This post has not been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.
This article contains spoilers for Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.
During one of its early levels, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception sends the player back 20 years to Cartagena, Colombia. A young Nathan Drake walks up to an exhibit that reads: "Esta Semana: El Pirata Francis Drake." As I watched this scene, my initial thought was: "Nate is Colombian?"
I smiled at the possibility that the main protagonist of Sony's biggest game this year could be from South America. We rarely see Spanish/Hispanic heroes in video games, save for the few stereotypes in fighting franchises. Growing up, I never felt that video games well represented my culture. Was I supposed to connect with characters like Blanka, who needs a hug from his mom at the end of every Street Fighter?
Nate may finally be the respectable video-game character I can relate to.
I didn't want to jump to conclusions just yet. Nate may have just traveled to Colombia to find treasure. Later on in the chapter, a security guard within the exhibit grabs our hero. The young Nate cries, "Sueltame!"
He speaks Spanish! I started thinking he may be a native after all, but Nate could've picked up a few words while traveling in the country. Though, I couldn't help but identify with Nate already as this was the first time I heard someone who wasn't involved in crime speaking Spanish in a video game.
Then I watched the scene where Nate befriends Sully. When Nate explains that he's related to the explorer Francis Drake, Sully points out: "I don't know how to break this to you, kid, but Drake didn't have any heirs. No children."
Nate smirks, "Well…not with his wife back in England, anyway…."
His dellivery of this line made me think that Francis Drake may have found a mistress when he attacked Cartagena in 1586 and that Nathan Drake is a direct descendant. Though, even if Nate is the result of Francis' adultery, I needed facts about his birthplace to conclude if Hispanic culture was a big part of his childhood.
Nate’s conversations with Sully reveal that his parents aren't around and that nuns most likely raised and schooled him. By the end of the chapter, my theory was that they discovered a young, orphaned Nate in Colombia and taught him everything he knows about the world. I still needed more answers, like where he lived when he was with his parents, to confirm my theory. I continued playing — anxiously waiting for more clues on his origins by the game's end.
It was nice to think that Nate might've been born in South America. I felt it could provide a small win for video games if Naughty Dog, the developers of Uncharted, could make their everyman character Hispanic. Franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Assassin's Creed have pushed similar boundaries with protagonists such as Nico Bellic and Altair, respectively.
I shouldn't have had such high hopes.
Later in the game, Marlowe, the main antagonist, confronted Nate.
"I suspect I know you better than anyone, Mr. Drake…of course, that's not your real name, is it? But we won't dwell on that." She began to look over documents within a folder.
"Mother commits suicide…father surrenders son to the state at the age of five…entrusted to the St. Francis Boys' Home."
Nate looks surprised that Marlowe knows this information. You can almost read his mind as he thinks, "How did she find out about that?" I looked down in disappointment.
If Drake isn't Nate's real last name, then my theory that his family lived in South America since Francis Drake's attack is void. And after some research, I discover that other countries, like America and England, have a St. Francis Boys’ Home but not Colombia. This brought to my attention a detail I overlooked: Nate speaks English fluently when he met Sully. Wherever the home the state entrusted Nate to was, it had to be somewhere where he could learn English, which doesn’t seem to be near Colombia. This terminates my theory.
The game never touches upon Nate's history again after the conversation with Marlowe, and Naughty Dog could be saving more backstory reveals for future games. At this point, Nate could have been born anywhere before living in an English-speaking country when his father surrendered him to the state. He's Naughty Dog's everyman, an ordinary individual with whom the audience is supposed to be able to identify with easily.
That's fine. I'll just keep looking for a character whom I can relate to.