Kill The Silent Protagonist?

silentfreeman.jpg Over at Midway studio Surreal's "Surreal Game Design" developer weblog, Rick Luebbers, has found a blight infecting games, and he's not afraid to shout about it. What is it?

This evil, this disease, is the idea of a Silent Protagonist. Its symptoms are easy to diagnose: the protagonist never speaks and as seemingly important events fly by he/she says nothing... further, all the NPCs go to great lengths to talk around the player and advance the story almost in spite of him... It appears as a terrible, horrific, mark upon otherwise good or even great games. Half-Life 2 and Dragon Quest 8 are perfect high profile examples in people's recent memories.

Luebbers believes that "...the whole premise is counter-productive and totally immersion breaking" - but how about you good folks? Are you happy for the main character to shut up and "be you" while you play?

Kill The Silent Protagonist [Surreal Game Design]


    yeah, i like it. Quite frankly i go all ventriloquist and ham it up when i'm running around city 17 and the likes. Gordon Freeman really does sound like a middle aged Aussie... Queensland accent no less!. He's totally Strine.

    It seems like an interesting tool to suck the player in (because the player feels like they're the protagonist), but really I feel that its better to have a script. I personally find interactive dialogue (Mass Effect) or even just "watching a movie" (Any game with a set script) more engaging than Zelda/Half Life stare in silence thing.

    Yeah, that's one theory - "Being utterly silent is weird and spoils the illusion". Here's another one - Saying rubbish you'd never say in a stupid manner you'd never say it in is worse.

    Pretending one way is right and the other way is wrong is stupid - BOTH are fundamentally flawed. Some people find silence ruins the immersion, other people find having someone else's voice or adopting their beliefs/motives ruins it. This is just one of those issues in gaming where a magic solution is required, but magic solutions don't exist.

    Taking a crack at one half of a two-sided problem isn't particularly insightful or clever - We now just know which way one particular person prefers.

    I can't agree more, I hate the floating head that is Gordon Freeman, I really can't get into a character with no arms or legs and an inability to speak. Before you say he has hands, pick up a barrel or drive the car, the hands must belong to the last owner of the guns.

    Characters that speak to those around them get me much more into the story. Halo does it well, Mass Effect does it awesomely.

    For me, the perfect combination is Link. He doesn't actually speak, yet he still makes noises when he reacts to things (usually getting hurt). I guess the same goes for Mario, although he does actually say the odd word here and there but are mostly gibberish.
    I guess the type/setting of the game will depend on whether the protagonist speaks or not. I can't imagine Duke Nukem silently ridding the world or scum.

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