Dear Nathan Drake: Let’s See Other People

Dear Nathan Drake, 

I believe crushes are the closest one can get to a molecular experience — the giddy heat of warm atoms that bounce and propel and push against the body. It’s an exciting and exhausting feeling for me, and was even more so when I was younger. Despite the debilitating anxiety and tendency for dramatics, youthful crushes were enjoyable, if dizzying, experiences.

I realize now that I had one of my earliest crushes when I was around ten or eleven years old, and it was way more confusing than the “crushes” I had on horrified girls in my middle school. I can’t say I’m completely over it either, even though many would not even call it a “real” crush. I also hesitate to follow in the footsteps of a stereotyped games writing tradition, but it affected me a little too much for me to stay quiet.

That is, I’m pretty sure you made me gay. 

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It all happened so fast. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the first game I played in the series, was released in 2009. I bought it after weeks of begging my parents, combing through online reviews, and obsessing over gameplay videos as was my anxious ritual for buying new games back then. I finished the game in a few sleep-deprived, cheeto-dusted days, taking in every moment with the wide eyes of a child who duped his parents into buying a game that was slightly inappropriate for his age. 

For me, crushes always start cinematically, like a creeping warmth that washes over my brain. In immersive games like Uncharted, it may be me literally imagining myself in the canon of the series, but that’s often too messy and clunky. Usually, I prefer to imagine my crush and I in the most ordinary situations: cooking a meal, sharing ice cream, going to a movie, or even fighting. In fact, I would go as far as to say fighting and breaking up is one of my favorite imaginary activities to do with any of my crushes.

But in this case, I was young and wouldn’t realize or come to terms with my own romantic attraction to men until I graduated high school years later. So, my crush on you was nebulous and innocent. More than any of my crushes on real people, this crush was based on a feeling, an impulse. I just liked you. 

To be fair, you’re funny, even if it is in that smart-alecky, action star way. Your sarcasm is perfectly tuned and teasing, broken up only by the sincerity with which you carry yourself. You are reliably equipped with a slew of one-liners that lighten the mood of every dire situation you find yourself in, making your presence fun to rehearse and rework in my head. 

I also think you’re cute. Naughty Dog, the developers of the Uncharted series, managed to pack a good deal of boyish charm in between your rock-climber forearms, five o’clock shadow, and rugged good looks, basically begging me to fall in love with a fictional white man. You’ve also made it very clear that you are very capable with your hands.

Part of me wonders if your dangerous misadventures triggered some instinct in me — that I could have been attracted to your survival instincts and protective capacities. I live with a sense of physical and mental insecurity, and, like most of my crushes, I believe I could feel safe with you. I already feel safer in the world of video games anyways. 

I’m only revisiting this crush now because of my own disenchantment with actual romance. Honestly, crushes on real people are exhausting for me. They are anxious, all-consuming episodes of my life that churn my stomach and have quite consistently ended with me being hurt. Real people do not seem to be worth the time or energy I dedicate to them, and they are stained by the disappointments of real life. 

Fictional characters, however, can still be fun to have crushes on, and that’s probably why I still have a crush on you, Nathan, married with kids and all. These fantasies are soothing alternatives to a reality that often works against queer people, but they can also be quite isolating.

Especially for young queer people, many crushes are already fictional in the sense that they are impossible. Losing yourself in a fantasy can be an excellent coping mechanism at times, but it can also be dangerously occupying, as the world inside your head is always more welcoming and safe than the one you find yourself in. 

In this case, the burden of crushes on real people is a justified weight. There is nothing like the kinetic energy of a burgeoning love that can ground you in the present moment and connect you to the people around you. To this end, the isolation of my fantasy no longer has a place in my adult life, as I try to find my place in the real world.

This is why I must get rid of you, Nathan. I want a future where I can be secure in myself without the presence of another person. To see myself as complete and whole. Things that make me lose touch with myself, no matter how inconsequential or small, cannot be tolerated any longer, and that includes you. 

I’m a little sad, but I’m also reminding myself that you aren’t perfect. You are literally a thief. Moreover, you tend to fetishize stealing treasure from ancient cultures and civilizations while destroying the surroundings in the process. The brown and black people that lined your stories did not go unnoticed by me, and I have to wonder how much virtual destruction you wrought amongst them, and what that means for players like me.

I will always appreciate what you have done for me. Who knew that all it would take to stir the gay monster in me is moderate charisma, digital athleticism, and some simulated danger? I have enjoyed helping you hunt for treasure, escape the bad guys, and win the girl, but now that Naughty Dog has retired you, it is time for me to move on too. 

Farewell Nathan, and thank you for everything.

Sincerely, 

A.K. Pradhan

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