Saudi Arabia is on the minds of video game developers with Uncharted 3 and Unearthed
By Alex Cranz
So this new game Unearthed from Saudi Arabian developer Semaphore is clearly a bit of a riff on the mega-popular Uncharted franchise. You’ve got your sarcastic and borderline assholish hero with bland good looks, you’ve got a crusty old advisor, and you have a lady to round out the cast and bring in a little diversity.
Uncharted is known for having really strong, vibrant, and intelligent female characters, but they’re primary functions are still to be romantic foils for Nathan Drake.
The woman featured in the promo shots for Unearthed is actually the hero’s sister, Dania. For me that’s actually a plus. A potentially rich portrayal of female and male siblings in a video game? Totes mcgoats rare daddio!
I tried to see if I could find any shots of Dania in action next to the hero but so far no luck. However there is already an iPad case with her face on it and some footage from SaudiGamer suggests that she’ll be the little voice in the hero’s ear.
Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta is the first major multi platform game to come out of Saudi Arabia and it’s riffing on a very popular American made game so it’s going to have some eyes on it. But coming from the country that famously won’t allow women to drive it’s promising to see a woman character in an action-based video game. And she’s wearing a headscarf! When was the last time you saw a heroine in a video game wearing a headscarf?
What’s also interesting is how this game is coming on the heels of Uncharted 3 which will be set in Saudi Arabia and featuring fictional version of Iram. Iram, if you’re unfamiliar, is a lost Arabic city and something of a Gomorrah as presented in the Koran and The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. On top of that the game features lots of murderous Arabic men. SaudiGamer had an interview with a developer from NaughtyDog and asked some pretty important questions relating to those facts. Check out his response, which to me sounded a lot like dancing around the issue.
So on the one hand you have Uncharted being very, very American and on the other hand you have Unearthed which is almost reverential in it’s treatment of explorer Ibn Battuta, the most travelled man in the world until the Steam Age. It’s almost a straight up cultural appropriation and if nothing else it’ll be neat to play to see how Saudi Arabia injests our pop culture and then twists it to reflect their own.