In July 2010, Lara Croft Way opened in Derby. The name for part of a new ring road was chosen from a shortlist by public vote, with a whopping 89 per cent opting for the character devised by local studio Core Design. As the likes of the BBC reported at the grand opening, a councillor said Derby was “proud of its place in a vibrant creative industry” and that Lara Croft Way was “a fantastic way to celebrate that”.
There wasn’t much of a celebration at what was left of Core, though. In fact, developers who had worked on Tomb Raider over the years shook their heads when they found out Lara Croft Way had opened to the public. Core – or what was left of it – had closed down just a few months earlier, and no-one seemed to have realised.
Tomb Raider’s rise to fame is well documented. We know much about how Lara Croft surfed the wave of cool Britannia all the way to Hollywood. We know all about Lara Croft on the cover of Face magazine, Lara Croft advertising Lucozade, and Lara Croft keeping ex-Liverpool goalkeeper David James up all night. What is less well-known is the story of those who built Lara back at Core. As the money rolled in, the pressure put on the handful of developers to deliver grew until, perhaps inevitably, Lara Croft crashed back down to earth. Derby’s pride and joy was prised out of the hands of its creators and whisked across the pond to America, a punishment for the disaster that was The Angel of Darkness. Core – and some say Tomb Raider – was never the same again.