In a world frustratingly short on complex female characters, Uncharted’s Chloe Frazer is the modern benchmark for women’s representation in gaming.
The Uncharted franchise isn’t short on great characters. With its bulging supply of nefarious villains, heroic leads and colorful supporting cast members, the series boasts the sort of diverse, well-rounded assembly of personalities that most franchises can only dream of. Nathan Drake has been the franchise’s face since the beginning, and while Nate might deservedly take the credit as one of PlayStation’s most recognizable leads, Uncharted should also be noted for giving gamers one of the best heroines since Lara Croft.
In Chloe Frazer, Naughty Dog created a character that sets a new benchmark for female characters in gaming. Too often, games portray women (especially those in action games) as either lacking in agency or disapproving, dampening the mood while the men drive the narrative. If they are afforded any personality beyond that, it’s often in the role of overly-serious go-getters out with something to prove. In contrast, Chloe is shown to be capable, independent and full of personality. Described by her voice actor Claudia Black as “Indiana Jones with nice hair,” the treasure hunter and thief is never passive, nor is she a stock archetype designed to fill an empty space.
Chloe’s abilities are always shown through her actions. Chloe consistently exhibits agency, scheming to make things work for herself rather than allowing others to give her orders. A great example is when she double-crosses associate Harry Flynn to help Nathan Drake reach Marco Polo’s lost treasure. Nate, normally calm and collected under pressure, is always put on the back foot by his ex’s playful scheming, flirtation and capacity for deceit. Certainly, Chloe may be unscrupulous, but she does things on her terms.
Chloe’s lack of trustworthiness and flexible morals render her a more interesting character, granting her the kinds of flaws and complexity that is too often only afforded to male characters. Chloe is happy to bend the rules to get what she wants or use her wits to evade trouble, such as when she pretends to betray Nate to preserve her cover within Lazarevic’s organization in Uncharted 2. Chloe’s moral ambiguity provides her with edge, dimension and enigmatic charisma, characteristics that make her more engaging and well-rounded.
The character also has another trait that is rare in female protagonists: a sense of humor. Chloe’s badinage with the other figures in Uncharted is sharp and zippy, but never overdone, such as when she teases Nate for going for the “white bread, picket fence type” upon meeting “last year’s model” Elena Fisher. In Lost Legacy, Chloe’s more carefree attitude complements Nadine Ross’ brutally militaristic efficiency, the game’s dual protagonists dynamic benefiting from Chloe’s ability to bring humor and wit in the absence of established franchise favorites.
Perhaps most striking of all is Chloe’s character development. Initially a treasure hunter driven by her own survival and a desire for wealth, her attitudes evolve through her actions, experiences and interactions with others. For instance, Chloe is initially irritated when Nate aids of Elena and even urges them to leave her cameraman to die when he is shot. Later on, however, Chloe rescues an injured Elena by carrying her through Shambala despite Elena’s protestations to abandon her.
In The Lost Legacy, Chloe’s indifference to the brutal Indian civil war at the game’s start is inverted by the time the narrative concludes. In the end, her motivation to stop Asav partly stems from her desire to stop him from destroying an entire city of innocent civilians. Chloe’s respect for the Indians’ reverence for their sacred Tusk of Ganesh even stops her from selling it on the black market, evidencing her significant moral growth.
Perhaps most refreshing is how Chloe Frazer exhibits sexuality without becoming an object. Chloe’s sexuality is a weapon that she consciously wields, but it isn’t the defining aspect of her personality. Instead, it’s just another part of her resourcefulness that she uses like any other tool or method to gain the upper hand in a masculine-dominated world. Her manipulations come with a playful edge, and while she’s physically attractive and portrayed as a sexual being, the game doesn’t actively sexualize her simply for the sake of the male gaze.
While recent years have seen a rise in well-written and complex female characters starring in video games, the industry is still frustratingly short on them overall. Chloe Frazer stands out because she defines her destiny by taking action in her own life, all while remaining three-dimensional. Th Uncharted games give players the sense that Chloe’s off-screen life — the outside of the male protagonist — is full of adventures that are just as exhilarating as those shown on-screen, and whether she takes over for Nathan Drake as the start of the next Uncharted game or not, her characterization and arc are things worth celebrating.
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About The Author
Harry Alexander (10 Articles Published)
Harry McKerrell is a writer from London specializing in gaming and TV. If he’s not currently out trying to pet strangers’ dogs, he can be found watching reruns of Fawlty Towers and playing Age of Empires II. This is his Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarryAl55.