In Defense of Silent Protagonists

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I see the divide of opinions falling more in how the players view themselves in relation to the character. From what I've heard from Shamus, he's the type of player to view the protagonist as his own character within the limitations the game's narrative provides. In this instance, having a character speak, have ideas/opinions removes him from the character Shamus is portraying, even when spoken to in-game. When spoken to by an npc, the character does respond, just in the player's head. So while the player doesn't choose what they are going to be doing next, they know why they have chosen to do it. Basically, the player chooses the flavor of the food they're eating within the confines of what they're eating. They are told they've eaten their favorite ice cream, the player makes it mint. If that makes sense.

To people who don't project their personality onto the character as strongly, this feels very wrong. The character has a defined past, has had relationships with various people, his/her character is set, naturally, they should have a voice. These people don't live their character, they see it as a position already taken by the protagonist who, as a separate entity, should be voiced as much as the npcs that talk to him/her are voiced. It feels weird to see a conversation between two people, one of whom you are just sharing the sight of, and have one side just staring as the other continues a one sided conversation. In the food example, it feels more natural to have the foods flavor and how the character feels about it defined after being told what the food is because the character already has a taste for it. They are told they've eaten their favorite ice cream.... what flavor is it? My understanding of this character and his/her views would improve if I were told what flavor of ice cream is so good to be their favorite.

...

......

Well, I'm sleep deprived and probably projecting on quite a few people so I'll stop my rambling.

EDIT: Oh, right... I'm the second type.

the article pretty much reflects my feelings on the matter.

the 'blanks' people complain about are only blanks if you don't attempt to fill them. In a well designed game, one where not only do they not put words in your mouth but the actions of npc's also leave room for multiple explinations, you have to voice the character yourself. like the article said, Gordon respondes, he speaks, you just have to wake the slumbering roleplayer in you to make it come to life.

I actually love games that give you the bare bones emotes to respond to situations. When playing solo PvE back in the day in WoW I usually had a ton of 'interactions' with NPC's that where unique to the way I saw my character and azaroth. You have to want to give characters personality without it being spoon fed all the time. And if you don't like that the more story driven games that tell you a well designed tale, like bioshock, are more for you.

here is me hoping we will one day have a game where every conversation will simply give you a wide range of emotional responses to pick from that is the same for every conversation AND let the AI respond to it in meaningfull way. Would this require a powerfull AI, yes, but I sure as hell would prefer a game investing in a strong social AI then in better graphics. Allowing you to create your own social sidequests in open world games, hitting on NPC's and hanging out at their place as a crude example.

Shamus Young:
every game

Ultimately, I think this little two word phrase sums up the entire problem. Almost all arguments of this type seem to be based on the assumption that there is a one size fits all solution to all game design. In this case, the claim is that because silent protagonists don't work in some games, or aren't liked by some people, they should never be used in any game. And that's just silly. Gaming is easily the most versatile form of media we have. Not only is there such a huge variety of game types possible that the only reason we even consider them to be the same medium is because there's a computer involved somewhere along the line, but they can exactly replicate every other form of media we have. So it's just ridiculous to claim that a certain storytelling device or game mechanic should never be used. Can a film work with a silent protagonist (hint: silent films existed for quite a while before talkies were invented)? Then so can games.

Anything can be done badly or used inappropriately, and often things become overused because they're done right once and everyone immediately jumps on the bandwagon to try and copy that success. But that in itself proves the point - if it sucked the first time no-one would bother trying to copy it. So sure, say that silent protagonists are overused. Say that they're done badly in specific cases. But don't say that they should never be used at all, because claiming any such device should never be used is just silly.

Shamus Young:
In Defense of Silent Protagonists

Shut up, already.

Read Full Article

I think it really depends on what youre doing with the game. The Doom marine didnt have a lot of reason to talk, it worked. The Dishonoured silent protagonist just kept reminding me its just a game whenever he sat gawping as people monologued at him. Apparently he had a long satanding personal relationship with the princess but never said a word to her, not Im glad youre safe after she was kidnapped, not to comfort her when whe was upset, reassure her when her world was colapsing, entertain her, nothing.

It just felt lazy.

StriderShinryu:
The problem with Freeman as a silent protagonist is that the only thing he's lacking is a voice. He isn't a blank canvas or an open book to which you can apply your own thoughts/feelings/choices. From visual appearance to his relationship to everyone in the world (and, perhaps more importantly in this case, their relationship to him), he is 100% defined and set in stone. Outside of jumping around the room or looking away when people are talking at you, you don't really have any agency at all as Freeman. You're simply a mute with a defined place in the world, which is not what makes for a strong silent protagonist at all.

Isn't this also true of every other silent protagonist ever? At least, every silent protagonist that's a part of a linear story? Like Samus and Link and Chell? No matter what you do or don't say your adventure is going to be the same, and they all have established relationships with the world around them. The "blank canvas" aspect applies to what the character is thinking as they do these things. As Shamus pointed out, it allows the player to decide the motivations of the person you're controlling. Is Gordon doing all this because he's just trying to survive, or does he have some sort of genuine love for Earth and he wants to save it? Does he really love Alyx, or is he put off by her constant flirtations? Does Link really have some sort of sense of duty to saving Hyrule, or does he just want to make sure Gannondorf doesn't ruin his chances of hooking up with Zelda? That's all up to you.

There's a better way of letting the player project onto the character, and that's to have them create the character. I project much more onto say, my skyrim character or my commander shepard than I do onto gordon. Gordon Freeman has an identity and even a voice, you just can't hear him. At the beginning of half life 2 barney treats him like he was the life of the party back in the day. Also, nobody is afraid of him. All gordon freeman does is kill. You mean to tell me that nobody is intimidated by the armored guy with a goatee who runs around busting skulls in with a crowbar and responds to them by silently staring right into their eyes? I don't buy it. I feel totally disconnected from the cardboard cutout I'm supposed to be wearing as a mask.

I actually project better onto master chief than I do gordon freeman. When he speaks, he speaks professionally and calculated, because he's extremely disciplined. He's been trained not to show his emotions. When I play master chief, all the other characters see the same stoic cyborg whos eyes I am. But they don't know what's going on in his head. That's my playground.

The difference is that if I think "Man Keys is a bitch," Chief may as well think the same thing, but Keys ranks above him, so he's still going to take the orders. If Gordon is supposed to be me, and I don't care about Eli or Alyx, then why is Gordon helping Alyx rescue Eli? Gordan makes defining actions that may conflict with what I would do and I'm given no context with which to understand his priorities. If I'm playing a game on the rails anyways, leaving something as crucial as the main character out of it feels incomplete.

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.

Two things. First, it doesn't necessarily have to be your personality you project. It's basically roleplay, like what you do with Shepard in Mass Effect. You're just filling in the blanks as to why you think the character is doing what they're doing. Does Gordon really love Alyx, or is he just using her to save the earth? Is Gordon really being kind and trying to save the earth, or is he just trying to survive and doing whatever it takes to accomplish that end? That's all up to you. The narrative isn't trying to force a whole backstory and motivation down your throat. You are simply given the world and situation on a plate, and you decide what you do with it.

And secondly, just because you personally don't like to roleplay doesn't mean the mechanic itself is a failure. More often than not those are the exact "tired defenses" I see from people who think they don't work. "I am bored by them," I find them to be dull," "I find them to be empty and hollow." Well, I find sports games to be a total waste of time and money that bore me to tears just thinking about them, but I'm not about to say that means their mechanics aren't solid. They are what they are, and the fact that I personally don't like them doesn't make them inherently bad.

It's a real conundrum to be sure. When you make your Character a blank slate, you give your players something to imagine. Imagination can often fill in the blanks far more convincingly than actual dialog. I mean that's the one thing that turns me off from many JRPG's these days, why to this day i cannot stand FF3 or FF8. Because all the characters are chatty, have pre defined personalities... and I hate every one of them. You see there's the double edged sword. have your character spout dialog and exposition and you have a risk of rendering the character someone the player doesn't like.

See JC Denton was somewhat an anomaly. He had dialog but the game and the dialog were designed in such a way as to let you characterize him.. The dialog choices and reactions responded accordingly. Did you kill everything that moved? or were you a silent ghost. Half Life did the same thing, you can characterize Gordon in many little ways.

I disagree, in my opinion, silent protagonist are fine, characters without any dialogue are bad, it damages the story since it makes no sense when you actually think about it.

i also find it hard to project on a video game character, because I know that If I were really in those shoes, I would die very quickly and probably painfully.

you don't need long and complex dialogue trees, just the option between saying, sure lets go rescue eli, and, I guess we have to rescue eli now.

If you expect a lets go to the beach option, turn off the game and go play skyrim or fallout new vegas, clearly a linear game is not for you.

Special shout-out to Far Cry 3, for exactly proving the point as to why we'd sometimes rather have a silent protagonist.

LISA I'M COMING!!

Lilani:
snip

I do like to roleplay. I roleplayed the fuck out of Morrowind, defining my character's personality, how she spoke, how she reacted to things throughout the game and what decisions she made, even though in the game she was more or less blank. But in a game like Half-Life 2 I don't feel like I can roleplay, because I can only play a pre-defined role, and all I can choose is how I feel about it. The impression I'm left with of Gordon is that he's a pushover; he does what people tell him to do in all cases, he never does anything of his own initiative, and if he has any thoughts of his own, they're his feelings about being railroaded into all these events he has no say in. He's powerless.

I know that a lot of what I'm saying is personal taste. I'm trying to show Shamus (and the people like him I've seen before) that there's more than one way in which people experience games, and the people who dislike silent protagonists don't do so because we want backstory "shoved down our throats" or because we want dipshits shouting fratboy dialogue in our ears. This article makes several fallacious arguments like this, from the sweeping and unfair generalization that "extroverts" are to blame (I'm about as introverted as they come), to the argument that games will inevitably do characterization badly, so they shouldn't even try. That's what I'm trying to argue against.

I'd also like to respond to those comparing the concept of silent protagonists to literature such as The Odyssey or Isaac Asimov's books. I don't feel that a silent protagonist compares to even the blandest character in literature; a silent protagonist is a bland character to the extreme. Even a passive observer in a novel will have a voice, will have thoughts of their own, and may even make decisions and develop as the story goes on. There's plenty of room for characterization in a game where the real story is that of the world; a storyteller who knows what he's doing doesn't have to sacrifice the main character to tell an interesting story of the world, or the other way around.

Kargathia:
Special shout-out to Far Cry 3, for exactly proving the point as to why we'd sometimes rather have a silent protagonist.

LISA I'M COMING!!

That was an especially jarring example, since he SHOUTS AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS during what's supposed to be a stealth mission. I just wanted to reach through the screen and slap him at that point.

DataSnake:

Kargathia:
Special shout-out to Far Cry 3, for exactly proving the point as to why we'd sometimes rather have a silent protagonist.

LISA I'M COMING!!

That was an especially jarring example, since he SHOUTS AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS during what's supposed to be a stealth mission. I just wanted to reach through the screen and slap him at that point.

Don't forget the burning building, where he insists on continually shouting at her - even though he can be pretty sure she ain't going anywhere.

But it's ok, I guess his brain doesn't need oxygen anyway.

I'm not a big fan of the silent protagonist myself. I can't recall that many cases where my voiced protagonist's words were so unlike my own thoughts that I was pulled out of my immersion. It happened in Far Cry 3 recently, true. But more often it's my protagonist's actions that bug the shit out of me, and prevent me from thinking I'm running the story.

That's not to say I can't stand any game without a voiced protagonist. I like Zelda games and Portal. On the other hand, Gordon Freeman did really get on my nerves in HL2. Because unlike in HL1, people around him had emotional interactions with him, and it lasts only so long before that becomes silly. Especially since unlike, say, Zelda, HL2 isn't just pretending that Gordon is speaking and we just don't hear it, Alyx even makes jokes about it and all conversations are perfectly well structured as to leave no gaps where Gordon might be speaking. And it just killed my Immersion when Alyx all got head-over-heals with a guy who had never spoken a word to her.

Shamus Young:
In Defense of Silent Protagonists

Shut up, already.

Read Full Article

Fucking amen, brother.

If the character is heavily scripted, like in RPGs, then it's better with someone who can speak. They're clearly not a blank slate anyway, and it feels weird when they don't talk, but give answers. The older RPGs usually had a silent protagonist though, and it didn't bother me then. Maybe it's more because the times changes, and after you get a voiced protagonist a few times the silent ones feel empty.

If it's the average totally bland male FPS character, then I'm happy that they made them silent.

Reading this made me wonder if we can have our cake and eat it too by including non verbal cues like abstract thought bubbles or maybe just a few more sequences when Gordon actively responds to the world around him. Like when he gets a weapon he always seems to examine it and test it. Why not have a few more body expressions when he sees inanimate objects that aren't designed for killig like a photo of the science team or another character.
You make a good point in that it serves the game to not boldly state Gordon's opinions/feelings on Alex but what if he saw a picture of her he could pick up the frame and react tenderly towards it. He might not be infatuated with her. But if he isn't a sociopath he must have bonded with her at some point and cluing us into that would be really sweet.

Blank canvasses are all well and good but I still think that at least having an inkling of a protag's intentions (or feelings about his intentions) beyond not being able to shoot/damage friendly npcs would be great.

As for my version of Gordon's motivation I picture him being sentimental. At least enough to care for Eli without having to be wholly convinced by Alex's pleading. (although he still struggled with whether it was a good idea to storm the prison and save Eli)

It's a bit like the end of MGS Snake Eater, I/he knows he has to kill xxx. I know that no matter how long I hold off I will still get the same cutscene but I hold off for all the projected inner tension, self loathing, and love.
I mean who says we can't give even scripty average mcjoe-douche nuance by controlling the time it takes for him/her to come to the inevitable decision?

Still there are some silent protags that I really wish would just say something/make a noise even if it's just a whistle. Like take Corvo for example. He's running around with all of these aristocrats and listening to handily provided intimate life details and he doesn't even make any sort of grunt or yessir nossir response. But that's the only game of late where I think silence was a complete disservice.

Overall I tend to like silent characters, mostly in games like the MegaTen franchise or Pokemon. However, there are several games that have silent characters that probably shouldn't. But here's my big thing with silent characters.

I will always prefer a silent character over an annoying character or a badly written one.

To sorta paraphrase Extra Credits here, look at a character like Link. If you're one of those people who automatically believes that a character with a voice and personality is automatically better than a silent character, then by your logic the best version of Link is the one from the animated cartoon show.

Also, in some cases this is true, but I don't believe that a silent character is automatically devoid of any personality. There are several silent characters who while they may not speak, they have reactions to things or do something that is completely outside of the players control. Even if the character doesn't speak, what they do that isn't determined by player control, is a sign of their personality.

To use Persona 4 as an example, the character Rise pretty much constantly hits on the protagonist, and while the players are occasionally given choices to flirt back, to reciprocate those feelings, or to even date Rise in a side quest, often in story scenes when she flirts with him, he gets panicky sweat drops above his head, implying that maybe he doesn't like her forward approach, or simply feels embarrassed being hit on around his friends.

The P4 protagonist is silent, but there are a lot of little things he does outside of player control that really do give him a fair semblance of personality.

Zhukov:

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.

Differences in opinion. I imagine my character saying those things and I am happily immersed. I understand some people just see a mute staring blankly at a NPC. But for me, adding a voice establishes character to the PC that I don't want there.

-Dragmire-:
I see the divide of opinions falling more in how the players view themselves in relation to the character. From what I've heard from Shamus, he's the type of player to view the protagonist as his own character within the limitations the game's narrative provides. In this instance, having a character speak, have ideas/opinions removes him from the character Shamus is portraying, even when spoken to in-game. When spoken to by an npc, the character does respond, just in the player's head. So while the player doesn't choose what they are going to be doing next, they know why they have chosen to do it. Basically, the player chooses the flavor of the food they're eating within the confines of what they're eating. They are told they've eaten their favorite ice cream, the player makes it mint. If that makes sense.

To people who don't project their personality onto the character as strongly, this feels very wrong. The character has a defined past, has had relationships with various people, his/her character is set, naturally, they should have a voice. These people don't live their character, they see it as a position already taken by the protagonist who, as a separate entity, should be voiced as much as the npcs that talk to him/her are voiced. It feels weird to see a conversation between two people, one of whom you are just sharing the sight of, and have one side just staring as the other continues a one sided conversation. In the food example, it feels more natural to have the foods flavor and how the character feels about it defined after being told what the food is because the character already has a taste for it. They are told they've eaten their favorite ice cream.... what flavor is it? My understanding of this character and his/her views would improve if I were told what flavor of ice cream is so good to be their favorite.

...

......

Well, I'm sleep deprived and probably projecting on quite a few people so I'll stop my rambling.

EDIT: Oh, right... I'm the second type.

That is actually a very good explanation for the two different kinds of players and why they disagree with each other. I wish I could be that coherent when I'm fully awake. :P

I have to say I find silent protagonists a problem a lot of the time.

Shamus says how directors force emotions on your character like NOW YOU ARE SAD or NOW YOU ARE TRIUMPHANT. At the end of the day I'm not playing as me... hell I'm not even playing as my character. I'm playing as the directors character so they can convey whatever emotions they want through their character.

I am not there to BECOME booker Dewitt I'm here to experience the characters journey through Columbia. Some characters the silence is part of. Like Delta from Bioshock 2 since he is in a big helmet and can only groan. And other characters dont need to say anything because to be honest there isn't really anything that needs saying. Like Link all his dialogue would be pointless. Because he would only say hideously generic stuff like "I'll stop you Ganandorf!" or "Maybe I can get to the ledge if I use my hookshot".

But for some there is no excuse like Gordon Freeman YEAH I SAID IT. I have played the first half life and I didn't think "Its great he's not speaking because I would be shocked by these monsters, and this way I can imagine him being shocked". It took me out of the experience. Because how could a mute become a doctor of anything? I also wanted his opinion on his surroundings preferably not all the time, but he could have at least interacted the scientists. He just felt inhuman and boring.

So yeah I know its only my opinion and I acknowledge that silent protagonists do have a time and a place. But for the most part you can shove them because I'm not playing as me I'm playing as a character.

Vigormortis:

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.

Doom and Wolfenstien also had no story segments during which they could speak. Same goes for Link and Mario, who didn't really fall into the silent protagonist category until the N64 and Game Cube respectively, when other characters were speaking enough that it actually stuck out form them to never talk.

For what it's worth, if I make a character and give it a name like in Baldur's Gate, it gives me a whole different feel than if I was playing Booker DeWitt. In Baldur's Gate, I have never had a voice package I liked, no matter what I chose, and in some ways I wished I didn't have one. Since, say, Bioshock Infinite is a story and the character you're controlling has a background, then having Booker with his own dialog is fine as long as it's handled properly. Where does this put Freeman? Kind of in the pasture because he has a name and supposedly a past, so his own personality and dialog might have helped the game a bit. On the plus, we don't have to worry about Freeman being memorable because they had a half-baked script for some staffer to read.

Before I found out he was just called Doomguy, November Frost was the name I gave him. Cheesy, but so was Doom.

WhiteTigerShiro:
Doom and Wolfenstien also had no story segments during which they could speak. Same goes for Link and Mario, who didn't really fall into the silent protagonist category until the N64 and Game Cube respectively, when other characters were speaking enough that it actually stuck out form them to never talk.

Perhaps.

But there were still quite a few narrative-driven games well before Chrono-Trigger that saw the player character never speak.

I'm just saying Chrono Trigger wasn't the first.

One of the more prolific, certainly, but not the first.

Lilani:

Two things. First, it doesn't necessarily have to be your personality you project. It's basically roleplay, like what you do with Shepard in Mass Effect. You're just filling in the blanks as to why you think the character is doing what they're doing. Does Gordon really love Alyx, or is he just using her to save the earth? Is Gordon really being kind and trying to save the earth, or is he just trying to survive and doing whatever it takes to accomplish that end? That's all up to you. The narrative isn't trying to force a whole backstory and motivation down your throat. You are simply given the world and situation on a plate, and you decide what you do with it.

And secondly, just because you personally don't like to roleplay doesn't mean the mechanic itself is a failure. More often than not those are the exact "tired defenses" I see from people who think they don't work. "I am bored by them," I find them to be dull," "I find them to be empty and hollow." Well, I find sports games to be a total waste of time and money that bore me to tears just thinking about them, but I'm not about to say that means their mechanics aren't solid. They are what they are, and the fact that I personally don't like them doesn't make them inherently bad.

Damn it Lilani.

I swear, half of the times when I see a post I feel I need to respond to I notice that you've already responded to them. And, with an almost identical train of thought to my own.

You really need to stay out of my head. It's getting creepy.

Silent Protagonists can be fine and useful, but their is a difference between a blank slate character with no voice and defined character with no voice. I find it weird when people are saying that Chell or Gordon are their favorite Characters, because they either love blandness or are so narcissistic, that they love the projected image that they projected themselves on the slate.

Saying you don't like Gordon for being not being a character is like saying you don't like apples because they aren't oranges.

But they are silent protagonist who do have a character. Link does show some characteristics, especially in Windwaker, and Corvo of Dishonored also shows that with the interactions with the princess. do I think it are bad characters for not having a voice? Ofcourse not, I really don't care. So long the game/story is good, I don't mind.

I do prefer actual characters in story based games, except when the whole point of the game is role playing, like in Dragon Age, Origins. I that case I prefer the blank slate.

Just make a game where the character is actually a mute and not a silent protagonist, and make him write stuff down on paper to tell people what he wants, but since he has no paper and generally is impatient, he just goes ahead and do his thing first before bothering to explain it.

Really, I have no idea why this article exists. I pretty much don't read Shamus's stuff anymore, because usually it's plain nonsense, but this time it's just boring. Has this been written for the one person out there who doesn't have an opinion on the silent/talking protagonist issue? I mean, this topic is a front-runner for most overdone game discussion.

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

Agreed. No writer of novels or films would get away with an unexplained silent protagonist in their story.

Krantos:
Voiced != Interesting, and Silent != Flat.

Are you sure you don't mean that the other way round? (Not that I even remotely think that dialogue and punctuation are the same thing; your illustration is non-analogous as far as that is concerned.)

Farther than stars:

Krantos:
Voiced != Interesting, and Silent != Flat.

Are you sure you don't mean that the other way round? (Not that I even remotely think that dialogue and punctuation are the same thing; your illustration is non-analogous as far as that is concerned.)

erm... not really sure what you said ("Not that I even remotely think that dialogue and punctuation are the same thing; your illustration is non-analogous as far as that is concerned." what?) , but is the confusion related to this: "!=" ?

If so, sorry, it's programming based logic shorthand. "!=" means not equal to. You might sometimes seen this written as =/= or <>, but C# and SQL (the languages I deal with at my job), both use !=.

Basically I was saying that voiced characters are not automatically more interesting than silent ones, and silent ones aren't automatically static bricks. This can be true, of course, but one does not always lead to the other.

Vigormortis:

WhiteTigerShiro:
Doom and Wolfenstien also had no story segments during which they could speak. Same goes for Link and Mario, who didn't really fall into the silent protagonist category until the N64 and Game Cube respectively, when other characters were speaking enough that it actually stuck out form them to never talk.

Perhaps.

But there were still quite a few narrative-driven games well before Chrono-Trigger that saw the player character never speak.

I'm just saying Chrono Trigger wasn't the first.

One of the more prolific, certainly, but not the first.

I don't doubt that, I suppose, though I can't really think of any examples.

I'm going to be blunt: were you talking about tabletop games you might have a point because those are meant to have characters built by the player with their own history and character traits along with development that comes via the players' actions. However, videogames will never, ever be able to do that. A silent protagonist, no matter what way you slice it, is a poor character. If I have to project my own ideas onto something then that's not a character. The silent protagonist in general is something that needs to go away in narrative-driven games, if not games in general. They're a lazy, borderline wish-fulfillment fantasy for players.

Farther than stars:

Agreed. No writer of novels or films would get away with an unexplained silent protagonist in their story.

And what do have novels or movies to do with video game writing? The mediums are entirely different. Fuck that, even books and movies employ different styles of writing that don't work within the other medium.

Video games, as an interactive medium, have the possibility of projecting the player or a character created by the player into a plot, give him choice in that regard. I enjoy Gordon Freeman more than Commander Shepard because there is no disconnect between how I assume the situation is and what the game shows me. If I lack interest in what dude XYZ tells me then the same can be said about the character I'm playing (and in regard of HL2 and the ending + start of the main game I can fill pages on how this actually makes sense in regard of Freeman still doing everything people ask of him). If I play any modern RPG and lack any interest in certain topic I can't reply in a way I want but am forced to sit through a more 'cinematic' experience, where I chose between 3 default moods. In the end I don't play the character I created and want to play but any given choice at the start is streamlined into the three possibilities that fit the tropes the writer wanted to convey.

I myself am a fan of silent protagonist because for me a voiced character is a lazy cop to force me to watch a bad movie. Because this is essentially single player gaming for me today. I watch extremly cheesy plots that equal 90s action flick in character depth. And then there is the disconnect between story and gameplay that gets more and more visible is the character has a voice and the actor conveys emotions that are out of place in regard of what I've done or what I'll do in a few minutes.

OK, this entire argument is based around a "I've heard it said that ....".
Now, I'm not saying that it's not true. I, myself, have encountered these arguments.
And even if those silent protagonists are not everyone's cup of tea - they make for great games.
That is what gets me: Usually, it's someone refusing to play a silent protagonist game, or stopping to, because this aspects put them off.
And I don't get it.
Then again, every time I hear it it's from people who are somehow disqualified from commenting:
Non-gamers, who don't know the alternative.
Anti-gamers, who only see the shooter aspect of Half Life, ignoring the story completely.
CoD jocks, who think going from shooters on the PS X to shooters on the PS3 helped them "evolve" as a gamer.
People who don't like sci fi / shooters / the game for other reasons (Seriously, I had someone tell me he didn't enjoy portal because the character gets constantly talked at and never responds, plus: He didn't like puzzles. Let that wander around your head a few times. Portal. No puzzles.)

What I'm trying to say here is: If they don't like Portal and Half Life - inquire. Somewhere, somehow, you will find the reason why they are wrong.

tmande2nd:
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.

That's because you only see dialogue as the way of developing a character. The thing about Gordon Freeman is that everything the player thinks of and how the player controls him establishes who he is and based off of those definitions the storyline of Half Life shifts dramatically to accompany those changes.

How a player PLAYS Half Life is just as influential to the development of Gordon as much as what they think goes on in his mind. In player might be new to shooters but slowly gets better to the point where he's able to beat a firefight without retrying. His storyline of Half Life tells the tale of a Gordon Freeman who's forced to adapt to a new situation and slowly gets better. Another player might be really good at shooters from the get go and his storyline is based off of how Gordon Freeman is a natural killer. An aggressive player shows a more aggressive Freeman, or maybe we have a jumpy player that shows how Freeman is a bit of a coward. The thing I'm trying to say is that despite have no lick of dialogue or even the player trying to insert dialogue into Freeman's mind, they are still crafting their own stories that have their own emotional arcs by simply playing the game. Because of the fact that Freeman does not talk, it allows for these near infinite stories to exist and not contradict one another. The silent character you play are not boring or static and have real characterization shown throughout the game.

Krantos:

Farther than stars:

Krantos:
Voiced != Interesting, and Silent != Flat.

Are you sure you don't mean that the other way round? (Not that I even remotely think that dialogue and punctuation are the same thing; your illustration is non-analogous as far as that is concerned.)

erm... not really sure what you said ("Not that I even remotely think that dialogue and punctuation are the same thing; your illustration is non-analogous as far as that is concerned." what?) , but is the confusion related to this: "!=" ?

If so, sorry, it's programming based logic shorthand. "!=" means not equal to. You might sometimes seen this written as =/= or <>, but C# and SQL (the languages I deal with at my job), both use !=.

Basically I was saying that voiced characters are not automatically more interesting than silent ones, and silent ones aren't automatically static bricks. This can be true, of course, but one does not always lead to the other.

Yeah, I did misunderstand you. I've only ever used =/=, but then I'm a novice programmer. I basically just use that one because that's the symbol I learned in high school.

TheKasp:

Farther than stars:

Agreed. No writer of novels or films would get away with an unexplained silent protagonist in their story.

And what do have novels or movies to do with video game writing? The mediums are entirely different. Fuck that, even books and movies employ different styles of writing that don't work within the other medium.

Of course they have different styles, but that's not what I said. We're talking purely about silent protagonists here, for which the same rules apply between both mediums, namely that a silent protagonist comes across as unnatural, because we as the audience would never be silent in their shoes. By extension the same applies to video games.

TheKasp:
I myself am a fan of silent protagonist because for me a voiced character is a lazy cop to force me to watch a bad movie. Because this is essentially single player gaming for me today. I watch extremly cheesy plots that equal 90s action flick in character depth.

That has less to do with voiced protagonists and more to do with video game writing being generally fairly terrible. A story is a story, no matter what medium you write it in. First you're going to need a good plot, proper pacing and logical in-world consistency. A silent protagonist just detracts from that. The Half-Life games are good despite having a silent protagonist, not because of it.

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