Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann is getting ahead of any potential controversy regarding the decision to have a white voice actor for a black character debuting in Uncharted 4.
Druckmann was providing background information on the newly revealed South African character, Nadine Ross. Except for her place of origin and mercenary occupation, the developers had not settled on a specific character design when they began casting. A wide variety of potential voice actors auditioned, but Laura Bailey’s performance of the character made the decision an easy one. “There was no question in our mind,” he said, “That’s Nadine.”
Meanwhile, the artists at Naughty Dog were preparing conceptual designs for the character. Druckmann spotted the design for Nadine as a “character of color that’s ripped” and was equally sure that this was the direction the character needed to go. The controversy was apparent from the very beginning, with team members voicing their concerns at the reception of a white voice actress for a black character. The director advocated working with both of these choices until they could see how things looked within the actual game, first and foremost.
The result was so impressive that they knew they had to stand by both of their original decisions. Neil compares it to similar decisions made in recent Naughty Dog titles. “What’s so awesome about our medium is that your outward appearance doesn’t matter at all,” he explained. He cited the differences between the appearance of Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us from their real-life actors.
While Uncharted 4 will also feature the inverse — a white character voiced by a black actor — he didn’t use the example as an excuse. In a very pronounced counter argument to the recent obsession with politically correct censorship in entertainment media, Neil Druckmann stated, “If we were to change these characters, we would be operating out of fear of something that’s outside the game,and these were the best calls for Uncharted 4. I stand by that 110 percent and I wouldn’t change anything.”
It’s a refreshing commitment to the project itself, disregarding internet outrage in favor of providing an experience true to the vision of the creators. The story is still pretty new, however. Whether Druckmann can maintain solidarity in the face of social media pressure remains to be seen. Regardless, this push back against the reigning authoritarian outrage culture is at least hopeful.
Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.