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E3 through the eyes of Lara Croft
Karima Adebibe embodies the video game legend but is she prepared for fanboys?

LOS ANGELES ( - I think I might have scared Lara Croft.

Actually, to be more precise, I think I might have scared Karima Adebibe, the 20-year-old model who serves as the public face of the gaming icon.

Karima Adebibe, the 20-year-old model who serves as the public face of Lara Croft
Karima Adebibe, the 20-year-old model who serves as the public face of Lara Croft

This is her first E3, you see. And while she's walked in Lara's boots and short shorts for the past five months, making appearances in numerous countries, there's really nothing that can prepare you for this show. And trying to explain to a young woman the... well, the odor that sometimes accompanies many of the show's attendees (invariably the ones who insist of getting particularly close during brief photo opportunities) is not an easy thing.

Add in the fact that this is the first convention she has ever worked and the largest crowd she's dealt with previously was 100 or 200 people deep, 300 tops.

Basically, E3 should be eating her alive.

To her credit, she has held her own, though.

Adebibe spent most of E3, the video game industry's annual trade show, doing interviews with media, but made daily public appearances at nVidia's (Research) booth, handing out prizes and posing for pictures with show goers. Wednesday, the crowd waiting for her was about 150-200 people deep and quickly swelled to 400 or more. Thursday's group was even bigger. One particularly loyal fan had printed out a picture he had taken of her the previous day as a gift.

She handles the crowd well, though, flirting subtly, but firmly in charge. When picture time comes, she rests her arm on the attendee, rather than having him (it's almost always a him) put his around her saving her an awful lot of scrubbing in the shower later. Convention floors can be hot and sweaty places.

"The crowd doesn't throw me," she said. "I was flailing towards the end of the day during the interviews, but when I go out and see that many people, the whirlwind of it all re-energizes me."

She's been mostly successful avoiding wandering hands of people mugging for a picture. At the show, in fact, she said everyone was a perfect gentleman (though she did have one incident overseas with "a cheeky young man who pinched my bottom. I told him off, though.")

"I don't invite any problems," she said. "I like to have a few seconds of interaction with them before taking a picture. When you break that line, there's a sort of respect that builds."

It's easy to write off Adebibe as a high-profile booth babe. She's startlingly attractive and spends the day wearing short shorts and a pair of holsters strapped to her thighs. In the past five months, though, she has become the public spokesperson for Eidos. She is, in fact, the first Lara model that has been allowed to speak publicly. (Others, like actress Rhona Mitra, were not allowed to talk at public events. They simply posed and, on occasion, snarled.)

And the Tomb Raider franchise is Eidos' lifeline. Launched in 1996, the series has spawned seven titles, selling more than 28 million copies. The most recent one "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend" has earned critical praise and has been credited with reviving the series after the previous game, "Angel of Darkness," bombed commercially and critically.

"It's strange," she noted. "When I first started [making appearances as Lara], I would wonder 'why do you want your picture with me? I'm not the real thing.' But now I'm somewhat used to it."

Adebibe's a gamer, so instead of spending the day talking (usually in character) to reporters, she'd rather be on the show floor, spending time with the PlayStation 3 or seeking out some quirky Japanese title.

She describes E3 as something that was "built by an adult who had been let out and went on a hyperactive sugar binge" (a pretty accurate description, by the way), but said she hopes to return next year despite the minor irritants of the costume. (The holsters tend to hurt after a while and make it uncomfortable to sit down throughout the day.)

First, though, it's off to Paris, then Poland, then Leipzig, Germany. After all, you can't be a tomb raider if you're not a globe trotter.


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