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Matter Of Perspective: Nathan Drake - From Treasure Hunter To Mass Murderer

Everyone's favourite good guy, right?

There’s no doubt that Nathan Drake is one of the most popular game characters to emerge this generation. After all he is a 21st century Indiana Jones, with a lot of charm and wit. He seems like someone you’d love to hang around with, and someone who just takes life as it comes, even though most of his time is spent looking down the barrel of a gun. However, behind this exterior of a charming guy lies the mind of a cunning, ruthless, secretive mass murderer.

“But wait!” you may cry, asking how our beloved Nathan Drake could be any of those things when all he does is try to help his friends. We know that isn’t true though, Drake doesn’t start his adventures looking to help people. No, he goes on them out of pure greed, searching for gold or other treasures.

Because Drake is so idolised it becomes easy to forget that he is a professional thief. His life has revolved around stealing from people and, if you think about it, from the pool of human knowledge.

In Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune he went to find El Dorado. In Uncharted 2 the target was the Cintamani Stone and Marco Polo’s lost ships. In Uncharted 3 his target was the lost city of Iram, though this also had the added bonus of screwing over his nemesis, Kathrine Marlow. It’s only really in Golden Abyss where Nate tries to walk away from any treasure, yet that could be the tipping point that drives his future actions.

It's not like he keeps the best company either.
In Golden Abyss Dante, Drake’s employer and antagonist, states that Drake doesn’t have much to his name and only gets small jobs because he isn’t tough enough to grab the big opportunities when they present themselves. Maybe it was this statement that turned Drake further onto a greedier, more selfish path.

After all, in all of these adventures Drake makes major discoveries that fill in gaps in human history, as well as evidence of new viruses and species which would help further scientific knowledge.

It also has to be noted that the creatures Drake discovers pose a great risk to any humans who venture near their territory. The creatures in Drake’s Fortune managed to kill off a whole colony, but he doesn’t warn people of the danger as far as we know. Anyone who innocently ventures to that area has no idea the danger they could face, and their deaths would be on Drake’s head.

But the real crime is allowing gaps to exist in archaeological history when they can be filled so quickly if only Drake would share his knowledge. I’ll let the statue of El Dorado pass because that was a deadly weapon, but the destruction of Iram, Shangri-La and the Golden Abyss have to be deemed as terrible crimes. Could you imagine how much we could have learnt from these places? Their discoveries would all be historical events in themselves. How often do you find a lost city? Finding Shangri-La would be like finding Pompeii all over again today.

But I suppose this destruction shouldn’t be surprising, it seems to be in Drake’s nature to destroy, though his usual target of destruction is people. Over the years Drake has been operating how many have died by his hand, either from being shot, having their neck snapped or from being pulled over a ledge?

Falling over a ledge wouldn’t necessarily be a quick death either. I’m willing to bet that more than one person fell from a great height and landed with a shattered spine but remained alive. Can you imagine that agony spread over hours, or even days? Nate doesn’t care though because there’s the all important treasure at the end of all these deaths.

Machine guns in the desert, all in a day's work.
Drake’s killed so many people that it’s surprising he doesn’t top the Most Wanted list of the FBI and Interpol. Fine, most of those people were shooting at him but they were only doing what they were hired to do, which was to guard areas.

And what about the families of these slaughtered people? Hundreds of kids have lost parents now, and families have lost an income. In Golden Abyss the guys Dante hired probably belong to a private military contractor.

If hundreds of employees go missing on a job this company would be sending out all the resources they could to find them.

Pressure from the media and government to find these people would be ridiculously high. Drake and Chase destroy the Golden Abyss to hide it from the world as it’s dangerous, but their little murder spree would soon have all sorts descending on the area.

All that death and destruction is just the result of one adventure! As soon as Drake was picked up by Turkish authorities in Uncharted 2 he should have been kept in a maximum security facility with no chance of bail.

But of course he is let out to continue murdering across the world, and it doesn’t even seem to phase him. During Golden Abyss I cleared an area of enemies and do you know what Drake said? “Finally.” Nothing about the terrible taking of lives, just “Finally”, as if he’d managed to finish a particularly tough essay.

Nathan Drake can play the part of a charming, witty guy but he is nothing more than a thief who kills anyone who gets in his way. He makes important discoveries only to hide them away from the rest of the world because he doesn’t trust anyone outside his little circle. Nathan Drake belongs in a secure facility with access to therapy so he can discuss his murderous ways, but instead he gets a pass simply because he’s likeable.

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  1. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    Why is Nathan Drake a mass murderer & more importantly why are we ok with that is a great question to rise from this generation.

    The fidelity of this generation brings home the unrelenting violence & murder that is a cornerstone of gaming. The space on discs allows tens & tens of hours of great voice acting & story telling is evolved from the save the princess from the castle of days gone by.

    It all combines to make the experience more involving than ever.

    These aren’t Nazis like Indiana Jones dispatched with ease, or enemy combatants like many other games or even simple cannon fodder like zombies or something, they’re people. Weird how it all seems so normal, especially in the archaeological artefacts business where negotiation would acquire you the artefacts you desire.


    Aside from that, I’ve been bored three quarters of the way through each Uncharted game, the endless wave after wave of enemies just feels too much by the time you turn into the home straight. I know I may be alone in that point of view though as they are, in the main, great fun.

    Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 15:31.
    • KeRaSh
      Since: Nov 2009

      But… but.. they are the bad guys! :P
      Very interesting perspective and very true, if you think about it for a second.
      I also agree with you on the enemy wave comment. That’s one of the main thing I really dislike about the uncharted games.

      Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 15:44.
    • 2ofclubs
      Since: Sep 2008

      Because people know it’s a game? People don’t see the enemies as humans but rather pixels and polygons that must be shot at. Thinking of these targets having lives outside what you see in the game is a bit too far. A bit of a non question as far as I’m concerned.

      Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 16:47.
      • cc_star
        Team TSA: Writer
        Since: Forever

        Thinking about lives outside their the game is a bit far, I agree.

        Doesn’t stop me wondering why Nathan Drake is a mass murderer for personal gain & why we’re ok with that though, he steals &/or collects artefacts, it’s not a game based around a war where the rules of what is & isn’t bullet sponges is easily defined.

        For a game with a strong story & even stronger characters this murdering is a bit of an elephant in the room.

        Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 18:05.
      • 2ofclubs
        Since: Sep 2008

        That’s the thing with games almost exclusively. They can make something into an issue or not by not mentioning it, hence your elephant in the room. If Naughty Dog wanted us to think about the consequences they could but since it’s not brought up it remains a non issue.

        Plus we wouldn’t get that far in the game without killing so that is why I presume we are ‘ok’ with it. It’s a means to a linear end, simple as that.

        Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 18:14.
      • 2ofclubs
        Since: Sep 2008

        Actually saying that I think ND’s latest The Last Of Us will provide an juxtaposition to Uncharted with it’s big moral considerations woven into the gameplay and narrative.

        Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 18:19.
      • salvodaze
        Since: Dec 2012

        But when you shoot pixels shaped as humans and animals, you actually need to justify that action in your brain at some level. I don’t think that video games are directly at fault for violent behaviour, but they definitely desensitize people to a certain extent, very much like other kinds of media like movies, TV shows, reality shows. Only difference is, you pull the trigger in video games.

        That said, I really find these Hollywood type jocky video game characters repulsive. Drake is one of those straight male model characters we are forced to buy – smart, funny, fit, fashionably handsome. And don’t forget the stubble. Oh how I hate that stubble. So boring…

        Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 22:36.
      • 2ofclubs
        Since: Sep 2008

        As much as I get your point about having to justify shooting the people shaped things to your brain it’s nothing in comparison to doing those things to an actual person. There’s no consequence in the same way that if it was real the your brain would go through the stages of ‘will I go to prison for doing this’, ‘my life is over’ etc. Once you turn off that console the actions remain in the box.

        I don’t believe it desensitizes someone as much as a lot of people think. Being brought up around guns, violence and people (probably parents let’s be honest) that don’t teach consequences are more likely to act in violent ways. Often the video game angle is simply a scapegoat.

        Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 22:58.
      • salvodaze
        Since: Dec 2012

        I definitely agree about the video games being the scapegoat (of the decade). It’s mainly your upbringing and values you are thought that contribute to real life violence. What I meant by desentisizing was not something that obvious, it’s an effect not gearing us towards justifying murder but making us slightly more indifferent in general. Movies and TV probably do this more frequently and on a larger scale. You see something a hundred times, you get used to it. You see it a few more hundred times and you could subconsciously start to acknowledge this as “right” or as a fact. It’s a subtle effect but I think it makes a huge difference in our interactions. It’s like the difference between killing an NPC you don’t need to kill in a game. How can you justify killing him/her? What makes you do that? That kind of subtle indifference.

        It feels wrong when I see a parent/grandparent buying COD for their 10 year old at the store. People should act more conscious about the ratings, there are numerous games that will actually help that kid’s development or sense of being/community. I see absolutely no logical reason to buy an FPS game for a kid.

        Comment posted on 07/05/2013 at 08:23.
      • salvodaze
        Since: Dec 2012

        *desensitize, that is :)

        Comment posted on 07/05/2013 at 08:24.
  2. quinkill
    Since: Oct 2010

    Great article Aran! Such an interesting topic at the moment. I feel like this is the first generation where story and character can be so well drawn in games that (like film or TV) we’ve started to question the motivations of these characters. I suppose we used to turn a blind eye to these issues or justified mass killing or greed in games because it’s just that, a game. I hope it’s a good thing (long-term) that we gamers have different/higher expectations of story, character and motivation in games.

    Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 16:42.
  3. teflon
    Community Team
    Since: May 2009

    I don’t know… You can’t really colour all of Nate’s kills as victims of a mass murdering spree. I mean, a lot of these are just as bad or worse than Drake, when it comes down to it.

    Pirates who wouldn’t flinch at kidnap and murder, war criminals who literally invade cities and secret societies, none of whom would stop at anything to get their hands on the final treasures and turn them to their own evil ends, were it not for Drake also being in the mix and destroying for the greater good.

    The body count is truly ridiculous, but this is pure “gamification” over a game time which spans much longer than any equivalent film. We’ve previously seen James Bond films having 007 kill 91 men in a movie which lasts 117 minutes with You Only Live Twice (1967), whilst a playthrough of Uncharted could take 10-12 hours, depending on how fast you are in order to tot up 800-1000. The number of kills are higher per minute, but considering that there’s only an equivalent amount of plot spread across all that time, there’s tons and tons of pure gameplay and action which is needed to fill that.

    Drake is certainly a flawed character, but he’s still the good guy in comparison to the various antagonists in the Uncharted series, so long as you can look at the kill count for what it really is.

    Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 16:46.
    • bunimomike
      Since: Jul 2009

      We’re playing as him so it’s naturally skewed towards the player. Anyone who stands in my way is the “bad guy”. This includes you if it’s co-op. :-P

      At least he’s not a complete genocidal maniac like the positively racist/borderline xenophobe that is Chris Redfield! Systematically cleansing 3rd world countries for some sort of Redfield master-race. :-)

      Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 17:53.
      • KeRaSh
        Since: Nov 2009

        Redfield master-race… Brilliant! :D

        Comment posted on 07/05/2013 at 06:15.
  4. FriendlyFiend
    Since: May 2009

    Great article. Despite their excellent scripts and gorgeous good looks I’ve never really enjoyed the Uncharted series. Part of the reason is the fact so much of whichever lovely-looking jungle Nate finds himself in usually turns out to be a corridor in disguise, part the fact that this unclimbable bit of wall so often looks exactly like that climbable bit over there, but mainly the very point the article raises. Monsters? Zombies? Happy to kill them. But all those people? As you say, it doesn’t sit at all well with Nate’s easy charm. Just as it sits terribly with the new, self-empowering Lara Croft (remember when our Tomb Raider spent the vast part of her games, er, raiding tombs?). It may well just be my age (I’ve been gaming for over 30 years now) but I’m getting really tired of the game=shooting everything in sight equation.

    Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 16:53.
  5. Airiaen
    Since: Aug 2009

    i think the direction of the game is wrong. For me its like a shooter mixed with some climbing sections which is too me is vastly disappointing, it lacks depth. I don’t know.. playing Uncharted 3 made me realize that Naughty Dog are just reusing the same dirty trick to increase the hours of the game by throwing waves of enemies in each area. It just became far too dull and felt the same to me. Sure it has fancy graphics, animation and story that makes it get 10s or 9s.. but the shooting sections are pointless. I think Metal Gear Solid has the right thing you have a choice of infiltration or just go mad and kill enemy soldiers. At least Snake is a soldier but Drake isn’t but Uncharted could easily be something else than area after area filled with mercs that move in waves. Then it wouldn’t be mass murder, you’ll have a choice not to in some situations.

    Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 17:18.
  6. Kennykazey
    Since: Mar 2010

    It’s fine because he’s the good guy and Hollywood has told us so. You could say the same about Mario and his turtle-genocide-movement, stomping peaceful animals to death.

    But I too feel like UC should allow for more options in how you play it. The stealth sections are really cool, but you can only go that route in certain parts of the games.

    Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 17:42.
  7. Origami Killer
    Since: May 2010

    The problem is is that these people who he’s up against to find these treasures will use it for bad things. He’s there to find and stop them from using them to gain power from it. That makes him the good guy.
    The guards are just cannon fodder i suppose.

    Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 17:52.
    • bunimomike
      Since: Jul 2009

      The guards have families to go home to you heartless sod! :-P

      Comment posted on 06/05/2013 at 18:58.
      • RudeAwakening
        Since: Jan 2011

        They may have families but they knew what they signed up for, a risk they are willing to take! :P

        Comment posted on 07/05/2013 at 20:08.
  8. blackredyellow
    Since: Mar 2009

    Hmm, an interesting perspective. I haven’t really thought about it before, and I’ve really enjoyed the games! Worrying?

    But then, what about James Bond? What about Batman? Spiderman? Superman? Yeah, they don’t kill on such a scale. But is the scale really the issue? Murder is murder!

    Obviously I’m not defending the actions, just highlighting the desensitisation within the industry.

    Comment posted on 07/05/2013 at 00:13.
  9. xdarkmagician
    Since: May 2009

    Its a intriguing question to ask and also posses some interesting psychological angles. Although I’d offere that Drake is indeed a killer he isn’t a murderer. While he kills and enjoys killing, he’s not planning it out, he’s just making it up as he goes (part of his appeal). Plus alot of the times your getting shot at which falls under self defence. A good lawyer would get the mass murder charged drop to 3,478 counts of manslaughter.
    Although I do like the question of who’s the real bad guy, and I love how some games like Dishonor and Braid are starting to ask the same question.

    Comment posted on 07/05/2013 at 02:13.
  10. Eldave0
    Since: Aug 2008

    I love the Uncharted games but have always hated the lead character.
    Drake has always been a self-centred douche and his actions in Charted3 only solidified that.

    Comment posted on 07/05/2013 at 11:48.