Jay Castello
Freelance Writer
jaymcastello@gmail.com
@jayplaysthings

Give Me A Protagonist Like Nadine Ross

Nadine Ross is a great antagonist. Far more charismatic, sensible, and memorable than co-villain Rafe and any of the previous Uncharted baddies in their turn. She knows exactly what she wants, how to get it, and when to walk away, which is how she manages to come out unscathed at the end of Uncharted 4. Every other antagonist dies, and even protagonist Nate consistently escapes by the skin of his teeth due only to an incredible amount of good luck. 

And she is, unarguably, a bad person. She kills for a living. Shoreline, the mercenary group that she leads, has participated in civil wars on the side of the highest bidder, and some of the nameless mooks can be heard openly discussing having burned villages to the ground. (More on this later, but I want to be clear right now that this in particular would make an unequivocally awful video game unless it was intensely and unavoidably critical of the player character’s actions.)

Nadine is openly, unapologetically bad. Nate, on the other hand, is just bad enough to leave a current of distaste below the narrative. It’s very obvious when you actually consider it, but the narrative constantly leads you away from having to consider the fact that he gets into firefights around, and even involving, civilians; that he destroys archaeological wonders that he has no right to even be at; that his very basis is theft with a side of mass murder (albeit in self defense - though he could just leave). Uncharted 4 is one long call out for lying to his wife Elena, but very little reference is made to the rest of the moral blackness in Nate’s story. 

And that’s because the player is supposed to enjoy this moral blackness. And it is enjoyable to participate in the plunder and shooting, as long as you don’t think too hard about it, so of course the game tries to distract you from the morality with drama and action. And it mostly works.

But it leaves an alternative wide open; lean into the moral darkness. Invite the player to enjoy being openly bad and to consider what that means. It might be uncomfortable, but so is playing as Nate when the narrative ignores or exonerates all of his major problems. And having a player character like Nadine would invite something fresh to the table; a break from the stubbled white “bad boys” who (apparently) have a heart of gold underneath all that shooting people business.

As I said, having a game based on Shoreline’s previous activities would very likely be terrible, which is why I suggest a protagonist like Nadine, rather than actually Nadine. Really, the best character for this kind of game would be a Nadine-Nate hybrid; Nate’s selfishness, lack of care for sovereignty or historical preservation, and devil-may-care attitude combined with Nadine’s shrewdness, self-awareness, and lack of glossing over by a narrative desperate to forgive. A character who, unlike every other Uncharted character, walks away with millions of dollars in treasure and no apologies.

In other words, own up to your chaotic neutrals. 

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