IndyCroft.com: When did you become a fan and what is your favorite game in the series?
Stella: I first played the original Tomb Raider a few months after it came out. So I’ve been a fan for almost exactly 20 years. I’ve played every major game in order—and most of the minor ones as well—but my all-time favorite is still TR1. Part of that is imprinting. The first one is always the most memorable. But it’s also a great game that still holds up even after all this time.
IndyCroft.com: What made you want to get involved in creating and running a fan site? Why did you choose a walkthrough site?
Stella: It was a gradual process. I started out asking and answering questions about the games on the TR newsgroups. Remember, this was back in the day, before social media. I ended up doing more answering than asking, which eventually evolved into a TR FAQ, then full walkthroughs. I honestly don’t have much interest in collectibles, movies, comics, or cosplay—except as a casual observer—and I don’t have the talent or patience to write fan fiction or make artwork. But I love poking around in the games, exploring everywhere, and trying to figure out different ways of doing things, so writing walkthroughs is a natural extension of that.
IndyCroft.com: You also run a fan site for the Indiana Jones Lego video games, BrickRaiders.net. Is there anything in particular that made you want to write walkthroughs for these games in addition to Tomb Raider?
Stella: I just really enjoy those games—and the movies they’re based on. The LEGO Indy games are kind of like “Tomb Raider lite,” with lots of stuff to smash (sorry, real archaeologists!), items to collect, characters to unlock, and so on. I find writing a walkthrough to be like an extended puzzle-solving mission. How do I present this information in an organized way that will be useful to other players? So creating walkthroughs for both series is like beating the games again on a whole different level.
IndyCroft.com: What are some of the challenges you face as a fan site admin?
Stella: I think most webmasters face challenges like hackers and technical problems. That’s frustrating, for sure, but the main challenge for me is finding the time and energy to do everything I want to do. I gave up years ago on covering every bit of news about the franchise. I love TR but I also have a job, a family, and other interests, so I’ve just had to narrow my focus to walkthroughs and try and do the best I can with that.
IndyCroft.com: What has been the most rewarding part of your job as a fan site admin?
Stella: There have been some great, ego-boosting highlights, like having my site listed in the credits of Tomb Raider: Anniversary, the reboot, and Rise of the Tomb Raider. It was also wonderful to be recognized by my peers in the Official Fansite Program awards, and I enjoy heading up the Tomb Raider community team for the Extra Life charity marathon every year. [https://www.extra-life.org/team/tombraider ] But the most satisfying thing on a day-to-day basis is hearing from players who’ve found my walkthroughs useful. Helping someone else enjoy the games I love is the best possible reward!
IndyCroft.com: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own website?
Stella: First, focus on what you love. If all goes well, you’ll be in this for the long haul, so choose a subject you’re really passionate about and try to find your own unique angle on that subject. Second but even more important, BE PATIENT. A lot of people ask me how to get search-engine ranking, how to get backlinks and followers, and so on. There is no magic involved. The trick is to start small and keep adding content for a month, a year, five years, 10 years…. Network with other webmasters, make friends, get involved in projects with other people, offer your help to someone who needs it. It feels good, and eventually all that effort will pay off. And if you never reach the top 10 on Google, at least you’ll have had a great time not getting there. 😀
IndyCroft.com: Last year you were able to attend one of the Raiders of the Lost Ark live in concert events. What was that like?
Stella: My husband, son, and I went to Raiders live with the Boston Pops at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts, last August. It was awesome! Karen Allen lives in the area, so they were able to get her to come and do a little introduction. What a thrill! Then they projected the film on a big screen, and the entire score was performed live in time with the action. I only wish we’d bought the more expensive seats inside the main venue because the outdoor screens for the people with lawn seats were a little small. But we’ve all seen the movie at least a dozen times, so the event was more about John Williams’ music and sharing the experience with other fans. If you ever get a chance to go, I highly recommend it.
IndyCroft.com: Tomb Raider has already been around for 20 years, if it lasts for another 20 what would you like to see in the future of the franchise and its community?
Stella: I don’t really have a specific vision, but I hope the franchise continues for at least another 20 years. I do have a short-term wish list. First, I’d like to see the games shift back toward a greater emphasis on puzzle solving. The reboot was too combat-heavy for me. Rise of the Tomb Raider improved on the balance between fighting, exploration, and puzzles somewhat, but I hope the next one will take that even further. I want sprawling puzzles that take Lara between areas gathering clues and puzzle items, not just small puzzles set off in optional side tombs.
I would also like to see more TR-centered events and fan meet-ups. I’ve been to a few conventions and met a few other fans, and it would be fun to do more of that. I think the developers should also do more interactive online events like livestreams and Q&A sessions. The technology is already there and only getting better, so I expect we will see more virtual meet-ups and online events in the future.
IndyCroft.com: There’s already been positive talk from both Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford about making a 5th Indiana Jones movie. Assuming it does get made, it will likely be the last Indy film with Ford as the lead, how would like to see Indy’s story conclude? If they elect to continue the series with a younger actor who do you think would make a suitable replacement for Harrison Ford?
Stella: I’m not sure anybody could fill Harrison Ford’s shoes, but I do hope they give him a chance to close out the series and pass the mantle on to his successor.
When I first saw Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy, I immediately thought of him for the next Indiana Jones. But he’s already got too much work, doesn’t he? 😉 So how about someone relatively unknown as the next Indy—or better yet Indy’s successor. Rather than try to recast that iconic role, maybe have Ford as the “real” Indy team up with another character who will then become the series lead. Just a thought.