In Lara's case, it wasn't just the journey around the internet that spread the meme; The Tomb Raider movie also validated the inconsequential matter of the game character's physique. Take a look at the posters, proudly displaying Lara's polygonal figure made flesh. You knew, instinctively, the first time you checked out the billboard-sized Lara doll whether or not you were going to see that movie, so the producers were right to acknowledge that vital internet meme.
Even the first screenshots of the forthcoming Tomb Raider: Underworld have taken this memetic belief and used it to garner interest. Each shot has been carefully selected to hint at what kind cleavage we can expect from our protagonist, but teases us by refusing to give any definite answers just yet. The developers might balk at the over-importance placed on Lara's chesticles, but they're as guilty as anyone for further evolving this fruitful internet meme.
It must be something of an irritation for the team at Crystal Dynamics that Lara's boobs have become the focal point(s) of the Tomb Raider franchise, but that's the nature of how we assimilate information these days. Anyone who has read about the three-year development cycle of a gaming physics engine by a software company called BreastTech will appreciate how important these apparently superficial aspects of entertainment are.
Heated debates have raged across the internet, from porn sites to the official Xbox 360 forums, regarding the work that's gone into developing the Mammo-Ware™ system for adding greater realism to in-game boobs. The system controls movement of the "units" independently, reacting to influences such as gravity, pressure, costume support, cold weather and wet clothing. The vast gaming community's reaction to this development has been wildly varied, yet prolific enough to warrant extensive debate over a meme that actually sprang up from a spoof article.
But this believable joke is just another node in the memetic pathways created by Lara's first appearance, and the importance of her boobs not only to the enjoyment and recognition of the Tomb Raider games, but to the huge sales numbers the franchise has enjoyed across the board. Lady Croft's baby feeders demonstrate the way in which a trivial matter becomes a genuine fact of far-reaching importance. That's not to suggest humanity has become tragically superficial; it's simply that we now have terabytes of information constantly flying at us, and we need to compress it in into manageable packets of data. Lara's jubblies provide the compression algorithm we use throughout the games industry.
It's up to us to acknowledge Lara's knockers not as the epitome of a single game's achievements, but as a waypoint within our communal gaming perspective. Internet memes are not the cold, hard evidence of truth, but psalms within the internet's growing belief system. Believe in Lara's boobs, but don't adopt them as inflexible facts of your existence.
Otherwise, they might grow all out of proportion.
Spanner has written articles for several publications, including Retro Gamer. He is a self-proclaimed horror junkie, with a deep appreciation for all things Romero.