Kill the Silent Protagonist

Kotaku's Simon Carless - Nov. 21 2007:

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 gamers like you? Are you happy for the main character to shut up and 'be you' while you play?

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Noodlecup3916d ago

Silent protagonist >>> masterchief & lame 80s style one-liner dropping meatheads like marcus fenix

okcomputer3916d ago

Halo did have some cheesy dialogue, but it had one of the best lines ever when cortana asks chief in h3 how he's planning on escaping and chief says "I thought I'd shoot my way out, you know, change it up a little bit"

The BS Police3916d ago

But the Master Chief doesn't even talk much.

ravinash3916d ago

Have you noticed how when you select what to say, the character then says something different...and then you sit there saying to your self.."Hay, I didn't tell you to say that".
Also, if you go through and play the first part of the game again and select different options...they infect say the exact same thing. This kind of thing kills the whole submersion thing for me, because I don't have any real control over the conversation at all.

CNIVEK3916d ago

1.) In M.E., you aren't really choosing "what to say", but rather "how to say it". If you haven't figured that out, and how to get a the desired response, you should probably just stop playing.

2.) What exactly would you expect to be able to do, anyway? Talk into your headset, and have the game lipsync your response, and also have the NPC respond to whatever you said....ALL IN REALTIME??

Mass Effect is actually the BEST example of how lame a silent protagonist is, by comparison. Sure, for a standard FPS, the silent approach is usually acceptable. But, I will NEVER AGAIN accept less than what M.E. offers, from an RPG ; BioWare, once again, has set a new standard.

coolfool3916d ago (Edited 3916d ago )

I agree with the guys overall point about silent protagonists. If the person was that important in the story then they would have a lot to say about the events happening around them. So when the character doesn't say a thing the realistic immersion breaks. His Hollywood example was rubbish though. The silent protagonist doesn't work in hollywood because you never assume control of the person you would be playing so the immersion is broken there and then.

But in reality I like the silent protagonist. The feeling that the other characters are talking to you does increase the immersion in the game. However some games do it better than others.

I actually think that Half Life is a bad example of the silent protagonist. The reason for this is that they show you what the protagonist looks like and tells you who he is so in effect you *know* this person is not you which for me completely breaks the belief that I am actually in the game.

A far superior example of the silent hero is the Myst series. In Myst, you aren't shown what the character looks like, you aren't given a name or details of the person you are playing so your imagination is left to fill in the blanks which it will naturally do by putting you in the role of the hero. I think the silent protagonist can work really well if it is done like this.

okcomputer3916d ago

True, it depends on the game. For some it fits and for others its a drawback. The original GTAIII was a great example with all the crazy, hillarious stuff going on and the protagonist just kind of shrugging it off with gestures and not saying anything. Ico was another good one. Although technically not silent, he didn't speak any english and with the art design it made the game more abstract and up to the player to interpret a lot of what was going through his head.

Rooted_Dust3916d ago

I like how he rails against the silent protagonist yet he chooses a game like Half Life 2 that totally obliterates his thesis. Choosing a game that has won somewhere around 35 game of the year awards and has sold millions of copies to try and prove that no one likes a silent protagonist proves that he is clueless and has no grasp on game design or what players want. Also to counter his point FPS's with silent protagonists that never take you out of the player's perspective are the most immersive games and gives you the feeling that you aren't just playing as a character, but you are that character. It only takes one generic line like "Come get some" to totally shatter that experience.

Mr_Kuwabara3916d ago

Never bothered me by playing Half Life nor Dragon Quest games.