Characterization in Uncharted

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March 1, 2013 by kxrodri


The Uncharted series offers a blockbuster movie-like experience through a video game platform. The series has often been referred to as playing through a movie. From the first game to the third, the characters become more defined as the series progresses. The way that the characters are presented, which mainly involve cut-scenes and dialogue, allow for a characterization that rivals that of a novel narrative. The game uses indirect and direct characterization techniques. By the end of the game series, the main character feels very well developed such that he has become relatable. The supporting characters are also developed and build off the main character.

In a novel narrative there are two types of characterization techniques, implicit (indirect) and explicit (direct) characterization. Implicit characterization is where the author tells the audience what a character is like. This can be done through elements such as the narrator, another character, or by the actual character. This generally involves character description and a telling of what a character is like. Explicit characterization is when the reader must infer in what a character is like. Through dialogue and certain actions and reactions readers must come to their own conclusions about the character. Often times both forms of characterization work together to fully develop the character. Another form in which characterization can occur is through human like qualities. Weaknesses in a character such as vices, flaws or imperfections make the characters appear more human. The more human the character appears the more the reader can identify with him or her.

In terms of implicit characterization, the game is able to develop their main character, Nathan Drake, through its visuals. The game developers designed Drake as an everyday man. Drake appears in jeans and a t-shirt. His appearance is somewhat ordinary, his build is fit but not overly so, a tan skin-tone, and he always has a 5 o’ clock shadow. There is nothing specific in the way that Drake is presented that makes him stand out. He is shown as an everyday man.

Explicit characterization is where Drake is fully characterized. There are many things that have to be inferred by the player and are never explicitly stated. Drake’s actions give off human reactions, things like narrowly missing a ledge or grabbing a wall for support or even bending down to catch his breath give the idea that it really is an ordinary guy going through extraordinary events. The player doesn’t see him as invincible, but instead the player is just as surprised as Drake as events unfold.

Drake’s personality is given off as a loveable jerk. He isn’t always a hero and his faults are clearly shown. Throughout gameplay, Drake often gives off his own commentary about the situation, which is usually a sarcastic quip. Commentaries such as, “Y’know, people are always telling me how lucky I am. But the truth is, everything I touch turns to shit”, make him appear not as confident as he acts. He is portrayed as confident and sometimes cocky, for example when he’s tied up and the person holding him hostage tells him that Drake has insulted him, Drake replies in disbelief “You’re a pirate”. There is an act of bravado that Drake carries and it is really shown through his interactions with enemies, but he becomes more vulnerable when he’s with the people he’s close with.

In the third game, the players are given a glimpse of the relationship with his mentor, Victor Sullivan. The game jumps through time and allows players to play as young Drake. This chapter in the game gives players a glimpse of what Drake was like and how he became into the person that was developed in the games. Through certain hints and some dialogue, players are given information in Drake’s past. They learn that Nathan Drake was not his actual name and that he had picked it out himself. There is also a reference to his parents, in which it is inferred that Drake’s mother committed suicide when he was 5 and his father gave the custody to the state. He was raised then by nuns in Francis Boys’ Home. The chapter with young drake shows Drake at 14 years old and it is the scene where he first meets his mentor Victor Sullivan. After saving Drake’s life Victor Sullivan takes him under his wing.

The relationship between Drake and Sullivan is sharpened in the third game. Sullivan is characterized as a mentor and there’s a strong sense of loyalty that emanates between them. Sullivan is the more experienced treasure hunter. He is always shown with an open collared shirt and khakis. His moustache and cigar smoking make him almost appear as a stock character, but as the game is played the players see how dynamic he is. His personality mirrors that of Drake, but more reserved.

The game is able to fully develop Drake and Sullivan through their interactions and dialogue. There is however very little characterization of the enemies the two have to face. They’re interchangeable throughout the series as they’re not really memorable. The game focuses more on the characterization of the protagonists.

By the end of the series, Drake is transformed from and average character with no special characteristic to a very relatable character. Cut-scenes allow for explicit characterization and the players get to know Drake in their own personal way. Just as novel presents its characters, Uncharted is able to provide a memorable character that keeps the players playing for hours on end.

-Kevin Rodriguez


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