THE ELUSIVE SEARCH FOR LARSON
CONWAY BY LATERAIDER
[ 25 January 2020 ]
The following is a guest article
written by LateRaider from Tomb Raider Forums and documents
the mystery surrounding Larson Conway from Tomb Raider.
This work is the first in a series of guest-written
articles exploring the myths and mysteries surrounding
the Tomb Raider universe.
Tomb Raider: Anniversary is my
favorite game in the franchise. While divisive for many
reasons, I've grown a strong attachment for the game,
partly because I feel it gives us the best look at the
villains Larson and Pierre, whom I cherish deeply in
their lovably, detestably oafish ways. That's probably
why in 2018, for the sake of authenticity I traded in
my copy of PlayStation 3's The Tomb Raider Trilogy for
separate copies of Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider:
Anniversary on PS2, and of course Tomb Raider: Underworld's
standalone PS3 release. Naturally this meant I had to
unlock all the extra content all over again, but I was
more than willing.
After achieving 100% completion
in Anniversary, I leisurely perused the character biographies.
It was then I noticed something strange: Larson's surname
Conway was absent. Surely this must be a mistake - after
all, Winston's surname is absent from his bio as well,
and we've known it as Smith since Legend. But I could
find no trace of "Conway." Not in the developer
comments, not in the credits, not spoken in cutscenes,
not on any in-game graphics, and of course not in Larson's
biography... So where did it come from? Even official
fansites and wikis referenced it, but there was seemingly
no official source. That's when I took my search to
Tomb Raider Forums.
Surprisingly, responses started
trickling in almost immediately. User Samz suggests
that it originated somehow from Anniversary, perhaps
something Crystal Dynamics added into their "soft
reboot" of the game franchise. This seems plausible,
but then what official source contains it? Samz checked
The Official Tomb Raider Fact Files to no avail. Undeterred,
I kept digging. It didn't take long to be directed toward
a Tomb Raider Forums thread from March 2007, started
by Jo269976. Reading through the thread, it became apparent
that this was "ground zero" for the Conway
surname. Jo claimed that a Dr. Cheese on IMDb's former
message board had made the announcement, sourcing a
magazine called PC PowerPlay. I immediately set out
to look for the old thread, only to discover IMDb shut
their forums down in 2017. The primary source was gone.
Would this mean the end of the search? Of course not!
I instead chose to seek out the issue of PC PowerPlay
that gave the name.
After a bit of research, it became
apparent that this was an Australian gaming mag geared
toward playing games on Microsoft Windows computers.
Its first issue came out in 1996 and continues to this
day. It was then I set off to contact the current staff.
The response I received was less than ideal: "It's
an interesting request, but unfortunately we're in the
process of moving offices and can't check the archives
right now." I thanked them for their time and instead
decided to try and find it archived online. Across the
internet, fans have dedicated themselves to archiving
old video game-centered magazines worldwide, and I had
hoped PC PowerPlay would be no exception. And my hopes
were realized: OldGameMags, a UK-based magazine archive
site, hosted a digital reproduction of the issue in
question. #135, February 2007. This was Dr. Cheese's
source, the magazine that spawned the name "Larson
Conway." I scrolled quickly to the appropriate
page, eager to end this adventure. And I found nothing.
Sure, Tomb Raider: Anniversary received a blurb, but
it definitely didn't mention Larson. That couldn't be
right. By way of Jo, Dr. Cheese said that the magazine
listed characters to appear in the upcoming title. There
had to have been some kind of mistake; surely there's
another PC PowerPlay out there? But there wasn't.
I began to disbelieve in the very
existence of Dr. Cheese. Maybe Jo had made them up?
Maybe the rumor really did originate from Tomb Raider
Forums? But my conspiracy theory was shattered as I
found a link on Lara Croft Online leading to a deleted
thread on IMDb's forums... which of course wasn't archived
on the Wayback Machine. I even went through MovieChat.org's
archives of IMDb's message board, and that led to nothing
as well. The thread had to have been deleted sometime
between 2007-2017 and was never preserved. That seemed
to be all I could dig up, but I was left entirely unsatisfied.
Later in the month, I noticed
the official fansite Raiding the Globe had the Conway
surname listed prominently in their TR: Anniversary
section, and contacted Roli, webmaster of the site.
He responded in short order: "If I remember correctly
his full name was revealed in the official Tomb Raider
1 and 5 guides by Prima Games." So it was off to
the races again, but this time there was a bigger roadblock:
I didn't own any of the guides. While archives of video
game guides exist on the internet, they either fall
into the "illegal reproduction" or "legal
gray" areas. So I appealed for help from fellow
Tomb Raider Forums users. Zreen001 and paul123456 came
to my rescue this time. Upon checking the Tomb Raider
I and Tomb Raider: Chronicles guidebooks by Prima, they
came up empty-handed; paul even went an extra mile to
check the guide for Anniversary. Each one only referred
to the man in question solely as "Larson."
(I would later verify for myself that TRI's guide would
spelled it Larsen while covering the first confrontation
with him, and Larson during the second.)
In desperation, I decide to ask
Justin (tlr online on Tomb Raider Forums), webmaster
of Tomb Raider Chronicles itself. Unfortunately, my
perception of good timing was... bad. Justin was busy
preparing the site for Shadow of the Tomb Raider's release.
He never found the time to give a look through his material;
or, if he didn't find anything, I was left unaware.
Regardless, the search was frustrated and full of leads
going nowhere. But I still had one last trick up my
My last-ditch effort was to check
the 2003 N-Gage port of Tomb Raider I. Due to the lower-quality
hardware, the N-Gage release removed the voice acting
and cutscenes of its port of the first game. In their
place was scrolling text narration. It was difficult
finding legible footage on YouTube, but eventually I
came across Angry Video Game Nerd's camera-to-screen
Let's Play. The quality was as you expect, but it brought
to light a curious revelation: it was spelled here as
Larsen, with an "e" as opposed to the "o"
we're used to. There had been only one other instance
of this: the 1999 Tomb Raider Collectible Card Game
by Precedence. Featured in it were at least two cards
that had spelled the gun-for-hire's name in this fashion.
What was especially interesting is that official materials
for Tomb Raider: Chronicles had spelled it with an "o."
What was with this seesawing? Where did "Conway"
come from? Was the entire fandom really deceived by
someone named Dr. Cheese?
The case went cold. There was
nowhere else to go; all of my sources led back to the
same places, or worse, my own Tomb Raider Forums thread.
So I settled in to enjoying the DLC for Shadow of the
Tomb Raider, but I never forgot the search for Conway.
It rested in the back of my mind, waiting for something
to spark it back up. A series of seemingly unrelated
events led me back to using Twitter as my primary form
of social media, including for fandom use.
At the same time, Tomb Raider
I developer Paul Douglas began using the site to freely
discuss his time at Core Design in 1996, answering questions
where he could. Naturally, someone asked about the secondary
villains - in particular, Larson himself. Paul divulged
a bit about the concept of the ne'er-do-well, but he
dropped the biggest bomb of all: it's meant to be a
surname. There was no first name, and in fact Vicky
Arnold had consistently written the name as "Larsen"
while drafting up the script. It was the biggest breakthrough
I'd had in the entire search, and definitively ruled
out the "Conway" name - at least for the first
and fifth games.
One thing had been bothering me:
a few old threads I found back in 2018 had said Larson's
first name was "Milo," coming from "The
Tomb Raider movie script." In fact, I was about
to make a little Tweet about a hypothetical fan-canon
full name for Core Design's Larsen, and wanted to pay
homage to this small blip in his name's history by assigning
a middle name of Milo. But where did this come from,
and what script was this? I had deduced earlier that
it was some form of canceled screenplay for the first
Tomb Raider film, before it became Lara Croft Tomb Raider
starring Angelina Jolie. But I couldn't find hide nor
hair of it on the internet. A quick search led me back
to the trusty Tomb Raider Forums, where the name Gary
Whitta was dropped. Still, all I could find was his
professional career: formerly editor-in-chief at PC
Gamer magazine, turned into a Hollywood screenwriter
Finally, an old GeoCities page
that was miraculously still standing led me to TRmovie.com,
a fansite in the infancy of the web dedicated to all
things Lara Croft Tomb Raider. Unfortunately it seemed
to have gone down in 2003, but luckily the Wayback Machine
had most of the site archived. I hurriedly ran to see
if there was some sort of evidence of Larson's character
being expanded, carefully copying and pasting every
last page of the half-finished screenplay into LibreOffice
Writer. When I hit Ctrl+F for "Larson" in the document,
however... it revealed nothing. Searching in the same
fashion for "Milo" took me to a character
named Milo Trevelyan. Another loose end tidied up, but
no closer to an answer than before.
So many fandom legends debunked,
yet the source of "Larson Conway" still eludes
me. But I couldn't help from feeling sated; I would
have to accept that I'd never meet and interrogate Dr.
Cheese, and that the name "Larson Conway"
wouldn't go away anytime soon. A baseless lie made 13
years ago made an indelible mark on the Tomb Raider
fandom. To me, it evokes the old playground rumors of
a cheat code to make Lara undress, or to get weapons
from Tomb Raider III in the first and second games,
or to unlock more areas in Croft Manor. How many more
of these myths have a radically different truth behind
them? Perhaps we'll never know. The only certainty is
that there will always be someone who will eventually
uncover the truth.