Why Sam Nishimura Being Sidelined is Such a Big Deal for Lara Croft

I woke up to a frantic ask on my Tumblr this morning about how I feel about Sam Nishimura not being in Rise of the Tomb Raider, which is the much-anticipated sequel to the Tomb Raider franchise reboot, Survivor. Sam was the best friend (and, according to my interpretation, love interest) of Lara Croft in Survivor, and there is a buzzing community who call themselves ‘S.S. Endurance’ on Tumblr who draw tonnes of fanart and write tonnes fanfic about the pairing.

After Sam’s unceremonious and rather sudden exit in the comics, there’s been a lot of speculation recently about whether or not Sam would be in the new game, and if she was in the new game, in what capacity she’d be part of the story. I was initially concerned when I didn’t find Arden Cho (Same’s voice actress) credited on the game’s page on IMDB, and when I tweeted one of the main writers, I got a response that worried me. Nevertheless, I remained hopeful we’d be in for a plot twist or other exciting surprise the devs were trying to hide from us.

That was why, when I found the transcript of the interview the person who’d messaged me was referencing, my heart sank:

[Meagan Marie]:And… I put this at the end because we’ve been asked this so many times and now we might actually be able to answer it. Will there be any playable flashbacks between Lara and Sam? Is Sam playing a role in this game? Can we answer that?

[Brian Horton]:I think we can answer that…

[Meagan Marie]:The comics are done at this point.

[Brian Horton]:Yes, the comics have expressed the story of Sam and that Sam is not a part of Rise of the Tomb Raider.

So, Sam Nishimura, a huge part of Lara’s university life and her best friend – not to mention the main objective in the first game! – definitely isn’t going to be part of the second game. Instead, they’re filling the space with Jonah, a character who (at least for me) doesn’t seem to hold as much potential for developmental capacity in Lara as Sam did.

It’s not the first disappointment the fans have had – there was lots of excitement about Lara potentially having PTSD (because the first publicity trailer showed Lara displaying what clearly appear to be symptoms of anxiety and PTSD, flashbacks, withdrawing, and needing to ‘escape’). The representation would have been fantastic: someone who is not only not hampered by their mental illness, but made great by it. The adrenaline, the constant vigilance could give Lara an edge. Her PTSD could have made her a formidable fighter with lightning reflexes and high sensitivity to stimuli. Unfortunately, Brian Horten (The Bringer of Bad News) told us point blank a few months ago that despite what clearly appears to be PTSD, Lara does not have a ‘weakness or a disorder’ (wait, my anxiety is a weakness? Gee, thanks, dude!).

What appears to be happening is that devs have decided on a particular route Lara has to being the ultimate Tomb Raider (since we were always told the trilogy was about Lara Croft ‘becoming who she’s supposed to be’), and are ignoring fantastic opportunities to make her a 3D, relatable, deep and complex character.

Lead Writer Rhianna Pratchett made comment that the decision to sideline Sam was a combination of having a large, unwieldy cast and wanting Lara to have more alone time  (and since I’m prone to writing casts that are a little bit too big myself, I can definitely understand where she’s coming from), but the way the new game is taking shape still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

First, we’re told by Brian Horten Lara doesn’t have a ‘weakness or a disorder’, that she’s just excited to go on her adventures. Then the comics show Lara easily discarding her best friend Sam in the space of almost a single issue in favour of excitedly going off on adventures by herself. Even when I bring up Lara’s development leaning into Rise of the Tomb Raider with some other fans, I often get told ‘That’s Lara’s story, she’s becoming a Tomb Raider!’, and it leads me to ask one question:

 

Do they want to develop Lara into a character that was popular 15 years ago: isolated, cold, strong but a bit sociopathic, or do you want to write a character who feels real, who has hopes and dreams, who loves people and has strong, important relationships with them, who fears for them, fears for herself, and who conquers her trauma to ultimately become an incredible heroine? Because while Lara Croft broke new ground in the original Tomb Raider, and appeared to be breaking new ground with the original trailer of Rise and the comics with the excellent introduction of PTSD, if Rise goes the way Brian Horten seems to be describing it, it’s in an unnatural and forced direction that doesn’t seem to suit the development we’ve seen so far.

The first game showed a fantastic range of emotion in Lara, a character who developed and drew her tremendous strength and perseverance from her desire to save Sam, her friends, and whoever else she could from torture and death. That is what kept her going, and what led her to perform amazing feats of incredible bravely, to finally be united with Sam, to save her and everyone, and to lead what remained of her crew off Yamatai. Why are the devs trying to strip Sam away from Lara? Why is Sam spoken about on some of the official forums like a weakness for Lara? Sam helped Lara develop into the heroine that she is.

“Lara became strong to save others, often risking her life and performing feats of incredible heroism to do so. Lara’s strength isn’t just in her will to survive – it’s in her relationships, too”

Stripping Sam away makes no sense. Sidelining her suddenly in the comics and in Rise of the Tomb Raider makes no sense. Really, I want to ask the devs who made the decision to sideline Sam and where it came from, because Sam was a huge part of Lara’s life in the first game and the comics. I’ve written a lot about how I was very unconvinced by the ending in the comics.

It seems to me that there is an agenda about removing Sam that isn’t about what is a natural and expected progression for reboot Lara Croft’s character. And if there’s an agenda, what is the agenda? If it’s “Lara must be a lone wolf”, why? WHY must she be a lone wolf? If it’s “Lara doesn’t need other people”, WHY? Who doesn’t need other people? Let her need other people! Let that be part of her! Let her constantly worry about and miss Sam, that’s human! I miss my best friend when I’m stressed out and scared, too!

Or, what if it’s “female friendships/that dynamic wouldn’t sell games”? It’s reasons like that which scares me the most – the idea that Sam might have been sidelined for some bullshit marketing reason that has nothing to do with Lara’s character development.

“Strength isn’t only about power and endurance – it’s about living with fear and not letting it hold you back. What’s more frightening than worrying about someone you love?”

 

I took the entire month of November off work so I could fully appreciate Rise of the Tomb Raider, but I’m really worried about it now. I’m really worried. Am I going to be watching the fandom I love be buried? Will the namesake ship of my fandom – the S.S. Endurance – sink forever? Or will this just be a poorly handled and hasty sidelining of a character which will later be redeemed by fantastic and sensitive writing that will make me feel all the things and cry all the tears?

I don’t know, but I’m worried. Please, please, please don’t let me down, Tomb Raider franchise. I want to see Lara become an inspiring, full, and relatable character with real fears, real trauma and real relationships – not one who fell to the outdated notion that to be strong you never have to need anyone.

 

30 thoughts on “Why Sam Nishimura Being Sidelined is Such a Big Deal for Lara Croft

  1. Totally agree about Sam. She was a big part of the first reboot. Would be nice just to have a small segment of her In the game at least.

    I hope Jonah isn’t in the game too much. Don’t mind his character but he isn’t exactly an exciting character. A bit too safe and boring for me. Unless they completely change him into some sort of badass for this.

    • Unfortunatly I believe many parts of Laura’s new character we’re screwed up by this game, particularly by a misconception as to what a strong character actually is. The publishers of the game seem to believe that a strong character is an incorruptible walking tank that can no wrong and suffers no faults, which is wrong. A strong character is a character that overcomes said faults, and turns into something great, which is a point that seems to be missed here. Unfortunatly, I beleive the reason they won’t allow Laura to have PTSD is because they believe that a “strong character” wouldn’t have such a fault. Obviously they need to do more research on what a strong character really is. As far Sam being removed, either it was done to sompliment point a, and make her seem like an emotionless walking tank, or because they simply did not like the amount of people that shipped Lara and Sam and found it made for uncomfortable game writing, which I don’t agree with either. That’s kind of like saying “we know better than you do what you want out of this game,” which a lot of developers have said over the years about many things, included, but not limited to, ships, gameplay elements, character customization, being able to acess the full game without going onto their website or an app(I’m lookin at you 343i and bungie). Unfortunatly, unless there is a serious writing change for the next game, I don’t see sam coming back. She will be missed.

  2. Maybe their agenda is that they aren’t gonna shape an entire narrative around a fandom that makes up a minority of the people who will be playing this game.

      • A Sam/Lara story would’ve been cool, but it doesn’t meant the developers are committing a huge injustice by not including it. They just want to make the game that they want to make.

      • I know, but it just seems like the developers put a lot of hard work into the game and it’s being shit on here because their choices are seen as agenda driven rather than creatively driven. I liked the game and you left the comments section open so people could agree/disagree, I had thought.

  3. I read a text about the tomt Raider gues it was wrong. In it it sayed that Lara was searching for an antidote for sam becouse she had caught a viruse so Lara had to find the cure so sam din’t die. I wish that text that i read was the story of the Rise of the tomb Raider. *cryes becouse it isn’t that 😦 *

    • That would be The Ten Thousand Immortals. Its a sequel novel by Dan Abbott. Personally I found it a decent read but many seem to disagree. You might like it.

      • I read it the second it was released. It’s a bit too wooden for my liking (not to mention how unconcerned Lara seemed to be about Sam’s behaviour), but I understand why people liked it. Willow was sweet.

  4. I’d like to think that what happened to Farah in The Sands of Time Trilogy will also happen to Sam in Tomb Raider. In Warrior Within Farah, who was the Prince’s love interest in the first game was left out completely with only one reference in a Blink and You Miss it Moment in the canon ending. Than in The Two Thrones, Farah returned and her relationship with the Prince was put back at center stage and she was even given a few badass moments, (all of which where in cutscenes but still pretty badass).

    I hope that’s what happens with Sam, she’s left out of Rise of the Tomb Raider and is only referenced in a tape you find and a few photos, (which is more then what Farah got in Warrior Within), but she returns in the thread game and plays a big role in the story and is given a few badass moments. Stranger things have happened and it’s not like Sam’s absents has gone unnoticed by the fans, with many getting pretty annoyed by the fact that she was put on the bus.

  5. So basically what you are saying that entire legacy of Tomb Raider should be destroyed because some people have need ship every female protagonist with another female character.
    Basically no thanks but i like Tomb Raider as it is. Adventure about supernatural and archeology.
    Not some lesbian porn fiction.

    • Just fyi, relationships don’t turn things into porn. Not everything is about sex 😉 Nate and Elena have been dating for ages in Uncharted and the games are still fantastic. Their relationship is part of the plot without interfering in it or ruining the feel of the game. I maintain Lara could have the same 🙂

      • No it can’t. Lara was not lesbian before and if they do it they piss on legacy this character have. If they want lesbian character then they should create NEW CHARACTER which is lesbian/gay from very beginning. And dont force it on character which was established before as hetero.
        So if you want destroy legacy of Tomb Raider then yes.
        If value Tomb Raider for what is and always was: Archaeologist fighting paranormal with her friends – family. Then definitely NO.
        And I just hope that Himiko take over Samantha and Lara will be forced to kill her. And end this nonsense.

      • Ah, yes, you’re one of those “NO HOMO!!!!!” people who thinks bisexuality or homosexuality ruins characters. I love how you think Lara being gay would ‘destroy’ Tomb Raider. It wouldn’t destroy jack, it would still be a fantastic game. Homosexuality doesn’t destroy things, you see. It’s just another sexuality, like heterosexuality. Neither are good or bad, they just are 🙂

      • Then they should write her as such from very beginning. Definitely not now !!! And yes it would destroy game because many fans would feel betrayed and didn’t buy game anymore. Moreover you can have as many like as you wish. But slash community and gamers cross only in small portion. And majority people who liked it actually dont own game.

    • Frankly i could care less about the ship. I ship them, but whether they become canon or not doesn’t bother me. Still gonna ship it.

      My problem is the details to Lara’s character. Why doesn’t she have PTSD? Why does she have to be a war-machine? It can still be an adventure game with Lara dealing with the traumatic experiences from Yamatai. She can still be human, have human faults, and still be a badass.
      Its how they’re treating her as a character thats disconcerning.

      Ever watch Legend of Korra? Korra goes through traumatic experiences too, and she’s a strong character. And the writers showed her struggle to deal with said experiences within her story. In fact, showing her PTSD and her recovery help strengthen the story, made it more realistic, and much more satisfying. She’s still a badass and a tank in battle, but she was also relatable, more human, and the writers did this so well that people all over were able to connect with her personally. People who went through the same/similar things could connect to her, and made Korra so much more than “just a character” (Not that you need to have PTSD to connect to her, just saying).

      The devs had an opportunity to be able to make Lara go through a similar transformation, one that is realistic, organic, and unique to her (not a clone Korra, no experience is the same). Someone who struggles, who overcomes their fears, and grow stronger because of it. Someone who we can see in ourselves. But they didn’t, which sucks.

      Kinda like what they did in Tomb Raider, but on a more emotional level. Hopefully they tackle this properly in the next game. If they wanna make her into the Croft from previous series, then okay. But do it in a organic, realistic way. And remember that people are continually evolving; we don’t become who we are in an instant (just like badass lady archaeologists aren’t created in a single game).

  6. I have more than 1 million hits on my Lara/Sam fic, and many of the readers are gamers because they say so in reviews and when they talk to me on social media. I think you’re underestimating the size of the slash community.
    Pure and simple: if you think your favourite character being gay would ‘ruin’ them, it means you think being gay is bad and that makes you are a homophobe. You’ve come to the wrong blog, because this is a queer blog. I don’t plan on humouring homophobes here 🙂

  7. I agree 100% with everything you said. I’m so, so disappointed how they’re making it out like Lara’s character is just some warrior machine that, even after HEAVY traumatic experiences she faced in Tomb Raider, faces no mental struggles whatsoever. The trailer for the game really did make it out like we were gonna see some and just… for Horten to say she has no weaknesses or disorders?? What the fuck??? Lol. I love the games, but that is BEYOND aggravating. And the lack of Sam is just…. why??? 😦 Especially with such a huge part she played in the previous game. Ugh!!! I’m still excited to play the game (I just got it,) but I’m real let down.

    Also that homophobe commenting above made me wanna punch something. The ignorance is strong with that one…

  8. There is one voice document in Rise of the tomb raider talking about Sam… and be honest, I have no idea where should I connect that piece to ? the ending of the comic books or the previous game? I like your newest fanfiction(Our Saviour) and it totally makes sense if the officials could do the same way… Part of me really appreciate what the developers did to this game (game play and graphics are just top of notch), I voted for this game and gave the best reviews as a hardcore fan, but part of me feeling so sad knowing sam was just dumped in… somewhere…. so yeah, I feel you totally! But don’t give up, please keep writing those great fanfictions! You got audience !

  9. Hi Asynca, as one of your readers on fanfiction.net I of course also ship Lara and Sam and it is probably no surprise that I absolutely agree with your opinion on both Sam’s sidelining and that Lara has no problem with PTSD.
    In fact the only problem I had with parts of your stories was how easily Lara increased her body count IMO sometime bordering on the psychotic.
    I would have very much welcomed a Lara dealing with PTSD and think the character suffers by no suffering. if you know what I mean. 😉

    I’ve wondered a lot about the decision to remove Sam. You don’t spend so much time on making clear just how important a character is to the protagonist to then sideline her like this.
    Personally, I believe that Rhianna Pratchett followed suggestions by the producers to remove Sam, exactly because of the shipping.
    They probably prefer a more ambiguous sexuality for Lara, so as neither to offend the LGBT community and the reactionary assholes among gamers who already voiced their hypocritical voices in the comments here.

    To me it doesn’t even matter whether it’s more than just friendship and I believe my position also wouldn’t be different if Sam was a man instead of a woman. It’s simply strange and unnecessary to get her out of the way in this form.
    I liked the comics, but Lara leaving Sam in the end makes absolutely no sense… so far.

    Like you I also hope that we will Sam and Lara’s story resolved in the final game of the trilogy. Whether like I hope as lovers or as besties, isn’t even the most important thing. I just want a believable development.

    Of course I also still believe that Lara being lesbian would be a great signal for acceptance and equality, even more so than characters like Cmdr Shepard of Mass Effect fame.

  10. I have to say, while I was disappointed by the sidelining of Sam (and Reyes), I still loved the game. And honestly, what was a mildly psychotic, rather weak, semi-possessed woman going to do in Siberia? As to the shipping… I don’t care either way about shipping, but I don’t think Lara should be made gay because it would feel like it was filling an agenda, like it was forced. The entire franchise, she’s been straight, but I like that it’s a bit ambiguous so people can ship it if they want to. Also, a strong female friendship doesn’t equal gay. People thought I was gay with my best friend for years but I’m really, really not xD So ambiguous fits better.

    • I really dislike this constant talk about a gay ‘agenda’. It’s like every character HAS to be straight, and if they’re not, it’s ‘forced’ or ‘agenda-driven’. That’s crap. There’s no insidious agenda: gay people play games, too and they deserve to be represented in games just like you are.

      Lara could easily be gay – just as easily as she could be straight. And re: her sexuality in earlier games, it was addressed in exactly ONE of them: in Angel of Darkness she and Kurtis Trent had a bit of a mutual attraction. PS, that game did SO badly and everyone hated Kurtis SO much the franchise had to be rebooted 😉 I think it was Rhianna Pratchett who said that Lara’s sexuality is not addressed in the newest reboot. Ie, basically, she could just as easily be gay or straight. So this idea that game!Lara is ‘confirmed straight’ is actually incorrect.

      Personally, like the idea of Lara as bi: that way, whoever wants to imagine Lara could be their girlfriend can ;D Everyone can be happy!

      (and yes, I enjoyed the actual game, too; I just had some issues with the narrative)

      • I don’t mean -that- sort of gay agenda xD I think I used the wrong word there, maybe quota? I should also have said that making her explicitly straight in this incarnation feels forced too, and I like that it was just, not mentioned. I tend to think of her as almost, too busy for relationships. Bi and without both work, but I think getting her involved with people canonically detracts from that single-minded personality she has; like Jonah says in their argument, she tends not to see the trees for the wood. I took it that she was straight from the films, where it’s more explicit, but she still places her work above people. I also want to see Sam brought back in a what-happened sense, but not a romantic sense.

        But yeah, bi or none for reasons of fairness~!

  11. I don’t want Lara to be gay, straight, bi or whatever. Keep it ambiguous. I think that’s the best way to cater to everyone’s fantasies. Because even if she is declared bi you would still be isolating a segment of the population who don’t agree with that orientation or who don’t believe in bisexuality etc (believe it or not there are probably people like this out there). Lara works best when there is a air of mystique surrounding her. I loved the way the 2013 reboot handled it. You had people pairing her up with Sam or Alex. Then there were documents about her college adventures scattered about the island that had people speculating about where her sexuality fell on the Kinsey Scale. Just enough subtext between her and Sam. Some people even believed she was asexual and completely disregarded the romantic possibility of Sam or Alex. It was perfect though. Just enough to let the imagination run wild but not enough to were a definite conclusion can be reached and that’s how it should be in my opinion.

    I enjoyed Rise too but there were definitely some major problems with the narrative and so many missed opportunities. One of the things that struck me was its lack of replay value. I still from time to time get urges to replay the reboot but after beating Rise, which I struggled to finish anyway (not because it was hard but it was downright boring in some areas and laughably predictable), I have yet to have a desire to play again. It’s funny watching other people play for the first time though. Anyway I can understand Sam not physically being in Rise but there should have been way more references to her. I mean what other proof do we need to know that Sam is important to Lara? She only nearly scorched an entire island to rescue her while calling out her name the entire time. If that’s not dedication than I don’t know what is. It’s funny, I was watching a guy friend play this the other day and as soon as he loaded it up and saw Jonah the first thing out of his mouth was, “Where’s Lara’s friend…Sam?”. There’s no way CD can be this dense to think that people are just going to forget about Sam or Reyes for that matter. They’re practically Lara’s family now and if you’ve got Jonah following Lara around like a lost puppy people are only going to wonder even more where the rest of the gang is and they really shouldn’t be relying on the comics to fill in the blanks. That’s lazy. Bottom line they did Sam dirty and she deserves better. I know they’re going to have to bring her back at some point because this whole being possessed by Himiko bit is a pretty big deal I just worry how they are going to handle it. They haven’t been handling her character very well thus far so I’m trying not to get my hopes up but I like Sam a lot and wish that they would utilize her to her fullest extent. Give her more agency and let her be a further asset to Lara and her adventures. She’s a great character and has the possibility to be even greater not to mention the different sides of Lara we get to see through their interactions. The whole lone wolf thing has been done a million times before let her have her peoples CD. Lara needs a crew. *takes a deep breath*

    TL;DR
    I agree with you 95% minus the let’s make Lara bi bit. Her sexuality should stay ambiguous but let her have her relationships/friendships. I also agree that she doesn’t need to be a lone wolf to be a BAMF.

    P.S.
    The S.S. Endurance will never sink…we FIGHT on! I’ll always ship them because they’re just so darn cute and I like both of them separately as much as I like them together. :3

  12. I really don’t care about the “ship”. I did get vibes between the two during the game, but the “ship” is really inconsequential to me. I liked Sam, and to have her discarded the way she has been is rather distressing and disturbing. As is the attitude toward PTSD that was expressed.

    My only hope is she shows up in the third game (again as a friend, or as a love interest, whatever).

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