. I discovered their chocolate covered popcorn and developed an addiction to a forthcoming gingerbread cookie bites. At the end of the night, they gifted us a bunch of candy and let us send a free candy bento to a friend.

Last weekend my mom and sister treated me to spa day at the Sea Spa in Cape May. We got our nails done – I picked a gold that literally looks like my fingertips were dipped in gold leaf – and then we got hour-long facials. It felt glorious! But the best part was getting to spend time with my sister.

This week, I was ready to make a hair appointment – and my haircuts cost around $300 because hair like mine requires the curl experts. Just before I was going to make the call, the salon emailed me that they needed hair models. So not only did I get the haircut I desperately needed, but it was FREE! So I treated myself to a bottle of their amazing leave in conditioner to treat my hair to the decadence it deserves.

There’s so much more yet to come, I just know it. I can’t wait to share more results.

What have you manifested lately?

Welcome to Camp Sinderthorne

October is my absolute favorite month. Time to break out the cozy things, ramp up my rituals, make copious amounts of chili and enjoy the playfully spooky energy. When Animal Crossing Pocket Camp announced a Halloween themed event, I was beside myself with excitement (and determination to complete all the tasks for once).

Finally, my campsite feels worth sharing, loving, and spending all my time in. Join me on a tour of the spooky and mysterious Camp Sinderthorne!

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp Halloween

At the center of a haunted wood, beyond gnarled trees and occasional bones of poor lost souls, lies a clearing known as Crow’s Hollow. Here, the smell of burnt earth intoxicates the senses, preventing nearly all growth, except for a garden of poisonous lollipoppies and mutant pumpkins. Ruins of an old shrine and mausoleum cast shadows over a small graveyard.

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A mischievous witch makes her home in a battered old Airstream trailer among the rubble. She keeps watch over the lost spirits and creatures who wander in and out of camp.

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For those brave enough to step into her trailer, she offers tarot readings and her spell-casting services. Positive results, not guaranteed.

She’s been known to raise the dead on full moon nights, lighting incense and casting a circle to welcome them back to Earth. Ghostly and sometimes skeletal spirits of campers lost may appear!

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Happy little ghosts often flit around the graveyard, sometimes taking her broomstick for a ride.

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She’s always sure to tend to her garden. Jack the Pumpkin King loves lollipoppies and is always pleased with the little witch’s extensive crop.

I SO hope the new core Animal Crossing game will find ways to connect our campsites. I’d love for all this decor to transfer over in some way. Since Pokemon Go connects with Let’s Go, Eevee/Pikachu, it must be possible. Like many fans, I’ve actually spent real-world currency on ACPC and I’d like to see the content lifespan lengthen.

What does your campsite look like?

Sunday Stats

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*Since my family first got an NES, I’ve had a controller in my hands. Exploring new worlds, meeting new characters and experiencing stories… in some ways, I’ve just connected better with the world through games. However, it’s also very important to me to be present in my life, to improve myself, to go out and MEET the people I’ve connected with online and to expand my knowledge. I spend hours in games; how do I level myself up?

In this weekly series, I’ll chronicle how I’ve improved my “stats” with completely arbitrary scoring.*

+1 Intelligence – How did I make myself a little smarter? What did I learn?
Yesterday, I took a webinar on hypnotherapy

+2 Charisma – How was I less awkward or more beautiful?
I don’t like being photographed. Rarely do I like the way I look on camera, but Ryan and I went to Coney Island today for an engagement shoot and I felt pretty good. The preview shots our photog shared are beautiful. I can’t wait to see the rest!

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{{{CONGRATULATIONS ALISON & RYAN!!!))) It took an #engagementsession (and 45 years) for Daniel Nydick Photography to visit Coney Island for the first time. Talk about a win-win? I met Alison last year when I was street shooting in the #eastvillage . I asked her if I could take a photo of her. It's funny how a little friendly interaction with a random stranger can lead to connections being made, and ultimately capturing beautiful memories like these! . . . #wedding #weddings #weddingphotography #weddingphotographer #justmarried #newlymarried #brideandgroom #weddinginspiration #weddingphotographyideas #shesaidyes #beautifulwedding #coneyisland #junebugweddings #heputaringonit #hejustasked #heproposed #lovemyring #theknotproposals #fearlessphotographerscom #njweddingphotographer #paweddingphotographer #nyweddingphotographer #njwedding #rocknrollbride #offbeatbride #lunapark #lunaparknyc #madewithmagmod

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{{{CONGRATULATIONS ALISON & RYAN!!!))) It took an #engagementsession (and 45 years) for me to visit Coney Island for the first time. Talk about a win-win?  I met Alison last year when I was street shooting in the lower east side. I asked her if I could take a photo of her. It's funny how a little friendly interaction with a random stranger can lead to connections being made, and ultimately capturing beautiful memories like these! . . . #wedding #weddings #weddingphotography #weddingphotographer #justmarried #newlymarried #brideandgroom #weddinginspiration #weddingphotographyideas #pinball #shesaidyes #coneyislandpinballmuseum #coneyisland #junebugweddings #heputaringonit #hejustasked #heproposed #lovemyring #theknotproposals #offbeatbride #rocknrollbride #fearlessphotographerscom #njweddingphotographer #paweddingphotographer #nyweddingphotographer #njwedding #rocknrollbride #offbeatbride #lunapark #lunaparknyc #madewithmagmod

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+3 Strength – New workouts, breakthroughs, challenges.
With things getting stale at the gym, I started taking things outside – talking walk breaks at work, opting to walk 2-3 subway stops instead of taking the train, and signing up for the Beat the Blerch virtual race.

-3 Defense – Where did I consciously avoid or deflect negative energy?
I didn’t. I caved to stress and let myself get overwhelmed. I took Saturday to chill, play games and just breathe.

+3 Luck – Something good that happened this week.
New beers for Freak Week, avoided sweets at work, and got a gel manicure for crazy cheap!

-5 Wealth – How did I save towards my goals?
What a shit week for finances. First, FedEx lost my package of $300 worth of outfits for my engagement shoot, then my debit card was compromised for over $260 at Walmart.com… where I have NEVER shopped. Luckily, in both cases, things are getting resolved. But still. Ugh.

How did YOU level up this week?

Happy Freak Week!

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It’s my favorite time of year for a lot of reasons, but one of the coolest (and tastiest) is Coney Island Brewery’s 3rd annual Freak Week. The brewery creates some strange and unusual concoctions in small exclusive to this event, and then tours them around with city with some tap takeovers. So not only do I get to try weird new beers, but I’m motivated to check out new neighborhoods and bars! Last night I went back to my old neighborhood and had a great time at Five Mile Stone – a spot I never would have found if not for Freak Week.

Freak Week is anchored by the annual release of Freaktoberfest, one of my favorite fall beers up there with Brooklyn’s Post Road Ale, Southern Tier’s Pumking and Abita’s Pecan Ale. What sets Freaktoberfest apart for me is the espresso flavor. It takes the pumpkin to a darker place that reminds me of moonless October nights, wind whipping the last few leaves off the trees and a sense or anticipation for the unknown.

This year’s exclusive beers are:

* Super Freak – 9.1%
Brewed with pumpkin, lemon peel, nutmeg and allspice, this beer offers a citrusy twist on traditional fall flavors

I had this one last year and it never disappoints. However, the two truly new beers kept in line with CIB’s seemingly cereal-themed year. In spring, they launched a Cinnamon Toast Kolsch with a fun brunch party. For Freak Week, we get two childhood throwbacks.

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* Blueberry Boo-Liner – 5.5%
Kettle-soured Berliner Weisse brewed with marshmallow creme and lactose and aged on blueberry puree

In a close decision, this one is my favorite. I’ve been really into sours this year so the mild blueberry pucker makes it really enjoyable. Blueberry has never been a flavor I enjoyed, but it’s not overwhelming in this beer and has more of a general dark berry flavor.

* Count Flocula – 5.5%
Kölsch brewed with marshmallow creme and lactose and aged on Cocoa Nibs

Chocolatey beers are usually stouts or novelty. This light, crisp kolsch nailed the perfect aftertaste of Cocoa Krispies milk – sweet, slightly stale, and soft. It was nice not be hit over the head with the chocolate flavor.

Fun times. Freaky beers. Fall vibes.

What’s your favorite fall beer?

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider might be the best game of the year. I preordered it after Day 1 of E3, and since it arrived Friday afternoon I haven’t been able to put it down. My PS4 has seen more action in the last 5 days than it has all year.

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Lara is more real than she’s ever been. She’s always been a badass to me, but watching her struggle with her physical limitations and express real emotion, I couldn’t be more impressed. In this game, she’s grappling with her accountability and guilt after taking a dagger that triggers a Mayan apocalypse. Those feelings seem to be a driving force in every side quest she undertakes to aid and preserve South American indigenous cultures. She pushes through her discomfort and fears, which is more than I can say. I’ve had to take breaks because I’ve been too scared to go on for a bit! Also, the way she expresses her frustration and sheer wonder makes me feel like she’s an extension of the player.

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My usual play style tends to be run-in-guns-blazing, but that’s not working for me here. Shadow of the Tomb Raider almost forces me to be strategic. In one particularly challenging scene, Lara needs to get by eight Trinity associates. Running in when there were even half left still killed me and over. But I stayed patient, practiced new tactics and picked them off one by one as soon as they wandered out of each others sight lines. Between BRUTAL stealth kills and tossing flammable objects to distract enemies, I was able to corral the remaining few into ideal position for annihilation.

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Overall, it’s been way more exciting to camo myself in mud and sneak up behind enemies to silently slit their throats and drag them into the brush. Or hide on a tree branch, shoot them with a roped arrow and string them up in the tree. Or tread water near the edge of a dock until the target gets close, pop out of the water and drag him under to slash or drown him.

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The horror level in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is much higher than I anticipated. It took me 2 nights of playing to get through the tomb with these horrifying ancient zombie(?) creatures led by the queen pictured above. That photo STILL gives me anxiety. It was dark. They were fast. The sounds they made were a blood curdling mix between a hiss and a scream. At one point, one pops out to attack me and I screamed in real life. By the end, I was shaking but I felt so satisfied that I completed it.

And then I couldn’t sleep because I was traumatized.

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I don’t play a lot of games like Far Cry or Uncharted, or actually ANY games where you kill human enemies, so the level of violence in this game was actually pretty shocking at first. But it’s so insane that I kind of love it. At one point, I dragged three enemies – one by one – into the brush with me after silently slitting their throats so no one could help them. The (probably) hundreds of deaths I put Lara through are so graphic they feel personal and the things that happen to her almost balance the horrific things she does to her enemies.

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I don’t want to go too deep and spoil the absolute pleasure of this game for anyone. There’s enough surprise, wonder and adventure for anyone to enjoy this game, whether you’re a Tomb Raider fan or not. GET IT!

How much do you love Lara Croft and/or Tomb Raider? Drop your favorite Tomb Raider moments in the comments.

 

Sunday Stats

*Since my family first got an NES, I’ve had a controller in my hands. Exploring new worlds, meeting new characters and experiencing stories… in some ways, I’ve just connected better with the world through games. However, it’s also very important to me to be present in my life, to improve myself, to go out and MEET the people I’ve connected with online and to expand my knowledge. I spend hours in games; how do I level myself up?

In this weekly series, I’ll chronicle how I’ve improved my “stats” with completely arbitrary scoring.*

-2 Intelligence – How did I make myself a little smarter? What did I learn?
I had a pretty lazy week getting over a cold. There wasn’t a lot of motivation to seek out anything new other than OJ and broth.

+2 Charisma – How was I less awkward or more beautiful?
My eyeliner was ON POINT all week. Loving this Kat Von D tattoo eyeliner so much!

+1 Strength – New workouts, breakthroughs, challenges.
I closed all my rings but didn’t get to the gym as much as I needed.

+1 Defense – Where did I consciously avoid or deflect negative energy?
I indulged in an age old relaxation technique I haven’t practiced since grad school. It felt really nice to have some focus back and worries melted away.

– 1 Luck– Something good that happened this week.
This is probably the first week I’ve had negative luck. Wedding bullshit has begun with people backing out of commitments I already contracted, therefore costing me money and putting me in the tough position of replacing them. Cool.

+5 Wealth – How did I save towards my goals?
Booked another new Rover client! This year has seen that little side hustle REALLY take off!

How did YOU level up this week?