Lara Croft is one of the most recognizable female characters in video gaming, having starred in a dozen editions of Tomb Raider since the series debuted in 1996. And that makes her a perfect window into the rapid pace of progress in 3D graphics over the last two decades:
At the left is the Lara Croft character as she appeared in the original 1996 game. On the right is Croft as she appeared in 2014's Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition.
The increasing realism is a reflection of Moore's law, which holds that the amount of computing power per chip doubles every couple of years. Video games represent 3D scenes as a sequence of polygons; the more computing power you have, the more polygons you can render. The original Lara Croft was rendered with a few hundred polygons. The latest models use tens of thousands, producing images that look almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
See more images of Lara Croft's evolution here.