Nathan Drake is No Everyman

This post will contain no Uncharted 3 spoilers.

"Nathan Drake being badass." is the caption this image provided.

Before November 2007, when developers told us how Nathan Drake was different, they had a particular name for him: an everyman. A character who was scared when there were scary situations, who felt stressed in fights because he wasn't a formally trained marine, who didn't have an otherworldly destiny that predetermined his victory. Countless video game publications followed suit, referring to the protagonist of Uncharted as the sort of hero that normal people could identify with.

By the time Uncharted 2: Among Thieves began its pre-release hype rounds, the same description was being repeated. Despite the fact Drake had probably participated in more firefights than a trained bodyguard, and solved ancient puzzles no other had been able to crack, publications and developers still had that description on hand.

Nathan Drake often draws comparisons from two adventures: Lara Croft and Indiana Jones. Lara Croft because she is the protagonist of Tomb Raider, the gameplay of which the Uncharted drew inspiration from from, and Indiana Jones for the general feel and spirit the series abides by. Drake resembles Jones in several ways--both are handsome, cunning, resourceful adventurers who often find themselves eyeball-deep in supernatural and fantastic wonders while on the search for more "mundane" ancient treasure. You'd be hard-pressed to identify Indiana Jones as an "everyman". He's often listed as one of the greatest action heroes of all time and you won't find many who argue. But Nathan Drake himself is responsible for greater feats of human ability than even Jones--for every trap and puzzle Harrison Ford thinks (and runs) himself through, Drake solves a dozen over about an eight hour range. There are more gunfights, car chases, and derring-do than even Indiana Jones lives up to.

So is Nathan Drake an everyman? Is he the sort of normal, Arthur Dent fellow that the audience could imagine and identify with? It seems unlikely. Every time Nathan expresses regret over killing a soul in Uncharted, he gets ready to pop a bullet in twenty more brains. Even as he's shouting fear and horror, he charges through without a hesitation or balking. He reads at least two languages (both ancient and dead). He can do pull-ups with his fingertips, and there's never a time when he doesn't have a witty comeback. And he has that staple trait of all action heroes: luck.

There's nothing wrong with Uncharted's wise-cracking hero. Certainly the game would be less enjoyable if Drake couldn't scale the walls of ancient temples, or if he didn't keep players amused with his snappy dialogue. But all of his charm comes from traits outside of being an "everyman": his roguishness, his humor, his high energy are qualities of a high-flying adventurer, and that's what makes him enjoyable as a protagonist. The Uncharted series doesn't derive its quality from the human condition, but from action and adventure.

It might have been tempting of Naughty Dog to call Drake an everyman, when you compare him against most video game protagonists: he's not a chosen one, like Dovahkiin from Skyrim. He's not the finest living soldier in the galaxy, like Commander Shepard from Mass Effect. But he's not average, either. With the athleticism of a mountain climber, the knowledge of an archaeologist and anthropologist, and the martial ability, sharpshooting, and charm of James Bond, he's just the hero that the Uncharted series needs. And I wouldn't do him a disservice by calling him an everyman.

35 Comments
36 Comments
Posted by Saibh

This post will contain no Uncharted 3 spoilers.

"Nathan Drake being badass." is the caption this image provided.

Before November 2007, when developers told us how Nathan Drake was different, they had a particular name for him: an everyman. A character who was scared when there were scary situations, who felt stressed in fights because he wasn't a formally trained marine, who didn't have an otherworldly destiny that predetermined his victory. Countless video game publications followed suit, referring to the protagonist of Uncharted as the sort of hero that normal people could identify with.

By the time Uncharted 2: Among Thieves began its pre-release hype rounds, the same description was being repeated. Despite the fact Drake had probably participated in more firefights than a trained bodyguard, and solved ancient puzzles no other had been able to crack, publications and developers still had that description on hand.

Nathan Drake often draws comparisons from two adventures: Lara Croft and Indiana Jones. Lara Croft because she is the protagonist of Tomb Raider, the gameplay of which the Uncharted drew inspiration from from, and Indiana Jones for the general feel and spirit the series abides by. Drake resembles Jones in several ways--both are handsome, cunning, resourceful adventurers who often find themselves eyeball-deep in supernatural and fantastic wonders while on the search for more "mundane" ancient treasure. You'd be hard-pressed to identify Indiana Jones as an "everyman". He's often listed as one of the greatest action heroes of all time and you won't find many who argue. But Nathan Drake himself is responsible for greater feats of human ability than even Jones--for every trap and puzzle Harrison Ford thinks (and runs) himself through, Drake solves a dozen over about an eight hour range. There are more gunfights, car chases, and derring-do than even Indiana Jones lives up to.

So is Nathan Drake an everyman? Is he the sort of normal, Arthur Dent fellow that the audience could imagine and identify with? It seems unlikely. Every time Nathan expresses regret over killing a soul in Uncharted, he gets ready to pop a bullet in twenty more brains. Even as he's shouting fear and horror, he charges through without a hesitation or balking. He reads at least two languages (both ancient and dead). He can do pull-ups with his fingertips, and there's never a time when he doesn't have a witty comeback. And he has that staple trait of all action heroes: luck.

There's nothing wrong with Uncharted's wise-cracking hero. Certainly the game would be less enjoyable if Drake couldn't scale the walls of ancient temples, or if he didn't keep players amused with his snappy dialogue. But all of his charm comes from traits outside of being an "everyman": his roguishness, his humor, his high energy are qualities of a high-flying adventurer, and that's what makes him enjoyable as a protagonist. The Uncharted series doesn't derive its quality from the human condition, but from action and adventure.

It might have been tempting of Naughty Dog to call Drake an everyman, when you compare him against most video game protagonists: he's not a chosen one, like Dovahkiin from Skyrim. He's not the finest living soldier in the galaxy, like Commander Shepard from Mass Effect. But he's not average, either. With the athleticism of a mountain climber, the knowledge of an archaeologist and anthropologist, and the martial ability, sharpshooting, and charm of James Bond, he's just the hero that the Uncharted series needs. And I wouldn't do him a disservice by calling him an everyman.

Posted by Ragdrazi

Drake is the over inflated ego of this generation's "everyman." Lacking the ability to be critical of their own selves, I think most really do see him as an "everyman."

Posted by thehexeditor

@Ragdrazi said:

Drake is the over inflated ego of this generation's "everyman." Lacking the ability to be critical of their own selves, I think most really do see him as an "everyman."

That's an awfully pessimistic way of putting it. Christ.

The way I see it, Drake is this generation's John McClane. Yippee ki yay, mother.

Posted by Yummylee

I agree entirely. Though for a game franchise like Uncharted, the illusion of Nathan Drake's more relatable demeanor was bound to wear off pretty quickly. Under the context of its story, Nate is privy to some more believable character tropes than most. But otherwise he is just as much a super-human action-mascot as Kratos.

Now George Stobbart, that's what I'd consider more of a genuine ''everyman'' archetype unfortunately thrusted into perilous situations. He's more or less who Nathan Drake would be, I imagine, if he never knew how to use a gun efficiently and couldn't climb like he was a descendant of Desmond Miles.

Posted by Vegetable_Side_Dish
@Ragdrazi said:

Drake is the over inflated ego of this generation's "everyman." Lacking the ability to be critical of their own selves, I think most really do see him as an "everyman."

Well put.
Edited by Ragdrazi

@thehexeditor said:

@Ragdrazi said:

Drake is the over inflated ego of this generation's "everyman." Lacking the ability to be critical of their own selves, I think most really do see him as an "everyman."

That's an awfully pessimistic way of putting it. Christ.

The way I see it, Drake is this generation's John McClane. Yippee ki yay, mother.

You'll have to explain to me what you mean by "pessimistic." Also, I've kind of researched the shit out of Gen Y. I kinda know what I'm talking about.

See, John McClane was an everyman. The first act of the film establishes that he's a lonely devoiced man who's still very much in love with his ex-wife. (Oops. I thought I had that wrong. They were separated, but not divorced. Oh man, that's even harder...) He comes into the film bleeding and never ever stops. Drake eats bullets for breakfast and has romantic prospects with two girls at once (one naughty, one nice).

Yeah, "Yippee ki yay, motherfucker" is the only thing they have in common. The attitude that McClane gives during his rare hard hard fought moments of victory is the same attitude Drake is giving all the time.

Posted by Berserker976

While it's true that this generation's definition of an "everyman" might be a bit skewed, I think the term is used in this case to convey his attitude, rather than his actions. The way he seemingly fumbles through these admittedly superhuman feats is in stark contrast to most modern day video game heroes who are usually super serious and hyper macho.

Maybe "endearing" or "charming" would be a more accurate fit, but I don't think they meant he does "everyman" things, just that he acts more like one than most video game protagonists.

Posted by onimonkii

nathan drake will KILL every man

Posted by thehexeditor

@Berserker976: endearing and charming are quite fitting, agreed.

@onimonkii: I laughed. The truth of that joke is what's driving OP and others' thoughts on Drake, I guess.

Posted by Landon

Nathan Drake is an everyman in the sense of a video game world.

If Uncharted was a movie, Drake would kill the antagonist and most shootouts he would miss his mark most of the time, but ultimately escape battles only harming a handful of soldiers.

If Uncharted was a book, it would go into more depth with the mystery and character development and shootouts on paper would be no more than a few pages long.

Uncharted is an action game and a shooter at that. With that comes the need to pad out enemy's in the levels to keep the player entertained, otherwise the game would be very short or very boring. I think Drake is an everyman, but only in a video game world.

Posted by ApolloBob

Any, anytober FIVE! Five dollar! Five dollar footloooooooooooooooong!

Would an "everyman" recognize such a deal?

Posted by BraveToaster

He's what an everyman aspires to be.

Posted by phantomzxro

@Berserker976 said:

While it's true that this generation's definition of an "everyman" might be a bit skewed, I think the term is used in this case to convey his attitude, rather than his actions. The way he seemingly fumbles through these admittedly superhuman feats is in stark contrast to most modern day video game heroes who are usually super serious and hyper macho.

Maybe "endearing" or "charming" would be a more accurate fit, but I don't think they meant he does "everyman" things, just that he acts more like one than most video game protagonists.

Pretty much this! I don't expect uncharted to make a reason way drake is so good at what he does but the tune drake gives off can be more charming ( as berserker976 put it) then most heroes in gaming. Having drake complain and freak out with the player goes a long way.

Posted by Saibh

@Berserker976: I find it's disingenuous to separate his actions from his words. "Oh crap!" could be his catchphrase, but his cries of fear and nervousness are hollow--never does Drake balk from a frightening situation and he rarely attempts anything but charging in headfirst.

The Uncharted series could have been made differently--Sully could be the brains who speaks ancient dialects, and mercenaries wouldn't need to be swarming around every corner. But that's not the game Uncharted is, and it's not the game I would want it to be. It's the story about someone who is athletic, brave, handsome, charming, funny, intelligent, and moral. Naughty Dog chose to make a game where all of those traits came in handy. It's not the story of an average or ordinary person. That's good. But I cannot see a scenario where you'd call Drake something that is anything less than the action hero he is.

Posted by SoldierG654342

I don't remember anyone claiming that a mass-murdering treasure-hunter was an "every-man."

Posted by Saibh

@Landon: I disagree--as I replied to Berserker, they could have made the game differently. It could have been a puzzle game, or a parkour game, or a stealth game. Instead, they made an action game. Then you might have said he was an everyman. What he might have been is irrelevant--as it stands, he's capable of far more than most people, even within his own world. Within his own world, he succeeds past everyone not simply through luck or cunning, but advanced intellect, strength, marksmanship, and skill.

Posted by Saibh
Posted by SoldierG654342

@Saibh said:

@SoldierG654342: Here, here, here, and here.

Those people don't know what the term means. "Everymen" are determined by their ability, not demeanor.

Posted by MikeGosot

I see Nathan Drake as a big douche that likes to steal treasures, is insecure about his shooting skills; but he has a witty remark for every line possible and he attracts hot chicks like magnets attracts metal. 
 
Yeah, i don't like the character but I still love Uncharted... Melee system.

Posted by Saibh

@SoldierG654342: "Those people" include the developers of the game.

You are also not using the definition correctly: Dictionary.com, Mirriam-Webster, Wikipedia, Answers.com, and TheFreeDictionary all cite an "everyman" as being an average and ordinary representation of the human race. Both in personality and physical ability. The examples listed on the Wikipedia page should give you a good impression of what they're supposed to be like. And Nathan Drake is not ordinary.

Posted by sfighter21

Well, he def started out as a "regular guy" as we saw him in Drake's Fortune. When the trouble started brewing around him, he WANTED TO LEAVE the island. He was scared. He didn't think his life was worth risking over finding Eldorado. In Among Thieves, he was more "battle hardened". Although I was still surprised he wasn't AS scared considering he was going against real, trained soldiers compared to pirates in the first one. I still find him less skilled than most other game protagonists and I love him as a character.

Posted by blueduck

Ah the Uncharted series. Allowing gamers to become the guy they resented the most in high school. ;)

Posted by Saibh

@sfighter21: I disagree--while the action sequences ramp up in the second game, he's still definitely capable of the same great intelligence, is just as knowledgable, is an excellent marksman, is charming, athletic, and plain cool.

As I've said a couple of times, his expression of fear is hollow and tertiary--it has no impact upon his actions or how he handles a situation. I'll give to you that he wanted to leave the island, and thinking about your personal safety over adventure is definitely not the norm of adventurers, but that is one moment that hardly defines his character over the course of the entire game. It doesn't detract from his ability to endlessly spring from tiny ledges, or avoid killer traps, or charm hot girls, or comeback wittily.

Edited by bybeach

I see nathan Drake as a modern adventure charactor. Thats all. You know, he cares about the enviroment and protects civies and gets his heart broken a little when he is 'acquiring' other culture's lost treasures, but scores the right hot chick in the end. (Miss Bossy, I liked the other one in Uncharted 2, frankly) He suffers for his mistakes but creates more magnificent solutions to correct and surpass them. He is not really a thinking man's adventurer, but he always reacts in the right even though his daddy was probably a thief and con-man( I know nothing about his daddy). He attracts ppl. to him who are a bit morally challenged and brings out the best in them...mostly.

HE HAS FUN!

HE DOES THINGS THAT COULD BE BAD BUT WHEN HE DOES THEM THEY ARE ALRIGHT!

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK LARNED ALL IT KNOWS FROM HIM!'

jeez.

Posted by coakroach

OK.

He's still a pretty unimaginative character though.

Posted by sfighter21

@Saibh: Yeah. I agree. I just mean kind of in respect to how Naughty Dog was first describing him. I think he is more like Indy than Lara. In that, they both are "regular" guys. Naughty Dog gave us the example that he stumbles around when he runs, there is nothing elegant about how he climbs or fights, and he just throws himself into a situation without thinking it through. We saw that a lot in the 2nd one. Nate: "I didn't think that far ahead!" Lol. I'm not really talking bout his ability to get women or have witty comebacks (although that is a plus). I think someone described Drake as "the most likable dick you will ever meet". Haha.

Posted by solidejake

So, many war games' "average-soldiers" are able to take on a thousand Nazis or Russians at once, nobody complains about that? Even the most skilled of soldiers couldn't do that.

Posted by Saibh

@solidejake: Most of those games have no focus on the narrative or characters. It's not as glaring or as important.

Besides that, I didn't even mention them. That doesn't mean I excuse those cases. I'm not sure why you'd try and undermine the argument that way.

Posted by solidejake
@Saibh: No no, don't get me wrong, I know that in terms of skill, Nathan Drake is clearly no "Everyman character". But when looked at as a character, I'd say he is.
Posted by Saibh

@solidejake: I disagree. He's still super intelligent, charming, witty, charismatic, clever, resourceful, moral, and a ton of other highly ideal traits you find in highly ideal humans, and not everymen.

Posted by solidejake
@Saibh: Ehh, I didn't mean it that way. I'm sorry, it's sounding like I dislike the character, in which I seriously love him. Of course he is all of those things, in which you wouldn't find in everyman, or in very many men, but at the same time, those still are possible per say. I like to think I am all of the above, but maybe I am biased?
Posted by Saibh

@solidejake: I can definitely see a couple of those traits in an ordinary person--and yes, maybe there's a person with all those traits out there. But that person is no everyman. He's no ordinary, he's not an average representation of humanity.

Posted by solidejake
@Saibh: Well, I think what they're going at, is that Nate is a character that is really likable, and relatable. Even if the average person is far inferior to him, I can still see what they're going at.
Posted by hbkdx12

This is one of those arguments where people are just arguing over opposite sides of the same coin. 
 
Is he an everyman? No. Is he the closest thing to it for the most part? Pretty much. You take the average person and put them in any situation drake finds himself in and he wouldn't have enough foresight to do a fraction of the stuff drake does even if they had an earpiece with you telling them how to do it. Nonetheless, there are tons of otherwise "average" people who watch/play this game consider drake relatable based on his demeanor but still, that doesn't make him an everyman.
 
Also, is there ever really going to be an "everyman" in an ACTION ADVENTURE game? Considering the extreme set of circumstances that most video game protagonists find themselves in, i'd say certainly not. Because, at the end of the day, an action adventure game starring an "everyman" wouldn't be an action adventure game, or at the very least not a very good one, at all would it?

Posted by Saibh

@hbkdx12: I addressed all of that in the last few paragraphs of the OP, as well as some comments--they could have chosen to make a different game, but they didn't, so you can't call him an everyman (or an approximation thereof). I wouldn't want them to make a different game.

Edited by hbkdx12
@Saibh said:

@hbkdx12: I addressed all of that in the last few paragraphs of the OP, as well as some comments--they could have chosen to make a different game, but they didn't, so you can't call him an everyman (or an approximation thereof). I wouldn't want them to make a different game.


I agree. He's not an everyman but my point is what Action adventure protagonist is ever going to be an everyman?