The New Tomb Raider Saved This Teenager's Life

The first time Draven Miltenberger played Tomb Raider was in 1999. He was three years old. His home life might have been tumultuous thanks to constant shifting around, but that was his constant: Tomb Raider.

"My family couldn't pry it out of my hands," he wrote in a blog post that described his love for the game. After reading it, I decided to reach out to him. "It hooked me instantly," Miltenberger, now 17, told me in an email.

The abuse started a few years after he first found Lara Croft. First, it was with his dad. Then his dad left for the National Guard, but that didn't matter. His stepmother continued the abuse. "She was more vicious I think," Miltenberger told me in an email. Eventually she'd take him to a runaway shelter. He was still a kid.

He managed to find his way back to his family, but from there, things started getting worse. He developed anger issues, developed depression. He couldn't get his dad out of his head.

"Tenth grade was probably the worst year. I started drinking secretly, and even had a cutting [phase]. Also while I was in school there were so many rumours going around that I was gay...but they didn't use the kindest words to say so," he said.

He dropped out, he started considering suicide. But then he started hearing news of the new Tomb Raider. He was always compelled by Lara as a "strong, independent woman." This time, what compelled him was the idea of being rebooted — of being reborn, if you will. The new Tomb Raider, after all, is a departure from earlier games; we see Lara like we never have before. She's hurt, she's bruised, she's vulnerable — and none of that stops her. It's easy to see how the game could inspire someone to be stronger.

"I had tears welling up in my eyes the moment I opened that survival me Lara was this young, inexperienced woman who didn't know what she was doing, and that was like me," he explained to me.

"When I [saw] her commit her first kill, I watched as she started crying. I had never seen that in a Tomb Raider before. I was shocked. But she picked herself up quickly, I loved that she had so much bravery especially when she was scared the most. Like Rhianna Pratchett [lead writer on Tomb Raider] said, "You can't have bravery without fear," he said. "Just because life had started off with a wreck doesn't mean I wouldn't survive it."

"You can't have bravery without fear."

On his blog, Miltenberger explained how Lara's journey affected him. "That kind of sat in my head, of how someone can start over... completely become a new human being who actually cared about things... cared about surviving."

Something clicked — Tomb Raider, in its new form, came at exactly the right time. He resolved to stop drinking, to stop cutting, and he's process of getting his GED. He's also coming to terms with his sexuality. It's like a complete turn around. "Lara was my strength at times when I didn't feel like being strong," he explained.

What next? His plan is to one day work for Crystal Dynamics — that's just how much the game means to him.

"Lara had told me to 'Just keep moving.' Those words saved my life."


    Oh sure he feels good now (and all power to him) but one day games will turn him into a mass murderer the same as they do to all of us!!!! The end of society as we know it! Dogs and cats living together! Red wine with fish!

      Shit, son - you can't go 4 articles without pissing on someone's life?

        Clearly you didnt get the sarcasm.

    Oh man, feel kind of jerky saying this and I'm not bashing Patricia or this kid (I sincerely hope everything works out for the guy.), but the game only came out last week. Isn't it a little too soon to be talking like this was the defining, turning point in his life? I hope it is, don't get me wrong, just seems weirdly written is all...

      I don't think your being a jerk. I actually find this play for sentimentality deeply offensive. It's being passed off as the turning point in a troubled young mans life, a week after the game was released. Patricia should be ashamed of herself for writing something so cynical.

        The kid wrote it, she just reported it.

        As far as I'm concerned, taking him at face value and interviewing him about it, then writing a totally earnest article about it when at this early stage it could very easily lose staying power is the opposite of cynical.

          Read the title. Patricia wrote that. Its click bait for some poor kiss suffering.

            I know how to read. Maybe I phrased it wrong. The kid wrote the blog post. Patricia reported on it.

            Her article in which she interviews said 17 year old, talks about his life and the positive change brought on by the game doesn't feel cynical to me. Because of all that stuff she did and wrote. Because of the tone of the article. Because this could so easily blow up in her face in two weeks time.

            The whole thing feels incredibly earnest. I feel like the cynicism might be yours. Seeing this and immediately thinking it is clickbait dredged from a child's suffering sounds... well, cynical.

              Like I said: read the title. Then read the content i.e. child abuse. It's basically:

              Man gets over severe child abuse in one week thanks to game.

              Like I said, it's cynical and offensive.

                I think you're missing some context here. Nobody said it cured him of all life troubles. He had a security blanket throughout childhood. It helped him through some rough times.

                Recently that blanket transformed into something else. It became better and stronger despite hardship. It was the catalyst that helped him realise that he could take control of his life and improve it. It prompted a positive attitude change that has so far prompted him to cut thoughts of self-harm out of his daily routine and begin getting help.

                It feels like you are looking for a machine to rage against.

                "Man gets over severe child abuse in one week thanks to game."
                When you put it that way it sounds like an Onion article!

                I think your reading further into it than you should.

                It sparked a major turning point, gave him hope for the future to get over a lifetime of abuse. Not whoohoo he's cured now. The kids 17, how many life changing experiences could he have had, it made him choose life over suicide, I'd say thats a good thing. In a world where Video Games are pictured only creating death shouldn't we be a little less cynical over somebody choosing life because of one.

        Nah, I think 'shame' is a little unfair. A little... premature? Yeah. Naive? Definitely.

        The game inspired someone to turn their life around. That's great.
        Let's not call it a success just yet. If it only took a week to give up self-destructive addictions or habits, the world would be a much better place.

        Anyone who's known an addict knows that inspiration is the easy part. Persistence and perserverance are the hard parts. 'Saved a life' is perhaps a bit extreme. The hard part is yet to come.

        The story is really, "The new Lara inspired someone." Which, y'know... Neat. I'm sure it did.

        For an article, though? That's a bit non-story. Maybe it should be a springboard, asking who else has been inspired to overcome real world adversity through the powerful gaming experiences, whose immersion lends a weight that an endless cascade of inspirational (even True Story) survivor movies might not. Or just a calendar entry: follow up with this guy in a year for a great story. I think it'd be more interesting to investigate and bring more stories together, for an article.

        Nothing to be ashamed of here, though. It's about as significant as someone twittering on the TR feed that the story moved them to overcome hardships; not something I expect to see on its lonesome on an aggregator, but it doesn't cost you much to shrug, send some good support vibes into the ether for this guy and move on.

      I strangely felt the same way, as if this was all fabricated just to pull some hearts strings and get free swag from Crystal Dynamics or trying to follow the reoccuring topic that seems to be appearing on these Independant news & review sites about life changing, moment of clarity articles.

      I'm either correct, cynical or sick of reading these I dunno.

      You are correct. This article is both offensive and insults the readers intelligence. Further if that is the actual 'victims' name then Patricia should be ashamed for repeating unsubstantiated allegations against his family. Getting an email from a blogger is not journalism. Did she check ANY facts? This entire 'article' is ridiculous and demeaning to people with mental health issues and to the welfare, social workers, psychologists and doctors who try to help the people afflicted with such disorders.

    Honestly, if he really believes it that is what matters. Not what any readers think.
    A promise gets stronger for every day you keep it. It's when it's fresh that it is just words. If he is true to his commitment this article wil be truer.

      Your last sentence is ridiculous. - Further -If it doesn't matter what readers think then why write this pile of crap ? Why not include links to professional organisations that deal with such disorders? By implying a single game can help save a person with serious problems in a week or two - the 'author' is doing a disservice to her readers and society in general. I hope no one with a mental problem actually believes this tripe.

    Isnt the national guard the equivalent to the Army Reserve, how can you leave in order to join them?

      Our Army reserves do deploy for humanitarian reasons, or it could have been for training. It could have been something else and his family just lied to him about the reason.

    Good on him for getting up after all that life threw at him. No matter what helped him. You naysayers are a part of what takes a person down.
    Draven... keep going.

    I also find it kind of premature to say someone has "turned their life around" a week after this game came out. I mean, more power to him if its inspired him to change his outlook - but I don't know if we can count this as saving a life just yet.

    lol Patricia, you always write the most crazy stuff.

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