Welcome to a new Streamer Spotlight where this time, the spotlight falls on Ash Kaprielov!
Widely known as “Lara’s Biggest Fan”, Ash Kaprielov is a Tomb Raider super fan who has built a following out of not only playing the games, but also producing music and reference work based on the series of games. Alongside being a journalist and blogger, he also spends his time streaming.
I got to chat with Ash about his work as a streamer and what it’s like being a Tomb Raider super fan!
Ash, thanks for joining me, it’s fair to say that you’re a Tomb Raider superfan, what got you hooked on the game series?
I got hooked on the series when I first played Tomb Raider: Chronicles in 2000. It was my first Tomb Raider game that I actually played and one of the first CDs I bought for my then new PC. I got stuck with Chronicles for quite a long time and then went and bought all the previous games in the series.
It’s hard to say exactly what got me hooked, I tend to believe that it was the escapism; the levels were so vast and complicated that I could easily spend weeks exploring everything. Back then I was a depressed, closeted teenager in a country where I could easily get killed or imprisoned for being gay and escapism was very important coping mechanism. As I had no option to travel, all the interesting locations would give me a sense that I’m far away from the horrible reality. I even taught myself English because I wanted to know what Lara is saying in those games.
A few years after my introduction to the series a friend of mine, who I met on a forum dedicated to Lara, talked me out of committing suicide on my 15th birthday; it’s safe to say that I’d probably not survive my teenage years if it wasn’t for Tomb Raider.
What’s been your favorite game in the series?
If I have to choose just one it’d be Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, a very ambitious project that was very poorly executed due to poor management and conflicting deadlines. Still, it has the best story and music in the series.
What is it about Tomb Raider that you think attracts a lot of queer people to it?
A few male Tomb Raider fans told me that Lara made them realise that they’re women and they then fully transitioned. So, I think maybe a powerful character is the reason that gets some of us interested in the games, particularly in the ‘classics’ (Tomb Raider games made between 1996-2003).
I don’t think there’s one particular reason. I heard a lot of stories that for many LGBTQ+ people, Tomb Raider was a coping mechanism and a way to escape dark thoughts, like it was for me.
Tell us about the Tomb Raider: The Dark Angel Symphony
After I organised Tomb Raider’s 20th Anniversary Celebrations at PLAY Expo I spoke to Peter Connelly, who did the music for Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, Chronicles and The Angel of Darkness. We thought of creating a collection of albums with his music from those games being completely remastered and re-imagined. Along with a few other die-hard Tomb Raider fans, we worked pretty much non-stop for 4 years to make it a reality. We raised around £60K via Kickstarter and spent over £100K of personal funds all for the love of Tomb Raider and music. I was responsible for communications, brand and I was generally an executive producer for the project.
As a result, we created not one but effectively four albums in one package, three CDs with original music from the games but remastered, so it plays great on all modern systems, and a fourth CD with reimagined music.
We had the best musicians the UK could offer and they were hand-picked by Hans Zimmer’s fixer. The album also has tracks featuring Tina Guo (Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman) and Julie Elven (Horizon Zero Dawn, League of Legends).
The Dark Angel Symphony was a very challenging project to work on as Peter had a lot of health issues during it and on the day of orchestral studio recording there was a heatwave in London. Finally, when all CDs, vinyl and merch was produced, we got hit by Coronavirus and the lockdown so I pretty much had to step up and sort out all the logistics on my own, which included shipping 1500+ parcels from own home in seven weeks, whilst also working full-time.
Tomb Raider: The Dark Angel Symphony is available on all major streaming platforms and digital lossless + physical CD/vinyl copies are available at trdarkangel.com.
What other Tomb Raider projects have you got coming up?
I started 2021 with the release of the cancelled Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary Edition. This was the very last game by the original game developer and we only seen a handful of screenshots and trailers of it before then. Just within days of my release a few fans made it somewhat playable and are currently working on getting it fixed. What I do is I ensure all the updates and patches are out and promoted so fans would have a chance to experience this gem.
Aside from that, I am continuing my hunt for all things classic Tomb Raider, for example this year we released hundreds of reference photos, design documents and early levels from Tomb Raider: the Last Revelation and Chronicles.
Finally, my biggest project this year is going to be a short animated film that will provide a clear and concrete explanation about the events between Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation and The Angel of Darkness. Due to various misfortunes with the development of the Angel of Darkness we did not receive any information about how Lara survived in The Last Revelation. What happened to her after she was buried? I asked Murti Schofield, the writer for The Angel of Darkness to write a script, which he did. Jonell Elliott, who voiced Lara in Tomb Raider The Last Revelation, Chronicles and The Angel of Darkness agreed to record the dialogue for us.
This is something I really look forward to releasing in August/September. More information on that project is on my blog here: moel.tomb-of-ash.com
Alongside being a Tomb Raider superfan, you also stream. When and why did you start streaming?
My first streaming experience was during our work on Tomb Raider: The Dark Angel Symphony. We played Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness with Murti, who wrote the game, and Peter, who did the music. When the lockdown hit, I noticed that my mental health started returning me back to my childhood with that sense of isolation and lack of choice of what to do. I turned to Twitch and I found it somewhat therapeutic. I can’t remember the exact time I started streaming regularly but I think it was November 2020.
What can people expect from your stream?
Crazy amount of special effects! I pretty much turned my streaming room into an interactive environment where lights respond to certain events and messages on stream. I also have a dog cam that broadcasts my German Shepherd puppy named Ella every now and then during the stream. Aside from that – people say I’m funny!
How do you find being an out LGBT streamer?
I don’t find it particularly difficult. I only ever experienced issues on Twitter and Instagram. That being said I had some bad experience with Twitch’s general safeguarding policy where, say, if you blocked someone they can still read your messages on a third party channel. It’s similar to Discord on that end and I think it’s a big problem.
What’s your main goal as a streamer for the future?
My short term goal is to hit 500 followers. I do hope to become a Twitch Partner one day
What do you enjoy the most about streaming?
I love the social side of it. The most rewarding experience is when people tell you that you made them laugh. I think both me and my audience benefit from interaction with one another.
What have you learned about yourself through streaming?
I learned that I am awful at playing games. I started playing the Uncharted series recently and I never knew I was that bad at it before!
What’s the game that defined your childhood?
I never owned a Playstation or PC as a child but I played on my SEGA Megadrive a lot. I was obsessed with Sonic and Contra Hard Corps. I still have Sonic projected on my wheels when I cycle.
What are you looking forward to most this year?
I am really looking forward to releasing my short film and making my streams more regular. I just got a dedicated streaming PC that should improve the overall quality of my streams.
To find out more about Ash Kaprielov, head on over to their Twitch channel.