Two Uncharted Virgins Go See What All The Fuss Is About

My partner, Hoot, and I have an amazing group of friends who we met through our mutual love of Nolan North. For us two Xbox and PC geeks, that love came from Nolan's performances in Assassin's Creed, Destiny, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Con Man. But for most of our other friends, that love first came from Uncharted. 

When all your friends assume that Uncharted is something everyone "just knows," there's a twinge of that old childhood feeling of being an outcast. So, three years ago, I got a PlayStation 4 Pro and grabbed the Nathan Drake Collection to see what all the fuss is about. I got about two thirds into the first game (Drake's Fortune)… and then stopped. I felt like I was just playing my beloved Assassin's Creed, but with a different premise, a different controller, and a less compelling backstory. I just wasn't feeling all the hype that my friends felt. I'd rather be organizing my sock drawer than making the 30th attempt to drive that fucking Jet Ski through a firing range on Easy mode! So I took a break from it and went back to games I was enjoying more.

I apparently wasn't alone in my frustrations. I found this screenshot in an article about bad levels in gaming history.

Not long after that, the Uncharted movie was announced with Mark Wahlberg, who I have adored for years, and Tom Holland, who turns everything into gold these days. I knew I was going to watch this movie because they were in it. But I also knew my opinions of the film would probably be very different from our Uncharted nerd friends.

Hoot and I saw the movie late on opening weekend knowing or remembering very little about the characters and their game stories. Unlike the game, I got through all of it and loved it! It's a lot of fun! It had a good pace, fun dialog, good chemistry between the protagonists (Nate and Sully), and action sequences that hit all the right notes. Plus, after seeing Pilou Asbæk playing another baddie in the post-credit scene, I was on-board for another chapter! 

That said, Hoot and I talked a lot about the film's obvious head-scratchers when it comes to basic physics. That backpack full of gold, even if it was a small 10-liter pack, would weigh around 425 pounds! (Damn, Sully must be ripped!) And whose hair looks that good two minutes after you've been drowning? (Chloe clearly has magic hair.) But when we let go of those little reality breaks, it's an enjoyable ride start to finish!

Nolan North and Tom Holland on the set of Uncharted

Favorite moment? Nolan's cameo, of course! Perfection! I think some folks next to us in the theater recognized him, too.

Nate and Sully were the only characters I remembered from the short time playing that first game, plus Elena who wasn't in this film. I loved seeing this story of how Nate and Sully came to know each other and work together. I bought every second of their story and really enjoyed their dialog. Knowing their backstory now honestly makes me want to go back and at least finish the stories in the games (or just find all the cutscenes on YouTube).

So yeah, Uncharted is a fun film that's on par with classic adventures from my childhood like the first three Indiana Jones films and The Goonies. And if you didn't get the obvious tributes to those films, you were probably too busy looking for all the game references, instead. 

For perspectives from some long-time Uncharted fans, check out what Lily K and Maria Kinnun said about the film.

Any fellow Uncharted game virgins or near-virgins out there? What did YOU think of the Uncharted movie?

Uncharted Deserves A Better Movie And So Do We

Now that the dust has settled from Nathan Drake destroying ancient discoveries around the world in the latest Uncharted movie, I have some thoughts and opinions on this newest entry into the franchise. 

Now I am a BIG fan of the games. When I heard this movie was in development, well, I…rolled my eyes. Video game movies are notorious for being mediocre cash grabs at established franchises. They often end up taking a big name and compressing them in bite-sized, easy-to-digest, forgettable popcorn movies. With a game as narratively epic as Uncharted, the standard was high. As I think more about this, there was already an amazing story in place with deep characters established. All you needed was the right casting and real love for the franchise to bring all that to our screens. A short fan-made Uncharted movie starring Nathan Fillion managed to capture the feel of the games in 15 minutes and sent the fanbase wanting THAT movie. And why? Because it felt like Uncharted. For me, this movie did not. 

Without the branding, the Uncharted movie could have been The Mummy Begins Again or Indiana Jones: The Baby Faced years. I read advice to not compare the movie to the games. To take a step back from the games and go into this movie with no expectations. I tried that, but it didn’t feel right. This is the franchise I love, and I wanted to be invested in every detail. I tried to not compare the movie to the games, but it felt impossible. It’s a movie made from the game, just like the Harry Potter movies were made from novels. I wanted to see this movie because it was Uncharted. Because it was an extension of the franchise I love. 

I don’t feel like it's fair for the fans to have to forget the games to enjoy a movie made from those games. Without the fans' making these games a HUGE global success, these games wouldn’t be considered for movies. Honestly, if too much fan knowledge will ruin a movie, then the movie doesn’t have the fans’ best interests at heart. 

Is that Sully and Nate on an adventure?

The Uncharted movie added enough references taken directly from the games to remind us that this was Uncharted but left out or changed enough to make it a different thing under the same name. Character origins and how they met were altered as well as the timeline for some of the events. Some of Nate’s backstory was changed as well as the story of how Sully and Nate came to be. Sully’s partnership with Nate felt more like a buddy cop movie than the iconic father and son dynamic. I understand their relationship has room to develop in possible sequels. Still, I honestly feel the road with these two will stay the same with constant back and forth banter to keep the comedy going. I felt Chloe was downgraded from her savvy, independent, and hardheaded demeanor to more of an opportunistic sidekick. Nate was okay, although I felt he kinda became Tom Holland. This isn’t terrible as Tom Holland is a very likable character. But I still wasn’t entirely convinced that he was Nathan Drake. 

The movie lacked depth. Characters never really delved into their new backstories. There were no extended treks to get to places detached from civilization. You know, to places that are Uncharted. There was no real deep dive into history, with Nate adorably geeking over a discovery or the feeling that the treasure was hidden anywhere but an easily reachable location. 

Overall, the actors gave energetic performances but they never really evolved to embody the characters. Instead, I felt the characters were adapted too much to suit the actors, and we lost a lot of the character’s identities in the process. 

Uncharted felt more like a kids' family movie with balls to the wall action and minimal violence and risk. It was wholely focused on fun, fun, fun! With a lot of over-the-top, crazy action that was very Uncharted! I felt the movie relied too much on the jokes that kept the movie light but removed the sense that the team was ever in any real danger. Uncharted (the game) has its naturally funny moments with snarkiness to keep the mood upbeat. Still, Uncharted is a grown-up story about the characters and their conflicts between finding fortune and what it risks. 

Perhaps some of the characteristics of Uncharted were lost because they chose to take the direction of a younger Nate learning the ropes. I’m okay with this angle, but I fear Nate will always be portrayed as the bumbling youngster in this movie series. While this is cute and endearing, that is not the character Nate is. Nate is smart, cunning, streetwise, and full of snark. I know movie Nate has room to grow in sequels into this tougher version, but I feel the movies will just maintain the way in over his head direction for the entertainment value. I also fear that we aren’t going to see that beautiful grown-up relationship between Nate and Elena that was the cornerstone of the franchise. If we do, it's going to be cute young love full of jokes and one-liners. Not the badass, straight-talking Elena telling Nate to get his shit together.

Maybe Uncharted is just one of those games that is just too big for a 2-hour film. I definitely don’t want a one-on-one recreation of the game but a movie that felt more faithful to the franchise. A movie a little more grown-up and slowed-down like an Indiana Jones or Goonies focusing more on the characters and adventure instead of fast-paced action! I understand the movie was a new take on the story and a step to bring Uncharted to a new audience, but if you remove the things that gave the franchise its character, you are removing its heart and leaving it empty.

Maybe video game to TV show adaptation is the way to go now with fewer restrictions on time so the story can be fleshed out and told to the depth it needs to be. The new Halo and the HBO The Last of Us are certainly looking more promising. Maybe Uncharted might be better as a TV series? 

Going to places Uncharted

As far as video game adaptations go, Uncharted was one of the better ones I have seen. I don’t in any way feel like the movie shouldn’t have been made. It is an entertaining, action packed, fun to watch movie that may shed light on the franchise and bring new fans to the games. I appreciated the nods to the games and the little Easter Eggs but unfortunately, I don’t feel like the movie did the games series justice. Like many other video game adaptations movies, I felt the Uncharted movie adapted too much to accommodate a newer audience but failed to capture the heart of the franchise that the fans of the games love. Maybe sequels will show me otherwise.

Yes, I am biased. My refusal to separate the games from the movie was probably my downfall. But my conflict is just a testament to how much I love this series and how much love and respect I have for the amazing cast and crew behind the games. I feel Uncharted deserved better. That being said, the movie is good. Go see it and have fun! The games, on the other hand, are legendary and are still number one in my heart.

What did you think of the Uncharted movie? An epic addition or misadventure? Let us know down below.

Well, Well, Well, The Uncharted Movie Has Arrived and It's… Alright?

As a massive Uncharted fan, the day they announced the movie, I immediately went into panic mode. Why? Well, let’s be honest here. There aren’t many actually GOOD video game movies out there.  So the fact that the people behind this film wanted to turn these already incredibly cinematic games into movies that were basically very long films by themselves—it definitely scared me. How will they translate more than 20 hours long game runs? Who will they cast? Which game will they adapt? I mean, there are 4 main Uncharted games about Nathan Drake out there.

Now that we have all the answers to all these questions, it's time to review the final result that seems to be dividing critics and fans as the movie has a 39% Rotten Tomatoes score from the critics but a high 90% from the fans. Who’s right? Warning, this is going to be a treasure trove of SPOILERS! 

I have to go all the way back to the marketing campaign. It was brilliant, and it definitely helped me adjust my expectations. The behind-the-scenes look with Neil Druckmann and Tom Holland talking about the movie’s take on the game was key. They assured us that this is their own spin on the story of the games, and we won’t be getting a word-for-word adaptation. That helped me keep an open mind about the film. Adding to that was Nolan North’s honest support from the beginning: if Nathan Drake himself says it’s gonna be good, you should listen to the man. 

And here’s the thing… It is a really fun ride from beginning to end.

Tom Holland as Nathan Drake

It was a great choice not to adapt one specific story from the games but, instead, put together their own origin story for Holland’s Drake. I'm also a hardcore fan of seeing familiar things referenced in new stories, like the orphanage from Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End along with Sam and Nate’s beginnings. Even though I originally hated that Mark Wahlberg’s Sully didn’t have a mustache, the feeling disappeared pretty quickly, seeing the chemistry between him and Tom Holland is one of the bright spots of the film.

Hold up! Before I get too deep into the good stuff, let me do a run-through of things that weren’t great at all. And I will start with the one that bothers me immensely. 

Here's what I didn't like in the movie. 

Chloe Frazer. It wasn’t her. Simple as that. No hate towards the actress at all (Sophia Ali) who tried her best, but this role definitely wasn’t for her. What annoyed me the most is that they downgraded Chloe’s character (and Sully’s for that matter) in order to make Nate appear smarter. In the game franchise, Chloe is just as knowledgeable as Nate. In this film, though, she barely adds anything to the actual treasure hunt. She feels like a tag along character, it’s always Nate who figures things out, there’s only one or two instances where she adds anything to solve the puzzle and it’s the tiniest bit. She was there, sure. She did things, yes.

But it was nowhere near to the badass, smart, witty, great con artist she is in the games. I missed her remarks towards Nate. She radiated confidence in the games, but here I didn’t feel any of that. Most importantly she didn’t have any chemistry at all with Nate or Sully. As much as you could feel it between Wahlberg and Holland it was basically non-existent between her and the others. The only thing that really felt like the Chloe we have come to love from the games is her ability to play both sides of the conflict for her personal gain. She's a chaotic neutral character so it's great to see that come to life in the film as well. 

Sophia Ali as Chloe Frazer

Chloe is one of my all-time favorite video game characters, and I’ve found my way into cosplaying through that character. Therefore not really seeing the tiniest bit of resemblance (even in the clothes or hair like they did with Nate) was very disappointing. Moving forward, the writers need to really flesh her out more when it comes to her in possible future films for me to be able to say ‘Yes, this is it.’ But, to be fully honest, based on this movie I also don’t think that Sophia Ali can bring the whole energy and aura that Chloe has.

The "enemies" of the story, Antonio Banderas’ Santiago Moncada and Tati Gabrielle’s Braddock, were both incredibly underdeveloped, probably because of the small amount of time they had to fit them in. This is another disadvantage that watching a movie has compared to playing a game. All the villainous characters from the games were memorable, but not just because they were formidable (Braddock in the movie), but also because we had the time to get to know their motives and them a lot better. The backstory to the Moncada family could be fully left out in this film and it wouldn’t affect anything in the story. In fact, his whole character could be scrapped out entirely streamlining the runtime and giving the more interesting villain more screen time. Speaking of, the character Braddock is giving off some serious Nadine Ross vibes (a mercenary in Uncharted 4). Her introduction in the film has similarities to Nadine’s story arc in the fourth game and even her position as a mercenary leader. But we barely got to know her at all. Although they hinted at her connection to Sully multiple times it was never entirely clear what happened between them.

Now back to the good things. 

First up: Nathan Drake. I can say with a big smile on my face that Tom Holland was an excellent choice. It is so obvious throughout the entire movie that he loves playing Nate, and that warmed my heart. During the fight scenes or when they are on the actual treasure hunt itself, you could just feel it on his every move and the way his face lit up. I loved how they built him up from a petty thief to the treasure hunter who we all love so much. Smart-mouth all around, a bit clumsy sometimes—it was his first time running after treasure after all. He really did a kickass job with the character. Although they changed Nate’s origin story (he didn’t escape from the orphanage with Sam, his whole introduction to Sully is different) but I can see his Nathan Drake turn into Nolan North’s (Uncharted game series) wise cracking older Drake in future installments. 

Sully (Mark Wahlberg) and Nate (Tom Holland) on a 16th century ship.
Sully (Mark Wahlberg) and Nate (Tom Holland) work together to protect the treasure.

Next, Sully got “upgraded.” He is more involved in the action, but of course that’s because he is much younger in the film vs the games where he is quite a bit older. I thought that Wahlberg was pretty fun in the role and really made a great team with Tom Holland. The creators were onto something when they paired them up. In the games, Sully’s character wasn’t as knowledgeable as Nate, Chloe, or Sam, but he definitely knew his way around and picked up on things really quickly. Even though Sully in the movie started out a bit cold-hearted and selfish, the writers slowly built him up to be the character we all love. He begins to care about Nate and even a cat that becomes a recurring joke throughout the film.Through this, I was once again reminded that this is an origin story for both us game fans and for those who knew nothing about the games beforehand.

I also absolutely adored that they choose to open the movie in a similar manner to the second and the fourth game where we get a glimpse into the trouble that our hero gets into later on in the story. It all starts with the scene we already saw in the trailers, the whole falling out of the plane with the crates bit, timeline-wise it happens closer to the climax. That’s exactly how they opened Uncharted 2 where Nate wakes up in a train that’s hanging down from the edge of the cliff. Uncharted 4 opens with Nate and Sam on the sea trying to get away from the mercenaries chasing them. Such a good callback. There were a lot of callbacks like that along the way. Some made me smile, others made me straight-up giggle. There was even one where I literally gasped and laughed at the same time. Lagasped? I don’t know, but I do know that my loud reaction came as a surprise to all the fellow people in the cinema. 

Nolan North talking to Tom Holland on the set of Uncharted.
Nolan North talking to Tom Holland on the set of Uncharted.

And, of course, Nolan's cameo in the movie is no longer a secret. I don’t even know if it was secret to begin with: I think we all expected it since cameos in movies from the original actors are pretty common (Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser in Starsky and Hutch etc.), and Tom Holland obviously “spoiled” it during his Jacksepticeye video appearance. If there were other people in the cinema with me who played the games, they either didn’t recognize Nolan or were very quiet about it. What it confirmed for me is how many people watch these movies without knowing anything about the games. 

The action throughout the movie was spectacular, and it was very clear that they put all they had into those sequences. It didn’t just come out as fun but also extremely exciting. A big highlight was the part where Nathan and Sully fight together in the end, it was the peak of their chemistry, and it made the movie even more enjoyable.I loved how it was the first time they fought side to side and they were able to help each other, the whole choreography of the scene added so much to it.  

The treasure hunting parts themselves were also well done, even if the puzzles got solved a bit too quickly to my liking and didn’t really come close to what we experience in the games. What I mean here is the secret entrances to tombs or hidden temples that no one has ever been in, but our main characters run through them like it’s nothing, figuring stuff out almost without a problem. Sure, this is the result of the time limit they have when it comes to movies. I also think that it is a common problem when it comes to movies like this. 

Sully and Nate walk through an old church following the next clue in their treasure hunt. Nate shines a flashlight on the wall.
The treasure hunt begins.

All together, what we got is a very fun movie that pulls away enough from the game to be different but definitely keeps important details enough to feel familiar to the fans. It was a welcome surprise how much I actually liked it, and it is easily among the better game adaptations I’ve seen so far. Then again, given the part about movies that were based on games, this wasn't a hard trophy to earn. There’s an after-credits scene where the filmmakers open the door for even more live-action adventures for Nate and Sully. The movie already made $44,155,000 on opening weekend in the US so we can most likely expect news of a second movie, which I honestly wouldn’t mind at all. 

And don't forget: Sic Parvis Magna - Great things from small beginnings. Alright, my fellow Uncharted game fans, have you seen the Uncharted movie yet? What were your impressions? Let's get out those good and bad reactions in the comments!

The Best Heroic Thieves and Why We Love Them

When someone mentions the word "thief," who do you think of first? 

There are many characters from all over the world spanning the course of history that fit the idea. You know, the charming, fearless criminal full of wit and charm? That's the one!  

If you're a fiction aficionado, you may think of characters that fuel pop culture legends. Gamers know Sly Cooper, Nathan Drake, and Edward Kenway by their distinct styles. Novel and comic readers know masterful criminals like Arsène Lupin and Selina Kyle have captured hearts for years. Thieves have a certain allure about them that's present in both modern entertainment and throughout storytelling history.

Countless factors draw us toward those willing to take on daring feats and pickpocket society's most discreet. Maybe it's the fact that our favorite thieves subscribe to the "steal from those who deserve it" ideology. Maybe they're stealing back a usurped family heirloom. Or, maybe we root for them because professional thieves appreciate a good challenge—we all like a character with some guts.

No matter why we love them, these fictional characters are nothing short of awe-inspiring. They outsmart any target, lift any valuables, and infiltrate the most secure places on earth. High-stakes heists are nail-biting when you care about the characters involved. Plus, any way you slice it, effective thievery takes a certain amount of refined skill and improvisation. Add in some motivating vigilantism, and you have a compelling plot that we can all find inspiring.  

This character archetype is also incredibly versatile. We can look back on seafaring tales and see real-life pirates dominating the scene. In the world of fiction, we immediately recognize Marvel's iconic Black Cat and DC's Catwoman. Let's examine some of the most notable (or notorious) thieves to lay claim to the thieving throne:

BLACK CAT

Felicia Hardy is one of Marvel's most iconic female thieves. To sum her up in her own words, "I'm not a hero. I'm a thief. Born a thief. Raised a thief. Will die a thief." Her father, a renowned cat burglar, always encouraged her to only aim for the best. She took this lesson to heart. Black Fox, her father's mentor, freed her from prison after she was arrested. She quickly became his new pupil, and after learning a good deal, Felicia donned the Black Cat costume. Her first mission was to break her father out of prison, which led to her meeting Spider-Man. The DLC in Marvel's Spider-Man explores part of their relationship via gameplay. 

CATWOMAN

Selina Kyle is an expert thief in DC Comics who regularly crosses paths with Batman. She has lots–and I do mean LOTS–of comic history. In the New 52, Selina learned to steal while in a group home. A while later, after getting caught stealing, she began work at the mayor's office. While there, she discovered a file stating that her identity was not what she believed it to be. Someone pushed her off a roof when she investigated further. Then, after she became Catwoman, she discovered those files had been wiped away. More recently, having more or less cast her villainy aside, she often operates as one of Batman's allies.

ASSANE DIOP

Assane Diop leads a Netflix show titled "Lupin," inspired by the iconic Arsène Lupin. Recognized as "​​the most entertaining criminal genius in literature," Lupin was first created by Maurice Leblanc. In fact, he rivals Sherlock Holmes in Leblanc's books. A reformed thief, the original Lupin is a criminal genius. Though he changed his ways and became a detective, his fellow police often suspect him and doubt his change of lifestyle. In the Netflix show, Assane Diop is a unique spin on the character. Lupin's mastery of disguise, extraordinary heists, and overall flair inspires him on his quest for revenge.

CARMEN SANDIEGO 

Thieves are even popular in edutainment franchises. Brøderbund's Carmen Sandiego is an expert thief as well as the leader of the Villainous International League of Evil. Carmen is constantly chased by the ACME Detective agency, and she also recently had a Netflix revival in 2019. This newer show presents her as the heroine aiming to take down V.I.L.E. (Villainous International League of Evil) Nice acronym, by the way.

SLY COOPER

A character inspired by Arsene Lupin, Sly Cooper adds his own spin to the thieving genre. Hailing from a long line of thieves, Sly Cooper makes a name for himself through sheer tenacity and creativity. Like Lupin, Sly spends most of his free time in Paris. When on the job, he uses clever wiles and expert techniques to pull off unbelievable heists against equally unbelievable odds. 

Sly and his team distinguishes themselves by stealing only from other thieves (the best of the best, of course). His antithesis, the fearless Inspector Carmelita Fox, is relentless in her pursuit of his capture. After spending years chasing his family's legacy, Sly realizes that not all legacies are diamonds once you crack them open. Some are best left buried. A tale of friendship, resilience, gravitas, and adventure, Sly's chapter in the book of fiction is a standout act. The series furthers his allure as a charming rogue while also establishing his own legacy. A legacy that may soon be resurrected, considering fans may be expecting another installment.

NATHAN DRAKE

Next in line is none other than Uncharted's Nathan Drake himself. Nathan doesn't exude a suave style like some of the other thieves. Let's be honest, a life spent searching for ancient civilizations like Shambhala and The Atlantis of the Sands doesn't exactly lend itself to a suit and tie. However, we do see him dress up a little in Uncharted 4. 

More of an improviser, Drake can talk himself out of almost any situation. And when words fail, he's a fairly accomplished brawler and marksman. As a thief, explorer, and history buff, he becomes one of the few people to set foot in ancient cities lost to time. In fact, by the start of the fourth Uncharted game, he has an attic full of archaic items and fond memories. After outmaneuvering his villains, he often leaves even the richest hidden civilizations empty-handed. Drake chooses instead to escape with something truly priceless: his and his companion's lives. That, and the knowledge that their most recent cataclysmic discovery is forever buried and out of prying hands. Seems pretty great to me!

CHLOE FRAZER

Chloe Frazer is more of a thief in the Uncharted games compared to the treasure hunter Nathan Drake. A woman of quick wit and an equally quick draw, she's a fan of improvisation and doesn't lack grit and fortitude. As a professional thief for hire, she has plenty of experience that leaves her skills in high demand. 

In fact, in The Lost Legacy, we see her steal a key item from the villain's headquarters in her quest to locate the Tusk of Ganesh. Throughout the game, Chloe works with Nadine Ross (from Uncharted 4) to find the priceless mystical artifact. The narrative addresses her character growth, loyalty, and newfound determination. No longer is she the Chloe who cuts her losses. Now, she refuses to walk away from what matters. Not to mention, she's known as "the best driver in the business," and there are more than a few allusions to that fact during the game's many driving sequences. 

EDWARD KENWAY

And who can forget Edward Kenway from Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag? Pirates often evoke thoughts of robbery and violence rather than master thievery. We may be more apt to think about canon fire and the instantly-recognizable Jolly Roger than stealthy maneuvers. But pirates were no less accomplished in the looting department. Kenway is a Welsh-born privateer who became both a pirate and a member of the British Brotherhood of Assassins. I'm biased due to my love for pirate-related content, but of the many Assassin's Creed games I've seen, Black Flag is by far my favorite.

Why, oh why, do we love them so?

After all my research for this article, I've come up with a theory: we love thieves in entertainment because we all love to see the morally grey. Obviously, we speak about characters who are morally grey, here, not about characters or people who have done heinous, unforgivable acts. Definitely want to make sure that's clear. (Unless we're talking about Game of Thrones Jaime Lannister, at which point I would warn you not to get me started on how they massacred his TV redemption arc… but I digress.) 

A character with a skewed moral compass is just plain fun to see. Complicated backstories make characters more compelling. It sets them up to be able to make bold decisions that would cause someone used to walking the line to hesitate. Sometimes hesitation just isn't an option. 

Flawed characters like these are also more relatable and understandable to us. We can see ourselves in their motives, choices, and decision-making, and occasionally in their quest for redemption. There's more opportunity for exciting action, intriguing choices, and a complex plot because when morally grey characters run the show, they can mess some shit up! In the words of Henry Avery as presented in Uncharted 4, "I am a man of fortune, and I must seek my fortune."  Epic scenes and memorable lines don't fall out of the sky; someone's gotta get their hands a little dirty to stoke the fire.

With such a memorable group of characters across entertainment, the idea of the charming, daring thief won't be going anywhere soon. In a life of 9-5s, taxes, and piles of homework, it's nice to think of how far a little cleverness can get you. Thankfully, there are safer outlets for us flesh-and-bone mortals. You know, those of us who can't disappear in a smoke bomb, leap across mountaintops or don't know the difference between port and starboard. Yes, I had to look it up. This is a judgment-free zone. Isn't it? Isn't it?

Anyway, while I for one won't be stealing jewels and precious coins, I do plan to nick a few hours of gaming this weekend.  

Did your favorite thieves make the list here? Let me know who I missed in the comments!

Pop-Culture Predictions #1

Hi, I'm Drew, a big nerd who happens to run a hybrid marketing and production company. I lead content and brand strategy and use data to build insights that inform our clients' business decisions. In this weekly series, I'm going to pick a couple of pop-culture IPs and make a bold prediction based on past experience, real-time data, and a boatload of moxie. Here we go...

Prediction - The Uncharted movie will underperform in ticket sales.

I want to be wrong here. I'm a big fan of the games, and I think the world could use a fun, light-hearted adventure film. But no one is talking about Uncharted online, and it looks like it is destined to underperform. Take Tom Holland's last tentpole film Spider-Man: No Way Home. If you do just a simple Google Trends analysis on searches for Spider-Man vs. Uncharted, the differences are striking. Uncharted is basically flatline compared to Spider-Man. Even at its highest search peak in October (see chart below), Uncharted still didn't match Spider-Man. More surprising is that even after the Uncharted trailer drop, the peak is still lower than October's search. Interest seems to be going down, not skyrocketing up as Spider-Man clearly did when that film launched.

According to the New York Times, the Uncharted movie reportedly cost $120 million to make. So this needs an opening weekend of over $90 million and have enough legs overseas to warrant a sequel. In comparison, before No Way Home's insane $260 million opening haul, Venom had the highest pandemic opening weekend at $90.1 million.

Uncharted Interest vs Spider-Man Interest over the last 5 years

Bottom Line: Uncharted needs an incredible marketing push in these last few weeks to drive an insane amount of buzz towards this film to drive people to theaters. Otherwise, I suspect people are Tom Holland-ed out and are willing to wait till this hits the streaming services in 90 days.

Prediction - God of War Ragnarök will not release in 2022.

God of War Ragnarök was originally announced to be released in 2021 (note, it wasn't) and is now rumored to be releasing in September of 2022. Let me be clear: there is no way this game comes out in 2022. COVID variants will continue to plow through the vaccinated and non-vaccinated developers who will need to take weeks off to recover, slowing the production of these AAA game titles down to a crawl. The good news is this can often lead to a slower pace and better working environment for devs and writers alike. It will likely be pushed from September to late November before finally letting everyone know that this will be a March 2023 release. Overall, more than 40 games were delayed last year. Here's a quick list of some of the bigger games that got delayed in 2021:

Bottom Line: COVID isn't going away, and, for the foreseeable future, it will continue to have a tremendous effect on game studios' ability to deliver on their promised launch windows.

Prediction - Xbox will sell more consoles than PlayStation in 2022.

Sorry, Sony, but this next generation might belong to Microsoft. I personally believe that Sony, and specifically PlayStation, makes better hardware that plays nice with more developers. But Xbox understands gamers better. Their Game Pass is a far superior fishing lure to get gamers to switch to Xbox and stay there, with constant access to new games for no extra cost. Couple that with the smart pricing structure on the elite Series X and the cheaper Series S console, and it looks like Xbox might have a winner on its hands. You can see in the chart below that in the last 12 months more people in the US have searched for Xbox over PlayStation by a large margin, especially during the holiday season. The big X-factor here (pun intended) is the global chip shortages and Microsoft's ability to get their next-gen consoles into people's homes faster. The demand is there for both platforms, but the delays in availability may make people choose to buy whichever next-gen console is available once they've got the saved up cash to buy.

Search interest of Playstation vs Xbox over the last 12 months.

Bottom Line: Halo Infinite, Xbox Game Pass, Smart Pricing, and better advertising are clearly winning the day for Microsoft and Xbox in terms of interest but supply issues may make this a closer race than it appears.

I'll be back every few weeks with some more predictions. The value of a prediction is not accuracy (though it is better to be right than wrong), but the reasoning and conversation that the prediction catalyzes. Let me know if you think I'm right or wrong in the comments below!

These Free Game Playthroughs are a Great Alternative to TV

Leftover pepperoni pizza, and something good to watch. That's the perfect way to spend an evening! Tonight's cinematic classic is Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. I am on the part where Luigi is "ghost busting" his way through the abandoned clock tower. (Here's a clip from my perspective.) It's a good thing I wear a seatbelt because this story has kept me on the edge of my seat! (A little wheelchair humor.) 

Yes, my fellow Couch spuddies, I do realize that it is a video game. Still, it's a great story! The animation is dated, but it still holds up, and I never had a NintendoDS, so it's all new to me. (For more about my gaming background, read my article I Am Not A Gamer, But I Am A Replayer.)

Pizza and playthroughs!

Of course, I know all about the major streaming services: Hulu, Netflix, DisneyPlus, and so on. However, there's one thing that stops me from having any of these services and their wondrous content… money. When you're disabled like I am and living on a fixed income, you have to prioritize. I say to myself, “Do I buy groceries this week or buy another month of service to see Henry Cavill with his shirt off? Do I pay the power bill or watch baby Yoda swallow a frog whole?”

Yes, young spuds, even at level 45, adulting is hard!  

Since joining this community, though, my eyes have been wide with wonder at all these wonderful games and their stories. Most of them are, I'd venture to say, far superior to what Hollywood has offered lately. And my way of seeing all these things is through playthroughs: people who are streaming their gameplay on Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook. There's great content whether it's a playthrough with the player's commentary or just a video of someone playing the game without commentary.

So far, my favorite playthroughs have been in these games:

Uncharted 1 and 2 - There's a live-action film coming soon for Uncharted, though, personally, I think the games themselves would make great films! Here's one of many available on YouTube with no commentary:

Kena: Bridge of Spirits - I love everything about this game! The world is so colorful and immersive, even in the dark moments. Kena is a very strong and, at times, a fierce young girl who fights corrupted spirits in order to set them free with the help of some little friends known as Rot. THEY ARE SO STINKING CUTE! Special thanks to Dan Morris of Deadpan Gaming for sharing his commentary-free playthrough playlist here:

Unravel - I love this game because it has the feel of a Pixar film and it has yarn! Check out this playthrough on YouTube:

In addition to playthroughs, I have seen a ton of creator content within our Couch Soup community. Those streams have kept me laughing on those days when I need it! Here are some of my favorite moments over the last year:

"I'm on fire" from the Chaos Crew:

"Worst Pirates: Dan & Brandy Play Dead Space" from Deadpan Gaming:

"First time in Dead Space! (Spoiler: IT'S TERRIFYING!)" from Pagan Plays:

Well, my spuddies, I hope my story and these samples show you that watching playthroughs and other creator content can be a great alternative to what's on TV.  

Have you found yourself watching people play games instead of binge-watching the latest HBO Max series? What game or content channels would you suggest I add to my playlist?

The Uncharted Cargo Plane Fight Scene Released

Like it or not the Uncharted movie is happening and it's using an action set piece right out of the Uncharted video game series the film is based on. Sony decided to just go ahead and release the whole cargo plane fight scene since most fans have played that scene several times in the third game and the trailers released so far pretty much spoiled the scene already as well. Take a look for yourself...

For reference here's the cargo plane scene from the game narrated by Nolan North (the actor and voice of Nathan Drake in the games) and Amy Hennig (the creator and game director of Uncharted 1 - 3).

In comparison to the game, you can see the film has changed this scene's beats quite a bit. Right away we see that Drake is in a tight spot and needs to cause a scene. So he does what Drake does and pulls the cargo ripcord. Then Mark Wahlberg (Sully) parachutes off the plane right when Drake pulls the cargo cord. Which seems odd out of context. Didn't Sully see that Drake wasn't wearing a parachute? Why would he bail on his buddy Drake?

After that moment we see some nice flips and a lucky escape from Drake before he's pulled out of the cargo plane with his foot caught in a box net. Here's where the film starts to depart from the game not only in action beats but in world psychics. In the game, you can see Drake really struggling to hold on to the cargo nets. In fact, his feet are blowing upwards from the wind speed. It looks and feels like it would be pretty difficult to climb back in the plane. The movie scene on the other hand feels like it was shot on a green screen with a mild wind machine. The fact that Drake is able to leap upside down from one crate to another is probably impossible in this situation. Unless... due to the wind displacement from the rear of the plane causes the wind to go around the crates. I'm not an aerospace engineer but I doubt this is the case but maybe there's someone who can set the record straight here.

This scene is still a lot of fun and we get to see Chloe be the badass we know her to be and likely will save Drake and Sully's ass more than once in this film. My hope is that this scene was edited down for this clip a bit. Not only does it feel a bit all over the place in pacing, but there are also moments that are in the earlier trailers that are not in this edit. Which doesn't mean much since trailer scenes don't always make the film's final cut but I do hope the scene is longer in the film and there is an edit that shows the bad guys climbing out on the cargo crates vs just appearing out of nowhere in the current edit now.

Uncharted comes out exclusively in movie theaters February 18th. Despite my nitpicks, I'll be there with bells on to see this in the biggest loudest theater I can find.

What do y'all think of this cargo plane clip they released? Did it make you more excited or are you still on the fence?

Uncharted Movie Trailer 2 Breakdown

Sony and Playstation dropped a longer second Uncharted movie trailer that gives us a LOT more footage, one-liners, crazy action set pieces, and wait for it... a Sully mustache! Sony clearly hoping this will quell fans' fervor over the Mark Wahlberg casting as Victor Sullivan. If you haven't seen the trailer yet check it out below then let's break it all down.

Overall this trailer gives away WAY too much. There's a lot in here that I would've loved to be surprised by. The first Teaser Trailer that dropped did a much better job at getting fans and newcomers a taste of what's to come. The teaser also had a needle drop from Led Zeplin that gave it a bit more panache. Let's go through it scene by scene.

We've seen this scene from the Teaser Trailer. Based on the banter this is how Sully and Nate meet but there's a good chance Sully's had his eye on Nathan Drake for a while from afar and now's the time to bring Nate into the life of adventure.

It's not an Uncharted film unless we get a bit of a history lesson. Here we see some foreshadowing on the lost Magellan ships that Nate and Sully will be looking for along with a brief write-up in the pages about the 5 ships and 270 men Magellan set sail with but lost 4 of the 5 ships and only 18 men survived his journey. Feel free to zoom in or hit the Wikipedia page for how the ships were lost.

Nate looks around what's probably either Victor Sullivan's room or Antonio Banderas character (Moncada?) study both of whom are obsessed with finding the lost Magellan treasure (5 billion dollars worth of treasure we learn in dialogue). Really digging the set design and lighting here.

This is where things get interesting. An old Carrack class ship rising out of the water. I'm not seeing any floats or wires attached to the boat. So unless this is channeling some supernatural Pirates of the Caribbean ghost ship themes this is a bit of a mystery on how this ship is doing this. If you have theories post them in the comments. The next shot we even see the tattered sail unfurl but by who...possible flashback?

It's Antonio Banderas storytime. Narrating the first part of the trailer is the sexy Banderas voice, giving us the history lesson on the lost treasure. "500 years ago my family found the world's biggest fortune...then was betrayed." "So much blood" Sounds like either Moncada is a Magellan ancestor or more likely was a crewman on one of the ships Magellan led and was betrayed by Magellan because you know...greed.

Puzzle-solving time. There is a lot of footage out of order here and it's pretty obvious. This is clearly later in the film after they've stolen the cross and found the map that gives them the clear where the treasure is buried. Nice shot though.

Giving off some strong UC3 and UC4 game vibes as well as a bit of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade... all clues are hidden in old churches. This looks like Nate (Tom Holland), Sully (Mark Wahlberg), and Chloe (played by Sophia Taylor Ali).

Yay! Uncharted puzzle! Although this one doesn't seem really complicated like the ones found in the games. Turn clockwise isn't exactly clever. They make a joke about it to put a pin on the idea that this puzzle and booby trap is kinda lame. It's not that funny and Nate kinda comes off less witty and funny and a little too serious. I guess he was more serious when he was younger? This sequence takes place after they steal the cross from Moncada and most likely this opens up a passage into the underbelly of the church where the real prize lies...probably a map.

Here we are tomb raiding with Nate and Chloe. I'm guessing this is below the church from the previous shot. Chloe looks like she's having a blast while Nate again seems frustrated. If they do make Nate the straight edge to Chloe and Sully's comedy that will be a huge character departure from the games.

The hero and villain meet. Pulled right from Uncharted 4 there is an auction going on and both Nate and Sully and Moncada want the jeweled cross and Sully bids on the cross while Nate distracts everyone so they can steal the cross under everyone's noses. "This cross has a very tragic history. So much blood." Moncada warns Nate here.

Nate is good at distracting people by using his inhuman ability to climb and swing from things while escaping from security. To be fair his line "This is gonna suck." followed by "ahhhh" are pretty much want I expect Drake to say before leaping off a balcony and swinging on a light chandelier.

No surprise here. Nate and Sully swipe the cross and Sully's using it as a teaching lesson. This is likely pretty early on in the film soon after Nate and Sully team up. The cross is the first piece of the puzzle.

The famous plane sequence from Uncharted 3 video game is again shown briefly here. There's more footage in the teaser trailer. While some don't like that this looks shot for shot the same as the game even the car gag at the end knocking him off the plane after working really hard to climb his way back in. I for one am excited to see it come to life in live-action. It's one of the best set pieces from all the Uncharted games and it's no surprise why they wanted to use it for the film. It's going to be awesome.

Another moment that feels like it's pulled right from the games is Nate driving this speed boat across the blue Caribbean waters that are a big part of Uncharted 4's gameplay. It's another beautiful shot and we see Nate is alone here and not with either Sully or Chloe. This is likely after the plane sequence and Nate has to catch up with the bad guys and hopes that Sully and Chloe stay out of trouble before he arrives to save the day.

He's our first look at what's probably Nate's apt. (that lighting is on point. Even if the film's story isn't good. This movie looks great.) He's opening a chest full of memories including some photos of wait for it...

Here's our first look at Sam Drake, Nathan Drake's lost and assumed dead (in the games) brother. Does anyone know who this actor is? Surprising that they showed his face in the trailer let alone the film. I assumed Sam would show up as an end-credit scene in a Spanish prison setting up the next film. Will this actor play a slightly older Sam in the movie? Or will they cast someone else? Does Sam show up in the 3rd act of the film? Lost of questions still to be answered here but I do like from the get-go that Sam is a big part of Nate's motivation to find this treasure and probably has a lot to do with the choices he has made leading up to now.

The ring! Sic Parvis Magna is inscribed on Sir Francis Drake's ring which roughly translates to "Greatness from small beginnings." In the games, Nathan is obsessed with Francis Drake and takes his last name.

Chloe doing what Chloe does. The doublecross, which usually ends up being triplecross. She's arguably the most interesting Uncharted character as she isn't as wholesome as Drake and Sully but often teams up with the bad guys if it helps her achieve her goals. Here we can assume she's stealing the map from Drake in the church tomb.

Looks like Nate and Chloe get close on this adventure which makes sense in the narrative of the games. In Uncharted 2 we get the sense that before Drake meets his eventual wife Elena, that they had a pretty intimate relationship. It's actually nice to see this dance shot here as most of the clips seem related to a heist, or action piece. I'd really dig it if this film slowed down a minute to really get to know our characters a bit.

Sully meet Braddock (Tati Gabrielle). Braddock is likely a hired badass that works for Moncada to help protect him and deal with the pesky Drake and Sully. Glad to see Tati Gabrielle in this role but I hope her character isn't just a bunch of cliche bad guy lines and an excuse to have our hero's get beat up by a woman as a joke.

Is the screen color getting grey? Where's Drake's breathe meter? Let's assume he trying to escape a trap gone wrong which leads him to a really cool shot of a ship in a cave. Wait for it...

Another shot we saw in the teaser trailer and it looks like it's pulled straight out of the Uncharted 4 game. What we know now is that above this cave is a jungle so these ships aren't getting the Goonie's exit. It's a bit more dramatic. Also with a hole in the cave ceiling that big I wonder why no one found these ships already?

This is one of those moments that I wish was held back from being in the trailer or at least just teased. Right before this shot, we see two quick shots of a helicopter with a grapple line and several guys buckling the lines into the ship. Then we see one of Magellan's ships rise from the treeline. This is really cool and a moment I haven't seen in a game or movie before. This leads to the next big action set-piece...

This looks epic! Two of Magellan's ships being ferried by helicopters is a cool moment. I really wish this wasn't spoiled in the trailer. We know Drake snuck onto one of these ships. Let the high-flying action begin.

I think the bad guys know that Drake's on the other ship and happen to have these really dope grapple guns to swing to the other ship like Peter Pan's lost boys. I think the writers have been to many Pirates Dinner Adventures. We are really going all-in on the pirate theme here. Including...

When you are on an old Carrack ship and have a knife you have to slide down the sail...it's basically a bucket list item for pirates and scallywags and Nate Drake apparently. Although doing it while the ships are being flown through the air up's the danger a bit.

This is the first glimpse we see of Nathan Drake taking out a bad guy. While he's holding a gun we don't see him fire it at a bad guy in either the teaser trailer or this one. The flying knee is a solid move and no doubt this guy is not getting back up again. But it's a bit worrisome that we haven't seen any action featuring guns, rockets, or grenades when it's such a big part of the gameplay in the Uncharted games. Does Drake kill hundreds of bad guys like in the games to gain fortune and glory or is this a PG-13 Spider-Man version of Drake that doesn't kill? Even Indiana Jones had to shoot loads of Nazi's to win the day. Let's hope this Uncharted is not too watered down.

Don't fall Drake! Something tells me he's going to be ok. From a trailer standpoint, this is the crescendo moment before the Title hits and it's a bit of a meh moment. I would've chosen a cooler shot. Even the shot from the Teaser trailer when he spins around a rope and fires his gun is cooler than a slow-motion fall cliffhanger. That's ok though the trailer goes all-in for fans after the title.

And here it is. The Victor Sullivan mustache or at least the start of one. It's not quite the full bushy stache that we've come to love from the games. But let's also take note of the green button-down that's classic Sully attire along with the giant 6 shooter hand cannon he carries. Unless there's a decent time jump in the movie this is probably an epilogue moment after the hero's save the day. I'm sure Sony and Playstation wanted this to be a fun reveal at the end of the film but unfortunately, if you read any comments on the internet fans aren't too happy about the mustacheless Mark Walhberg. I'm sure even this won't be enough to quiet the fans... I can hear it now... "where's the cigar!?!".

There you have it. The race for the greatest treasure is on… if they can survive each other first. #UnchartedMovie is exclusively in movie theaters on February 18 starring Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, and Antonio Banderas.

Let's us know what you think of this second Uncharted Trailer.

If you want to hear what Nolan North, the voice and actor for the Uncharted games, think of the Uncharted films you can watch several episodes from CouchSoup including Trailer Talk where we break down more things.

Our Journey As Female Gamers Part IV - Featuring Lisa Geelen & Michelle Holstine

I had a great conversation with Lisa and Michelle about their passion for gaming and if changes within the gaming industry have affected their overall habits when approaching one of their favorite hobbies. Lisa, from the Netherlands, had her interest in gaming piqued by one of her brothers who let her watch as he gamed in their younger years. This has led her to continue watching other people game through streaming services, such as Twitch, and opening her horizons to new and different games. 

Michelle, who hails from Texas, USA, has grown up on gaming with her sisters. Gaming was a family activity, so she never took note of the gender gap in gaming while growing up. This will give us a great new perspective of women in gaming! 

Let’s get a little history from Lisa and Michelle: 

How did you become a gamer and was there a specific influence that led you down this path?

Lisa: I don’t really consider myself a gamer, to be honest. It is just something that I really like to do, but I’m not particularly good at it. I started gaming when I was 14, and I had my own PC. Before that, I mostly watched my brothers play games like GTA San Andreas. I really like watching other people play games. According to my parents I was too young to play that game, so I snuck into my brother’s room to watch it. I was always jealous of my brothers playing all these games, so as soon as I had the chance, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I was immediately hooked. I love watching YouTubers play games too, so people like Pewdiepie and Jacksepticeye have played a big role as well. The streamer Loserfruit comes to mind as well.

Michelle:  I have been a gamer since before I can remember correctly.  My sisters and I always fought over the original Nintendo we had (I always lost to the older sisters), which morphed into the N64, and then landed on Playstation when they came out. I really remember the game time with my sisters.  Even though it was sibling rivalry, it's a lot of fun to look back on now and remember the old games we used to play and how we used to help each other through levels. That old Star Wars Nintendo game still remains one of the hardest I've ever played (the level where you have to climb up the Jawa desert vehicle.  UGH). Once we got the Playstation, we moved the gaming system from the playroom to the living room, so it turned into a family affair any time anyone wanted to play.  Even my parents would get in on the action! I would say that was my influence in getting into gaming.

Watch the original trailer for the SNES Star Wars game:

What are some of your favorite games you grew up with and why? What kind of gamer are you? Do you like challenges, is it more for the social aspect, or do you prefer games that are puzzles or have a relaxing element to them? Has that preference evolved over time? 

Lisa: Pokemon blue, yellow, and silver on the Gameboy color are the first games I ever played. One of my favorites is Jazz Jackrabbit 2. I finished that game multiple times and it had a multiplayer option which was always loads of fun to play with my brothers. GTA 2 and San Andreas come to mind as well. San Andreas was the first story-based game I really enjoyed. Age of Empires II is one that I grew up with, and I still play to this day. Gaming is like jumping into a new adventure every time. I like that it tells a story that I can totally lose myself in and forget all the worries of the real world. It helps me relax. Gaming was never social to me because none of my friends played games. Only one of my brothers. It changed in the last few years because it's not taboo to say that you are a gamer. It became cool all of a sudden. I got a few friends of mine into gaming now as well. Since I’ve met the Replayers/Spuddies, the social aspect of gaming has become one of the main reasons why I keep gaming.

Michelle: Oh gosh, so many to choose from!  We loved Tomb Raider and Silent Hill growing up.  Lots of fond memories playing those.  Once Crash Bandicoot came out, we really got onto the Naughty Dog train and played all of those and Jak and Daxter.  My favorite other than Tomb Raider is Midnight Club.  My sister and I spent so long playing that game that when I finally went to London for the first time, I actually recognized streets from the game!  I also loved Jetmoto and MediEvil.  One of the most fun things we would get were the demo discs from Playstation that had one level of multiple games on them.  Those were a blast! I always find this question so interesting because the answers always vary so widely!  I am specifically a linear, campaign-based player.  I like stories that are very linear and not as open world.  A perfect example for me is Uncharted 4.  You can explore more than in other Uncharted games, but it's not a completely open world.  I LOVE challenges and puzzles.  If I sit down to play, I want to feel like I accomplished something.  I play a decent amount of Destiny, which is interesting because it is a huge and absolutely open-world game.  It gets a little too overwhelming for me and my style of play.  I enjoy playing online as a social aspect but have not had many good experiences with that as a female, so I tend to keep to myself and play the campaign games.

Tomb Raider I on Playstation: The nostalgia is strong with these pixels 

Throughout the years have you noticed a shift in women gamers? What’s been your personal experience with this?

Lisa: Up to 5 years ago, I literally knew no women that played games. I never dared say anything about me liking games. Even on YouTube, there were only male gamers, like pewdiepie, jacksepticeye, markiplier, etc. I've noticed that since female gamers get in the spotlight more these last 5 years or so, more female friends of mine want to play games. People who first played games secretly now play them openly, and I think that that is a really good change. We still have a long way to go, though. Throughout the years, you see that more female characters in games appear and it is nice that the female can be the badass for once.

I also notice that when I play with random people online and say that I’m a girl, people never believe me. They think the account is fake, or I’m pretending to be a girl. Even when they hear my voice, they still won’t believe me. It shows that girls still aren’t allowed too much in the gaming world yet.

Michelle: YES, absolutely!  Women gamers have become more and more in the forefront than an afterthought.  I absolutely adore that the younger generation, such as our own adorable Amelia (shout-out, babe! <3 ), has an interest in gaming and one they actively pursue.  It helps that in some games, the environment is more welcoming now than in the past.  On the other hand, it is also incredibly intimidating.  My very first experience playing online with strangers was so bad; it has intimidated me ever since.  I think it's a beautiful thing that so many women gamers now can be outspoken about the fact that they are gamers.  I also believe it is led by the fact that so many women-based roles in video games exist, and on a large scale, perpetuated by the women in voice acting doing these roles.

Have there been any specific female leads in games over the years that have inspired or motivated you? How did they do so? 

Lisa:  If you talk about female gamers that have influenced the gaming industry, Loserfruit is one of them. She is an Australian streamer that plays Fortnite mostly. I think she played a big part in getting more women in games. I like her because she doesn’t really talk about the subject but just has fun playing the games she plays. She shows the girls with her actions and not with words.


Caption: Loserfruit, an Australian streamer, gets her own avatar in Fortnite.  

Michelle feels empowered by our double Uzi-wielding female lead, Lara Croft.

Michelle: To be honest, I didn't start paying much attention to voice actors and who did the characters until Nolan North became such a prominent figure.  However, I would have to say that Lara Croft in Tomb Raider was an inspiration for me.  She has gone from the fantasized, cartoon-drawn female Indiana Jones to this legendary, badass babe who people actually respect.  Growing up playing a character that could shoot double Uzi's, swim in tropical waters, run through an obstacle course in her own mansion, and defeat whatever challenge came her way, was a way for me to escape into that reality and realize that women (or rather I ) are just as capable as the male Indiana Jones and can do precisely what is needed. 

Michelle feels empowered by our double Uzi-wielding female lead, Lara Croft. 

Do you feel that women have been underrepresented as leads in games throughout the years? Have you noticed a shift in recent years? Expand on this. 

Lisa: Yes. I think gaming was a thing mostly men did, and therefore games are made for men with men mainly in the leads. Now that more women play games, I definitely do see the shift. Games like The Walking Dead, where Clementine becomes the lead in season 2, have gotten it right. She is a very relatable character. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female for that. She grew from a scared little girl to a badass zombie fighter. The game doesn’t seem to try too hard to push on female leads. It is not forced. In my opinion, some games force it a little bit, like The Last of Us Part II. They purposely chose some very strong female leads, and that seemed a bit forced to me. “Look at us being very inclusive.”  On the other hand, I think it is necessary to overdo it a bit now so that it evens out all the male leads in games. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having these strong female leads and emphasizing that. It is necessary to make it more equal and to make that change. The result of that is that it can feel a bit forced at times.

The evolution of Clementine from the Walking Dead, from scared little girl to apocalyptic survivor. 

Michelle:  As mentioned earlier, I didn't pay much attention to voice actors or even the specific gender of a character in the games we played.  I was not raised to see, or rather I didn't notice, any discrepancy in the lack of female representation in gaming.  I knew, as a female, I was fighting an uphill battle in equality to men, but I didn't think about it in a gaming aspect.  As an adult, if I think about it, I still don't feel there was an underrepresentation simply because the times are different.  Now, we have several female leads and lots of female voice actors, but I could also be showing my ignorance on the topic.

Some of us are streamers: 

What’s been your experience with becoming a streamer? 

Lisa: First of all, I am not a big streamer or anything, but I do it just for fun. It is fun to do, and it goes back to the social aspect that I like about gaming. You can engage with your audience and talk to people while you play games. I grew up watching other people play games, so I thought it might be interesting to turn that around and let people watch me play games. I also quickly found out that streaming is quite exhausting. I never knew gaming could be this tiring. Haha.

What are some of your favorite things about streaming versus your least favorite things? 

Lisa: Favorite thing is whenever you win that boss battle or get a shot right or whatever, you get to celebrate with the viewers. It makes it way more fun. My least favorite thing is the pressure of doing well or being funny, etc. When you see your views go down or see no one commenting, you start doubting yourself. Letting that part go is hard at times.

Streaming on Twitch, Lisa nails a headshot from far away and celebrates! 

And if you wanna talk about part of being a female streamer, I sometimes notice people in my stream say things like: “You look good,” “You’re hot,” etc. It is, of course, nice to receive those compliments, and I’m not bothered with it. But I do wonder why I never see that in the streams of a male streamer. If you look at the bigger picture, I think that too often, women are judged more (and maybe get more views) on how they look, and men get more judged on how good they are at the game or how funny they are.

Back to gaming:

What is one of your favorite achievements in your personal gaming history you’ve accomplished? A game you’ve beaten, an achievement reached, or a charity stream goal achieved? 

Lisa:  Interesting question. I don’t look at games like that: something I achieved. I play for fun, and if I had fun, then that is the achievement I got out of it. When I had my first Fortnite kill, I was really happy, though! I really suck at aiming, and I think it took me 30 games to get the first kill. Maybe the real achievement in gaming is that I can tell my friends now without any shame that I game and that it is something to be proud of, instead of something that is a bad habit.

Michelle: Honestly, beating Lazarevic in Uncharted 2 on Crushing has to be on the top of that list.  That boss fight was SO HARD.  I play games for the enjoyment of escaping reality and haven't focused much on trophies.  I enjoy the feeling of getting into a new game and finishing it in general.

Lazarevic’s boss battle in Uncharted 2 is brutal on the Crushing difficulty. 

Video games have evolved significantly in the last few years in regards to diversity and strong female leads. What more would you like to see from the industry in the future?

Lisa: I think it needs to keep changing to show every aspect of diversity until everyone finds everything normal. That it won’t be something extraordinary when, for example, a transgender person is the main character. I think we have a long way to go in order to achieve that. Until then, I think we need to keep talking about the subject in articles like this to make people aware.

Michelle:  I would actually like to see more acknowledgment of the achievements of the voice actors.  Also, the developers and those who spend their lives perfecting the mechanics, environments, and stories that we as a population dive so deeply into need more recognition.  Gaming is such a unique experience for every person, depending on so many factors. The resounding constant is that they are a fantastic escape from reality that these engineers create, and we need to be able to know who they are and thank them for our endless hours of fun and enjoyment.

 Wow! Talking with Lisa and Michelle has given me a new perspective on a few things about being a female gamer. Being online, whether playing competitively or streaming, can be exhausting and intimidating at times. Lisa definitely has a great, well-rounded view of streaming as an extension of the fun she has while playing the games she enjoys. She can share the experience with her friends as her brother shared those experiences with her that led her to gaming. 

 Michelle didn’t notice the gender gap or feel that women were underrepresented in games since she had her sisters as fellow gamers and had icons like Lara Croft to play as growing up. She enjoys the challenge of beating games like Uncharted 2 on the hardest difficulty, which gives her a real sense of gaming accomplishment. Bringing acknowledgment to the people who drive the gaming industry and create these fun escapes from reality is something we all wish to see more of in the future. 

 Keep an eye out for the final part of our series with two more Replayer/Spuddies! 

Emotions in Gaming: Hit or Miss?

I feel like the color wheel that I learned in primary school may have a few gaps that need to be filled in. I mean, the basics are all there; happy, sad, mad, scared, excited, but there are so many more emotions that life throws at us – depression, anxiety, arousal, the unique hell that is hangry, and the true fear and desperation that grips you after the triple-layer chili bean burrito kicks in 1 hour into a 2-and-a-half-hour road trip.

That particularly exciting pants-shitting incident aside, the point I’m trying to get across is that humans have a lot of emotions (which we don’t always deal with in the healthiest of manners). As an explicit outlet for our creative impulses, the artistic world tries to elicit responses from its audience by tapping into these emotions.

Movies, television, novels, and most of pop culture seem to have this sort of stuff down pat by now, but as a younger medium, it feels like video games are much more hit or miss.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely games that deliver the old one-two emotional gut punch that knocks you off your feet and keep kicking you while you’re down. Hell, I bawled my eyes out during that scene with Aunt May in the hospital in Spiderman and the end of Infamous 2 like everybody else. I rewatched both these scenes prior to writing this and it still brings me to tears.

Yes games have long aspired to reach the emotional heights of their older brethren film and television and now that people are becoming more comfortable with the idea that video games can be art we have begun to see some games reach these lofty goals. The “some” in that sentence is doing a lot of lifting there so let’s unpack.

Where film and television can keep a psychotic death grip on the pacing through the use of leaving stuff on the cutting room floor and only picking the most essential parts (and keeping the rest to add in for the eventual Directors Cut), video games don’t have that luxury.

As a medium where the audience has an unprecedented level of control on the proceedings of the game it’s impossible for developers to ensure the experience is the same for everyone.

As a result the developers can dump all the story into the worldbuilding and crowbar it in as exposition in between gameplay (the original Titanfall being a prominent example). That’s not a story, that’s being dictated to.

When I play games, I don’t want to be told to feel a certain way about the events and what’s happening to the characters just because the developers say I have to. That’s just lazy storytelling or poor planning.

The first time I really encountered this was in the indie game This War of Mine. For those of you that haven’t played This War of Mine, you’re running a survivor’s colony in a post-apocalyptic dystopian world where this war is a big nebulous cloud hanging over everything as you just try to avoid getting swept up into it.

You start out by scavenging and looting abandoned stores and houses, but you can only loot sweet shops for so long. Eventually, you have to graduate from robbing the deceased to robbing from the very alive and armed.

This culminates in a harrowing moment early on in the game when you’re looting an old man’s house, and he catches you in the act. At first, you think he’s going to attack you but then you realize he’s no threat and can only whine as you nick all his stuff.

It was heartbreaking watching as my character stripped the old man's means of survival right out of his withered, bony hands. Knowing that he would surely perish because of my actions made me tear up a little.

That raw emotional goodwill that the game had built up curdled somewhat when a bit later in the game, my scavenger got gunned down raiding a military base. Assault rifles being much more effective than a game of paper, scissors, rock.

I returned to the bunker down one scavenger and the people in the camp flicked their emotional levers from “whining about the lack of food and the existential dread of their situation in life,” to “sad and whining about the lack of food and the existential dread of their situation in life”.

I don’t know why they were so sad. I’d never seen any of them so much as talk to the guy let alone play any soul-bonding sessions of Jenga together. I didn’t have the backstory or the relevant context on their relationship that I needed to care about them.

Compare that to Red Dead Redemption 2 and the (spoiler) death of Arthur Morgan’s horse. I’d watched Arthur Morgan and his horse bond and grow closer as a result of my own direct actions. I’d survived shootouts and outrun bandits and the law from one end of the US to the other on the back of my trusty steed. I’d seen that and had that context so that when I watched my beloved horse stumble and die all those memories and experiences were right there to emotionally break me. I felt the pain of Arthur as he watched his trusty steed leave him.

You can’t just tell someone they’re sad; they have to feel it; they have to absorb those feelings and process them in a way that’s personal to them. Their personal experiences and context inform all of their emotional responses. Let me explain (or try to with the grace of an alpine skier navigating an apartment stairwell during a fire).

I love the Uncharted franchise. I think it's some of Naughty Dog’s best work and it’s a game series that I can always boot up, sit back, and enjoy. The first time I finished Among Thieves (the franchise’s best entry) the tears were rolling down my face just like the end credits. I didn’t even realize why I was crying until after I met Nolan North and told him what happened, much to his understandable confusion (also got some great selfies with him like the one below).

I had just spent a great twelve hours experiencing a great game controlling Nathan Drake through a globe-trotting adventure capped off with an absolute thrilling boss fight that I definitely didn’t squeal like a pig during, and now it was all over. It was all over, and I’d never experience that for the first time ever again.

If the game had then flashed up a message in the sky that said: “Game Over, you be sad now,” all the emotional weight the game had built up would have sucked right back into me like a traumatic reverse childbirth.

A game that I think does this really well is Spec Ops: The Line. It’s the only war shooter that’s made me feel fear, guilt, and physical sickness. As you pilot Captain Martin Walker on his descent through a ruined Dubai, you become less a pilot and more like a witness to the horrible acts Walker commits, acting as the last vestige of consciousness.

The game puts you in horrible situations, gives you choices where the only difference is the degree to which Walker continues to spiral downwards, and gives you the freedom to make that choice. Then the game moves on and leaves you to come to terms with the undoubtedly horrible war crime you committed.

The best part is that the game never sits you down after these acts and explicitly states what emotions the characters are feeling. It trusts you enough to be able to figure it out; mind-blowing concept as that is.

Shadow of The Colossus, The Last Of Us, Red Dead, Bioshock. These games aren’t scared to push emotionally complex themes and ideas on their audiences and just leave them to figure it out for themselves.

For me, that’s what this all comes down to. The emotions we feel don’t come from the games themselves. Sure, the games bring out these emotions in us but ultimately, the emotions come from us and our personal context.

The frustrating thing is that I feel like the majority of the triple-A video game industry just expects that if they throw in enough elements that worked in other games, the audience will magically feel all those same emotions just because they’re there.

It’s like looking at a beautiful sculpture that an artist poured blood, sweat, and tears into, then taking a marble slab and hacking at it with a chainsaw all with the expectation that the end result will stack up anywhere close to the original.

Pure insanity. 

What game gave you a case of the feels? Let me know down below.

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