Nathan Drake, inspired by Indiana Jones, has become one of the most iconic characters in video games by presenting us with a closer, sympathetic and vulnerable hero.
We accompany him in his search for El Dorado and the sacred city of Shambala. We suffered for him during a desperate flight inside the carriages of a precipitous train to the abyss, and we climbed to the brink of the heart attack on luggage of a moving plane. We laugh with his occurrences in the most tense moments, we marvel at his trips to beautiful remote places and we are moved by his sentimental swings. Nathan Drake, the charming thief , has become one of the most memorable heroes in video game history. Protagonist of the Uncharted saga , whose third installment has turned 10 years old, this Naughty Dog hero He conquered us thanks to his overwhelming charm and his gift of showing us that even the most intrepid of adventurers have moments of very human weakness.
A hero in a T-shirt and jeans
The era of PlayStation 3 had just begun, and Naughty Dog needed to create a title that would serve as a teaser to attract gamers to the new Sony console. The studio, famous for titles like Crash Bandicoot and Jax and Daxter, was aware that its audience had grown older. Of course, there is no age to enjoy a good game starring a funny pet, but Evan Wells, director of the next hit Naughty Dog, was clear that the next challenge for the company was to bring video games one step closer to reality, as narrated in the documentary The 30th Anniversary of Naughty Dog. For this, the protagonists would be humans, instead of funny anthropomorphic animals. As for the story, after flirting with sci-fi sketches and underwater exploration, Naughty Dog settled on a treasure hunting adventure that would honor pulp magazines . With Amy Henning at the helm, the first lines of Uncharted began to be written.
Its protagonist, Nathan Drake, was quite a change of scene with respect to the classic arch-powerful heroes with military training that dominated the medium. With the prospect of making a title close to gamers, E. Daniel Arey, creative director of Uncharted, comments in 2009 in Gamasutra how they began to change the perspective of a hyper-muscular hero armed with a good arsenal towards an everyday man, dressed in his T-shirt and jeans.
Richard Lemarchand, designer of Uncharted, recounted in his GDC conference “Deconstructing Drake’s Fortune” how they devised and matured a character who has become an icon. Thus, they contemplated various inspirations to create their treasure hunter: the cockiness of Han Solo and Indiana Jones —with the attractiveness of Harrison Ford—, the resolution capacity of the heroes of pulp magazines and the physical appearance of the comedian Johnny Knoxville . “It has a very cool vibe, but it also transmits a lot of goodness,” emphasizes Lemarchand in his talk. Freshness and humanity were the two keys that served to find the ideal actor to play Nathan Drake.
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Lemarchand tells how the casting was at the Game City festival in Notthingham: “The search for the actor was long and arduous, and we had to hit the nail on the head. We had the firm conviction that we were looking for someone who happened to be an ordinary guy. Nathan Drake is not a ninja , he is not a special forces agent. Yes, he’s healthy and fit, but he’s also a bit clumsy, and we had to get that nuance. Amy Hennig told us that we needed that intangible quality that the most beloved actors of the action genre possess. And the reason people identify with Drake and he’s still relevant is that he’s vulnerable. ”
A thief of flesh and blood
Nolan North , one of the great stars of video game dubbing, was chosen. Lemarchand explains how the actor brought a differentiating touch with respect to other candidates: “Most of the actors highlighted all the characteristics of a tough guy during their test. But we immediately saw the vulnerability and doubt in Nolan’s portrait. It offered a different concept of masculinity, and I think that is one of the most important pillars of the success of Uncharted. ”
Another challenge in making Nathan Drake authentic and believable was the animation itself. With a very cinematic vision, the Naughty Dog team focused on creating a game that evoked action cinema, while offering a playable experience. With scenes that offered close-up shots of the characters, the animation team had to deliver credible images that were not overly artificial, which was a challenge for traditional artists. “We didn’t want our characters to be cartoons or cutouts,” stresses Amy Hennig on Game Daily.“We wanted to bring an emotional authenticity. That’s why Harrison Ford is more memorable than so many other forgettable actors in forgettable movies, because he knows how to create a character that seems believable. We wanted to tone down the exaggerations of stretching and shrinking unrealistic character traits, and we looked for something more subtle and believable , with that depth that is not usually seen in video games. ” Thus, Nolan North managed to find what Amy Hennig was looking for. “Instead of getting one of those over-acting that you see in a video game, I want the players to say ‘Hala! They do look like real people! ‘ And this usually happens because the performance comes from a real actor. ”
The adorable weakness
Another major stumbling block that Naughty Dog dealt with when designing Nathan Drake was giving him self-confidence and a daring personality without causing rejection from the public. After all, we have at the controls a man who moves on the fringes of the law: Drake embarks on dangerous expeditions, where he must get his hands dirty to protect his own life and that of his companions. And despite his questionable morals, he manages to connect with us. Kotaku develops an essay in which he compares Nathan Drake to the prince of Prince of Persia, who, also played by Nolan North, caused public rejection.
Daniel Arey, in an interview in which he compares both characters, relates how the prince is unpleasant because he does not show closeness and vulnerability as Drake does: “Heroes can be cool and, in fact, if they are not, you run the risk of making them inactive and only reactive, which would ruin the whole project. But if a hero constantly shows his human side, we identify with him and forgive him for his pride because we have all sinned a little bit of it at some point in our lives. The entire team, whether Amy, Evan or myself, think that characters like Han Solo – and his emotional twin, Indiana Jones – like them because they are characters who face their own weaknesses.and they always end up against the ropes. They get away with it, but just barely. And with that we can identify ourselves ”. Kotaku also highlights that Nathan Drake rounds out his vulnerability with his sense of humor, which inspires in players the fantasy of partying with him.
The Guardian, in turn, has also studied the secret of Nathan Drake’s charm, beyond his ingenuity and his fragility, and it is how in the Uncharted his story is presented to us beyond the adventure itself. Throughout the saga, we learn about his past as a teenage thief, his relationship with his mentor Sully, his emotional conflicts with Elena Fisher and his sexual tension with Chloe Frazer … But we also access a more intimate dimension that The Guardian praises of Naughty Dog titles: the contemplative scenes, the areas where players are free to interact with the environment without further consequences for the game. In the case of Uncharted, these moments allow us to access the most cheerful and playful Nathan Drake, which is visible in the Tibetan village section in Uncharted 2: “For a few minutes, Drake wanders the dusty streets of a small Nepalese village, shakes hands with its inhabitants, plays ball with the children, inspects the cattle. , and all these actions are carried out with the same button of the attacks of the month. It’s a very nice and deliberate subversion of the controls that allows the player to experience Drake differently. They humanized him ”.
From the last episode of Drake to the movies
Likewise, in the same Guardian essay we observed how the cinematic sections of Uncharted do not emphasize the exposition of the facts, but the development of the character itself and its relationships. In the non-interactive sequences, we discover what kind of relationship Nathan Drake has with Sully, Elena, and Chloe. In addition, we attend different conversations during the game, which bring more prominence to the playable sections instead of making so much the difference between the cinematic and the silent gameplay that is common in other works. As The Guardian points out, we not only know the adventurous Nathan Drake, but the man beyond his expeditions.
Ricky Chambier, design director of Uncharted 4, tells The Guardian how for the last episode of Drake they were aware of his evolution throughout the saga: “We talked about how this would be the closing of the Nathan Drake story and we took a look at the things we’ve hinted at in previous games and the experiences that have shaped Nathan Drake. What have you fought against? And this is what makes a character interesting: his choices.In the past, we have already hinted at such conflicts, which occur off-screen. He and Elena are happy together at the end of Uncharted 2, but at the beginning of Uncharted 3 we present them with relationship problems. We also convey the idea that every treasure has a price, or Nathan Drake’s obsession with these adventures. Does he understand the impact he has on the people around him? Are you aware of how you have become the man you are?
In fiction, we observe how the figure of the white-gloved thief garners admirers. Arsenio Lupine is one of the most iconic figures in world literature, who inspired the lovable scoundrel Lupine, the mischievous protagonist of the homonymous animated series. For his part, Nathan Drake has drawn inevitable comparisons with Indiana Jones and Lara Croft. And yet he has managed to carve out his own personality and history. IGN highlighted how Nathan Drake was a breath of fresh air in terms of the traditional narrative of the male video game protagonist: “He is a handsome and charismatic hero who is also super intelligent, but does not always make the right decision., as evidenced by the fact that he is always associated with the nastiest thieves. When he’s not looking for treasure, he’s running for his own life, or he’s saved at the last minute, or he’s embroiled in a gunfight. Some of these details may be original, but the premise we have seen stories of times in several Hollywood movies, such as The Search or those of Indiana Jones. Uncharted 2 is, at its core, an action movie turned into a video game ”.
It was inevitable that Nathan Drake, inspired by cinema and pulp , would have his same premiere on the big screen. Next 2022 we will see Tom Holland in the role of a younger Drake, who will live adventures from a past that we have not seen in his video game adventures.