The Nathan Files Part 1: The Name ‘Matt’ Was Too ‘Blah’ For ‘Uncharted’

This is part 1 of a 3-part series

Scandal? Homage? Blatant copy-catting? Or just plain coincidence?

Whatever the cause, I have spent part of the past week investigating the phenomenon of three major PS3-generation video games starring a lead character named Nathan.

How could developers of three games — “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune,” “Resistance: Fall of Man” and the new “Bionic Commando” all go with the same character name? Could they be drawing from a common well-spring of inspiration? Were they trying to start a beef among studios? By asking them all about each other, is that what I was doing?

I took these questions to the people responsible. Here’s the first part of the story, from Naughty Dog’s “Uncharted” game director Amy Hennig.

Multiplayer: Why did you choose the name Nathan for your lead character?

Amy Hennig, Naughty Dog game director: Because our hero is supposedly descended from Sir Francis Drake, we wanted his name to have both a historical and contemporary ring to it. We didn’t want it to sound too old-fashioned, and it had to be able to be shortened to a short, regular-guy nickname.

So Nathan was an obvious choice. Sounds kind of historical, but shortens to “Nate” – a nice, solid, “guy’s guy” name. We also thought of Ethan, but what does that shorten to? Ete? And most of the other historical-sounding names we came up with were too elaborate.

Multiplayer: What was the back-up name, if any?

Hennig: We thought of Matthew – I kind of liked the sound of “Matt Drake,” but it got kind of a blah reaction from folks. Also Samuel / Sam, but it just didn’t fit him. We tried out John for a while, but it seemed too plain. We just kept coming back to Nate.

Multiplayer: Were you aware of this “trend” and, if so, what kinds of conversations have you had about it with fellow “Nathan” developers?

Hennig: Shortly after we had settled on Nathan/Nate (and gotten attached to it), we found out that Insomniac’s main character [in “Resistance: Fall of Man“] was also named Nathan – and also descended from a historical figure (Nathan Hale) to boot! They had dibs, so we backed off and went back to the drawing board. But we just couldn’t come up with a name we liked as well as Nate – so eventually we just said “screw it” and went back to Nathan Drake. We figured the gaming world could handle two Nathans.

Insomniac and Capcom have their say in the rest of this series