In Defense of Silent Protagonists

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I feel the same.
In a game where you never leave the first person perspective, it's just odd to have a floating voice. Especially when it feels different from you. A speaking protagonist in such games should talk little, if the developers don't want a silent protagonist. See Bioshock Infinite as prime example for this.
A little dialog here, a small sentence there. Mostly stuff that is relevant because of Bookers backstory.

After watching Freemans Mind, guess what kind of person Gordon Freeman is for me now. When I played Black Mesa, I thought with a Ross Scott voice. :)

Shamus Young:
Please don't make me share it with a voice actor.

Please don't make me share it with a voice actor AND your hack writers stupid dialogue!

Great article as usual, Shamus!
I'm very introverted, being an autistic, and I do suspect extroverts' hand in this.
Funny how Yahtzee recently (Sim City review) mentioned extroverts having a bad influence on gaming. :)

Maybe also because the auteurs from the old classic games where largely introverts in/recently from their parents basements? :P

Now it's all focus group RUINED blandness (Jimquisition)

amaranth_dru:
From a story telling point of view its difficult to understand why Freeman doesn't speak, why the NPCs all treat him as if he's always been that way. Is he mute? Has he gone the distance in NDA terms and taken a true vow of silence? If so to either of those proposed ideas, why?

To me Gordon seems to be an empty shell controlled by whatever force deigns to take over his processes. It barely passes muster to me that a physicist is proficient in military grade weapons, athletics and survival. I am aware there ARE people out there who are cerebral and physically fit at the same time (I personally feel that the body's physical state directly affects mental agility) but its not widespread or common. We usually see the "nerdy" (for lack of better terms) type as either skinny, overweight or just relatively out of shape.

Although you may have no interested in the following proposal, some Half-Life fans have suspected that players only see through Gordon Freeman's eyes when he is in a more wild, Fight-or-Flight state, those of which are triggered by extreme amounts of stress. The idea supports several very important oddities, such as Freeman's lack of speech during gameplay, his physical fitness in comparison to his job, and even the appearances of the G-Man (the more calm and collected side of Gordon). Of course, the theory doesn't support the opening minutes of the original Half-Life, but it can cover pretty much everything else.

I'm disappointed, Shamus. I clicked this article to see whether you had anything new to say that might shake my opinion, or whether you would bring out the same tired defenses I'd seen a thousand times before. Turns out it was the latter.

Arguments like this one rest on the assumption that, should characters like Gordon be voiced, they will invariably be written badly, with annoying or stupid personalities. I see people point to Other M Samus or CD-i Link and say, "See? If you give characters a voice, THIS HAPPENS!" This, to me, looks like settling for mediocrity instead of atrociousness, when we should be pushing writers to do better than that. Bland is better than bad, as you say, but good is better than both.

Then there's the "canvas onto which I can project my own thoughts." I've heard that so many times it now makes me throw up in my mouth a bit. It might work in games that have no character-driven elements whatsoever, such as old-school shooters like Doom, but for games that give us a rich cast of characters to interact with, it's like assembling an exhibit of exquisite paintings for the Louvre and then placing a blank canvas at the center, telling viewers to "project your own painting." Half-Life 2 tries to sell us on this relationship between Gordon and Alyx, but since Gordon can't speak, all Alyx can do is talk to herself and assume Gordon is nodding along. And that's how everyone acts in Half-Life 2, because really, nodding along is all Gordon can do. The result is that that's who Gordon is--a spineless asshole who just goes along with what other people say, having no input, no agency, and nothing to contribute but another gun and a HEV suit.

But there's a bigger thing. You see, I don't play games in order to "project my personality" onto anything. I'm a pasty white guy who spends too much time in front of a computer screen and types up long retorts to Internet articles, why on Earth would I want to take that with me into a game? No, I play games to forget who I am in real life for a while, and step into the life of someone else. Video games are at their best not when the protagonist is acting as I would act in real life, but when I've forgotten how I would act in real life and become invested in this person who is not me. Sometimes I find, in the midst of a game, that my inner voice has taken on the voice and speech patterns of the character I'm playing as, and that's how I know the game has really grabbed me.

What I take away from this article is that silent protagonists are a decent crutch for writers who aren't capable of delivering rich, well-characterized protagonists. I suppose that's true, but I'd much rather play the games made by the people who are capable.

Sometimes I feel like we are sharing the same head Shamus, because you always seem to share the same opinions on these things as I do. It's actually kind of creepy, as I think I have only ever disagreed with one of your articles.

I think it's why I found it a lot easier to get into Dragon Age: Origins than all of the other Bioware games released recently. In Origins my character doesn't say things that go against my own thoughts, they may not be able to say anything you can think of, but there is normally enough choice to make most people happy. Whereas in other games you don't even get the choice half the time as they use the voiced protagonist to say things without prompting, and in my case at least, it almost always seems to go against how I imagine my character to be.

It would be better to say that a silent protagonist doesn't make a bad game.
You could even go as far as to say that a silent protagonist doesn't have to make your mediocre game story any worse.
Still a blank canvas is not a good character.

Game: good in it's day. Character: neither good or bad, just blank.

Shamus Young:
Personally, I find it really strange to have a voiced protagonist in a first-person game. I can't see my character's face, and I can't see his mouth. (Or, in extremely rare and exotic circumstances: her mouth.) I don't know when he's talking and I don't know what mood he's in. Then suddenly a voice enters the scene. It's supposedly mine, but it's not saying things I want to say and it's not expressing emotions I'm feeling. Why am I inside this guy's head if I'm not privy to what's going on in there?

Smells like Far Cry 3 in here. Jason Brody also felt like some weird disembodied voice that was hitching a ride with me.

There's a sliding scale of silent vs. characterized, and far too many developers are haphazard and thoughtless about which tropes they use for different points on the scale. If you're going to have minimal characterization, then you need to give your hero fairly broad, easy-to-fit-into motivations. If you're going to have the character act in ways that run contrary to how the player is going to react to a situation, then you need to pull out to third person a lot and actually define the character as a separate entity who has motivations that make sense.

You know who are really the people who complain about silent protagonists? It's not the ones who want video games to have better stories or characters, it's the ones who think good game stories/characters must be identical in form to those of films or books, despite the huge disparities between the mediums being used and, therefore, their methods of delivering a narrative. (Plus they seem determined to overlook games like BioShock wherein the silence of the protagonist is itself an essential component of the story.) Not that silent protagonists are always a good fit and can't be executed or implemented poorly (Dead Space comes to mind), but just like the closing paragraph says, they're a tool as legitimate as any other, and one that video game storytelling would be worse off without.

Zhukov:
I'm sick of 'em.

Silent protagonists are fine in games that are entirely gameplay focussed (eg Doom). But in games with a story it's just awkward. Dishonored and the Metro games are good examples, especially since those two protagonists do technically talk (Corvo picks silent dialogue options a few times and Artyom narrates during loading screens).

Yes, fine, Valve gets something of a pass because they're really good at it.

Bioshock Infinite proved that you can have a good story and a good chatty protagonist in a first person game.

Really, if developers can't create a decent main character then they have no business putting a story in their game at all.

Counter: RPGs. Specifically, RPGS with a blank slate protagonist. Give him a voice and he isn't a blank slate anymore. Suddendly, the charater has any emotion the voice actor chooses to convey in any given scene. Elder Scrolls games, New Vegas, Dragon Age: Origins, and SMT games would be ruined for me.

Parker Chapin:

But there's a bigger thing. You see, I don't play games in order to "project my personality" onto anything. I'm a pasty white guy who spends too much time in front of a computer screen and types up long retorts to Internet articles, why on Earth would I want to take that with me into a game? No, I play games to forget who I am in real life for a while, and step into the life of someone else. Video games are at their best not when the protagonist is acting as I would act in real life, but when I've forgotten how I would act in real life and become invested in this person who is not me. Sometimes I find, in the midst of a game, that my inner voice has taken on the voice and speech patterns of the character I'm playing as, and that's how I know the game has really grabbed me.

That's something that other mediums do far, far better than videogames. That's the kind of experience that a good first-person perspective novel excels at. Video games aren't suited to detailed character studies, and usually come off as half-baked in comparison.

Video games have an unparalleled ability to tell a story by giving the player a world to interact with. Myst told a more compelling tale just through environmental design than most "cinematic" games have even come close to. Hell, Doom 3 was a stronger narrative experience when I was wandering around in the dark listening to audio logs than any game I've played that tried to build up a strong main character.

There's an interesting conflation going on in this thread, in that a fair few people seem to be using 'silent protagonist' to include the player characters from various dialogue heavy rpgs. This is missing the point, as characters like The Warden and the Courier do in fact have lines of dialogue - and frequently participate in involved conversations - it's just that these lines aren't read by an actor. They aren't 'silent', they're 'unvoiced'.
This is in contrast to the silent protagonists like Gordon Freeman, who has no dialogue, or indeed communication.

In regards to the article, while I do agree there is some room for silent protagonists (because some players do prefer having an avatar to inhabit rather than a character to control), I must point out that the final paragraph is a pretty weak argument. By the same logic, you might as well argue that games shouldn't have stories because most game writers aren't very good at them.

I'd like to quote something from the Fallout 2 manual which I think is on topic.

"Your character will never use combat taunts. We fully expect you to scream those out loud, and scare your neighbors."

Woodsey:

Because I've had to read it again recently: The Odyssey is a fun collection of events following an almost entirely uninteresting dude and the recent events in the lives of his almost entirely uninteresting chums. But then, those guys aren't really the point. Freeman is exactly the same, he's unimportant.

I can totally agree with you there, Freeman isn't really the point. He may be an important player in the events at hand, but the story definitely belongs to the setting and the NPC's.

Although, I personally wouldn't put Gordon Freeman on par with Odysseus. I always thought that the point of the Odyssey was that all these fantastic and deadly trials and tribulations are due to one man's refusal to see his own flaws. Odysseus' flawed character, I felt, was the ignition and the fuel for the whole story, whereas Freeman is more like a vessel for the player to witness the story unfolding around them.

Then again, you may be right; it's been a fair while since I've read the Odyssey. It's sitting on my shelf, and I'd like to get around to it again sometime. Although, one thing I clearly remember: of my class of nearly 30 students, I was the only one who liked Odysseus. Yes, he was a self-righteous douchebag, but he was a smart self-righteous douchebag. For some reason, I always saw him as an early example of the type of characterization that would later be prevalent in 80's action heroes, something which I came to appreciate.
Then again, it is all pretty subjective.

Eh I disagree, but that's okay.

What's not okay is just throwing the entire reasoning under "The extroverts want it!"

I'm an introvert and I do not like silent protagonists, so that's generalizing.

Not gonna lie. I kinda resent when people talk about silent protagonists, and every time the go-to-guy is Gordon Freeman; never with even a faint mention of the mega-popular game that started the silent protagonist trope: Chrono Trigger. Maybe I'm just old, but that's my go-to when I think of a silent protagonist.

Dfskelleton:

Woodsey:

Because I've had to read it again recently: The Odyssey is a fun collection of events following an almost entirely uninteresting dude and the recent events in the lives of his almost entirely uninteresting chums. But then, those guys aren't really the point. Freeman is exactly the same, he's unimportant.

I can totally agree with you there, Freeman isn't really the point. He may be an important player in the events at hand, but the story definitely belongs to the setting and the NPC's.

Although, I personally wouldn't put Gordon Freeman on par with Odysseus. I always thought that the point of the Odyssey was that all these fantastic and deadly trials and tribulations are due to one man's refusal to see his own flaws. Odysseus' flawed character, I felt, was the ignition and the fuel for the whole story, whereas Freeman is more like a vessel for the player to witness the story unfolding around them.

Then again, you may be right; it's been a fair while since I've read the Odyssey. It's sitting on my shelf, and I'd like to get around to it again sometime. Although, one thing I clearly remember: of my class of nearly 30 students, I was the only one who liked Odysseus. Yes, he was a self-righteous douchebag, but he was a smart self-righteous douchebag. For some reason, I always saw him as an early example of the type of characterization that would later be prevalent in 80's action heroes, something which I came to appreciate.
Then again, it is all pretty subjective.

You're right, and he's especially interesting amongst epic heroes in that he does actually have some semblance of character development, but even then it's rather minor in my opinion - an excuse to have the adventure much more than anything else. The funniest thing to me about that book is how many of them seem to have PTSD from the Trojan War, yet the story itself has no interest in the psychology of its characters beyond a couple of very basic character arcs.

I agree. I'd much rather play as a silent protagonist that I can project onto than a fully voiced protagonist with a predefined character. Esp. if said predefined character is that of a dipshit I can't identify with.

WhiteTigerShiro:
Not gonna lie. I kinda resent when people talk about silent protagonists, and every time the go-to-guy is Gordon Freeman; never with even a faint mention of the mega-popular game that started the silent protagonist trope: Chrono Trigger. Maybe I'm just old, but that's my go-to when I think of a silent protagonist.

Meh. Hard to argue. There are a lot of games that came before chrono trigger where the protagonist didn't speak but various characters spoke to them. Then there are games which had no characterization at all like the original Doom or Wolfenstein 3d.

You could just as easily claim early interactive fiction titles were the pioneers (see: zork, et al) of the uncharacterized protagonist who interacted with a gameworld.

But chrono trigger rocked. :)

kael013:
Personally, I see this whole issue of "voiced vs silent" protagonists as a Morton's Fork. On one hand, you can make a voiced protagonist and end up disconnecting the player from the character (like Shamus said). On the other, you can make a silent protagonist but this has it's own set of problems; either the dialogue is meant to include responses from the character (which will disconnect the player as they won't respond) or everything is carefully worded so that the character never is supposed to respond - which can lead to a disconnect because the player is being railroaded. Either way, you are going to disconnect the player at some point.

So this whole issue is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario.

Or you could just do what Valve did and create scenarios where the protagonist is never actually expected to say anything. The dialogue bits in Half Life 2 never came across as awkward or unusual to me because they were always framed in such a manner that Freeman never needed to respond to anyone. Does it honestly break your suspense that much if your character doesn't blabber off every time someone talks to him? To me Freeman's silence was just something of a running joke that the series fully acknowledged but deliberately avoided correcting, and I'm glad they didn't.

There are simply some levels of realism that are unnecessary if you have even the tiniest suspension of disbelief, and trying to "fix" these can ruin gameplay. Another one from the Half Life series is ladders. When climbing ladders your hands never touch the bars (usually because they're gripping a gun) and you can even turn around and face the opposite direction. Is this realistic? No. But I've played games where they added ladder climbing animations for the characters and all they do is create a pointless, time consuming segment where you jarringly lose control over the character, and sometimes even glitch up or have bugs.

Progress?

I'd generally prefer a game that's a little unrealistic if it makes it more enjoyable. And it's never fun when you have to play as be a character who you despise.

The legend of Zelda games have typically solved the problem of a silent protagonist by giving Link a companion who can speak for him, with mixed results. Midna was likeable, but Navi and Fi were notoriously annoying and unhelpful.

Perhaps it's an issue people will have to agree to disagree on, but at least we can all agree that it's better for a protagonist to remain silent than to end up like Samus.

Neither situation is perfect. While I hate characters with stupid lines or whatever, I can't inherently say that a silent protagonist would be better by default. Most of the time, from what I have seen, silent protagonists don't really add anything to the experience, because the game is still ascribing a personality to him, and therefore to have him spoken to throughout the games but never responding just leaves it feeling like a giant hole in the game.

Freeman is one of the better silent protagonists, overall, but I still never felt like he was a blank slate for me to ascribe my personal motivations to. Clearly, these other characters were not speaking or referring to him as some sort of lone-ranger guy. In my opinion, they clearly spoke to him in ways that ascribed him a character without him ever uttering a word. Even if they never specify a reason as to why you go and save that guy, the way in which they ask you to save that guy can say infinitely more. As they say, only a very small portion of communication is in the words, so much more is said in body language and expression and tone of voice. And when I hear the NPCs in Half-Life ask Freeman to do something, it was always done with an air of expecting him to be the noble hero who'll do this, if for nothing else, to save the world.

Until the day comes we have full virtual reality games that we can literally close our eyes and wake up inside the game and be able to interact believable with the inhabitants, I don't think silent protagonist is a "perfect solution". Obviously, I don't want a bad character, but I'd rather a good character with good dialogue than a silent character who is spoken "at" for the whole game without ever responding.

P.S. What troubles me is the binary nature in which a lot of people seem to have this discussion, as if the ONLY other option besides silent protagonist is incessant blabbermouth. It doesn't have to be one extreme or the other.

Mr Cwtchy:
Usually when I hear people say this, it's in response to things like 'Gordon Freeman is one of the best video game characters ever'. In that sense there is some validity refuting it. If Freeman is indeed a 'blank canvas', then how can he be a good character when he essentially has no attributes of his own?

If anything it would make him a nothing character.

Of course, this is nothing new. Boba Fett was already teh best chaerecter EVAR before people even knew his name because they thought he looked cool and filled in all the blanks themselves.

We loves ourselves a blank slate to imprint on, so it's no surprise we take it one step further in our interactive media. Hell, I loke to play an idealised version of myself sometimes, too.

Still, it's utterly annoying to hear Freeman described as a "good character" when he has almost no character except what we ourselves add. That's like saying a blank canvas is a brilliant piece of art because of what we might paint on it.

Wyvern65:

WhiteTigerShiro:
Not gonna lie. I kinda resent when people talk about silent protagonists, and every time the go-to-guy is Gordon Freeman; never with even a faint mention of the mega-popular game that started the silent protagonist trope: Chrono Trigger. Maybe I'm just old, but that's my go-to when I think of a silent protagonist.

Meh. Hard to argue. There are a lot of games that came before chrono trigger where the protagonist didn't speak but various characters spoke to them. Then there are games which had no characterization at all like the original Doom or Wolfenstein 3d.

You could just as easily claim early interactive fiction titles were the pioneers (see: zork, et al) of the uncharacterized protagonist who interacted with a gameworld.

But chrono trigger rocked. :)

Granted, but in a lot of those cases it was basically you walk up to the character, hit the interact button, they belch-out their dialogue and you move-on. There wasn't much thought given to the fact that your character didn't speak back because that's just how things were back then. Stories weren't give a whole lot of drama with long-winded discussions. Chrono Trigger stuck out, though, because it was released during an era where every character got to have some input. Yet here we had Crono, a character who's only lines of dialogue were some "Yes/No" prompts that you as the player decided. We can assume he spoke, after-all, the characters responded based on what he said, but he never actually opened his mouth and said them. Presumably, his dialogue was basically what you were thinking as you selected whichever option, then the conversation continued-on with you personally having been a part of it. Basically, he was the exact kind of character that Shamus just wrote and essay about before the character he chose to focus on was even a glimmer in Gaben's eye.

Remember Samus Aran?

Sometimes it's better when a silent protagonist stays silent.

Both can work. As Jim reminded us, there is no perfect pasta sauce, just perfect pasta sauces.

I love Half Life and I really feel a connection with the characters when I'm playing. In Bioshock Infinite, I really liked Booker and Elizabeth's interaction. I didn't care much for the voiced protagonist in Far Cry 3 however. It's a mixed bag and there's good and bad both ways.

I will, however, agree that it would be cool to see it handled differently in some games. Maybe something happens at the beginning of the game that takes away your ability to talk. It could lead to comical mishaps where people don't understand your gestures and they misinterpret them and things get messed up and you have to fix it. Maybe that's a dumb idea but thinking outside of the talk or not talk dichotomy could lead to some interesting game choice designs.

BloodSquirrel:
Smells like Far Cry 3 in here. Jason Brody also felt like some weird disembodied voice that was hitching a ride with me.

Rex Power Colt, by contrast, felt like an AWESOME disembodied voice hitching a ride with me.

BloodSquirrel:

Parker Chapin:

But there's a bigger thing. You see, I don't play games in order to "project my personality" onto anything. I'm a pasty white guy who spends too much time in front of a computer screen and types up long retorts to Internet articles, why on Earth would I want to take that with me into a game? No, I play games to forget who I am in real life for a while, and step into the life of someone else. Video games are at their best not when the protagonist is acting as I would act in real life, but when I've forgotten how I would act in real life and become invested in this person who is not me. Sometimes I find, in the midst of a game, that my inner voice has taken on the voice and speech patterns of the character I'm playing as, and that's how I know the game has really grabbed me.

That's something that other mediums do far, far better than videogames. That's the kind of experience that a good first-person perspective novel excels at. Video games aren't suited to detailed character studies, and usually come off as half-baked in comparison.

Video games have an unparalleled ability to tell a story by giving the player a world to interact with. Myst told a more compelling tale just through environmental design than most "cinematic" games have even come close to. Hell, Doom 3 was a stronger narrative experience when I was wandering around in the dark listening to audio logs than any game I've played that tried to build up a strong main character.

I love me a good novel, but video games can do it too, and they can do it in ways that other media can't. Have you ever played the Silent Hill series? They have compelling, untold stories told through the environments and the world alongside rich, detailed protagonists, delivered in an atmospheric experience that wouldn't work in a non-interactive medium. Nothing is sacrificed. Spec Ops: The Line told a story in a way that no novel or movie could have, and Martin Walker was a thousand times more interesting than any Doom marine.

It seems to me like silent protagonists have a few places where they work best. Games that are clearly not about telling a story (Doom) or games that let you build your character in the engine (The Elder Scrolls). But games that are trying to tell a definite story, with a rich cast of side characters, only hurt themselves by centering it all on a blank nobody.

It also seems to me like a lot of people in this thread who speak out against speaking protagonists do so because they're imagining a poorly-written dipshit who says stupid things and does things that don't make sense. Of course, anything sucks if it's done poorly. But a well-written character can do the opposite; they can draw you in, they can make you more immersed in the world, and they can give you something else to talk about when the game is over. Those well-written characters are the ones worth treasuring.

Eh ...nnnnnnooooo.

Sorry a silent protagonist is just lazy.
I seriously cant play Dragon Age Origins anymore, because the warden is just so...lifeless.
I enjoy hearing a conversation in game, only hearing HALF of one is just silly.

"What do you think about this"
-blank stare-
"Huh I guess, but what about that?"
-blankly stares and then grabs chin-
"If you say so"
"Now what about this issue here?"
-Crosses arms and glares-

I mean honestly its boring as hell to me.
People can like it all they want.

But a silent protagonist is just very boring to me.
Like a mannequin that gestures awkwardly, and transmits lines telepathically.

Not a real character to me.

This is the main reason i loved dragon age and hated dragon age 2 ...... this is also the reason dont enjoy mass effect that much.... shepard is a douche..... i kind of like femshep but still its kind of meh....

while I agree, I also would note that it definitely goes both ways
can have a bad voiced protagonist (annoying?), and there are times when a silent protagonist is bad too (the rest of the game isn't able to support it)

I'm okay with Halo or Metro where the character doesn't talk during controlled gameplay at least. guess being a mute works in CoD cuz you can't not do what they tell you to anyway :p

I don't think there is anything particularly wrong with voiced over FP characters. It makes for a lot more natural dialogue. I thought the interaction between Booker and Elisabeth was really good. Perhaps that's the exception, maybe you disagree and think it was horrible.

I am glad to see this article. I believe that a silent protagonist, for me at least, increases the immersion of the game by allowing me to project myself as the game character rather than being a fly on the head of some guy doing stuff and I just get to steer the gun. It is an art all its own to have a game story and have a silent protagonist to make the player feel like part of the game rather than just controlling the game.

Why is Gordon Freeman one of the best game characters? Its because I am Gordon Freeman.

RedEyesBlackGamer:

Zhukov:
I'm sick of 'em.

Silent protagonists are fine in games that are entirely gameplay focussed (eg Doom). But in games with a story it's just awkward. Dishonored and the Metro games are good examples, especially since those two protagonists do technically talk (Corvo picks silent dialogue options a few times and Artyom narrates during loading screens).

Yes, fine, Valve gets something of a pass because they're really good at it.

Bioshock Infinite proved that you can have a good story and a good chatty protagonist in a first person game.

Really, if developers can't create a decent main character then they have no business putting a story in their game at all.

Counter: RPGs. Specifically, RPGS with a blank slate protagonist. Give him a voice and he isn't a blank slate anymore. Suddendly, the charater has any emotion the voice actor chooses to convey in any given scene. Elder Scrolls games, New Vegas, Dragon Age: Origins, and SMT games would be ruined for me.

Yeaaahh...

See, I hate it when RPGs do that. Dragon Age Origins and Knights of the Old Republic were significantly worsened in my eyes because of the silent protagonists. When my character spends every conversation standing stock still with all the expressive power of a fence post while the NPCs chatter away like actual people, it ruins the illusion. It doesn't feel like a conversation between two or more people because one of those people isn't participating, it just feels like me picking from a list of if-then/query-response options.

It works a bit better in the TES and new Fallout games because those are first person, so I can't actually see my fence post of a character trying to take part in non-conversations. Not that it matters, since the the dialogue in those games was complete garbage anyway.

WhiteTigerShiro:
Not gonna lie. I kinda resent when people talk about silent protagonists, and every time the go-to-guy is Gordon Freeman; never with even a faint mention of the mega-popular game that started the silent protagonist trope: Chrono Trigger. Maybe I'm just old, but that's my go-to when I think of a silent protagonist.

Doom and Wolfenstein came out well before Chrono Trigger. And, they too were "mega-popular". They're often included in the discussion of silent protagonists.

Even before Doom we had characters like Mario, Link, and a slew of others that almost never uttered even a single syllable.

tmande2nd:

Sorry a silent protagonist is just lazy.

That's bullshit and you know it.

Crafting a compelling narrative; one filled with interesting characters, immersive environments, and good pacing; around a silent protagonist is far more challenging than writing a standard narrative around a voiced protagonist.

To suggest otherwise is ludicrous.

Granted, not all writers accomplish that feat. Many a title in the video game industry is testament to that. But to dismiss silent protagonists as a valid plot device simply because there are some bad examples is nonsense. Not unless you're willing to apply the same logic to voiced protagonists.

It depends on the game, sometimes it works (Portal, Half Life) the worst kind of silent protagonist is the one who is a mute only during the gameplay. Resistance 3 and Bad Company 2 did that, the playable character is interesting and talkative into cutscenes, but when the gameplay part starts he shuts up and just takes orders. That makes the story feel very divided from the game.

Zhukov:

Woodsey:

Zhukov:

I was referring to this part of the article:

"Also, - and I know I complain about this a lot - but your average game writer really isn't up to the task of creating an interesting, deep, and noteworthy protagonist."

If a developer is using silent protagonists because they don't have the chops to create a decent protagonist then I have absolutely zero fucking interest in experiencing whatever dross they would produce in place of a narrative.

Writing a good character and writing a good plot are two different things.

Reeeeally...?

Because I'd say there's a lot of crossover between the skills involved in writing a good character and a good plot.

I'm trying to think of good stories with crappy characters and I'm not coming up with anything. Do you have some examples?

Isaac Asimov is the perfect rebuttal. All his characters exist only for the purpose of exposition and the occasional flat conversation. His books are still amazing.
See, if a story is about people and their interactions, then good characters are important otherwise their relationships are pointless and uninteresting. But Asimov wrote about ideas, not people. Nightfall, The Last Question and the Foundation series are all examples of brilliant stories that lack any characters with real depth. Still some of the greatest stories ever written.

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