The Role of the Silent Protagonists in Gaming

The silent protagonist has been a staple of gaming for time immemorial. The basic definition of this is a hero who doesn’t speak. Some popular examples of this troupe are Link from “The Legend of Zelda,” Gordon Freeman from “Half Life” and Artyom from the “Metro.”

If you look back to the late ‘80s and early ‘90s many, if not all, of our protagonists were silent. This had less to do with storytelling decisions and more with limitations of the hardware. Video game cartridges didn’t have the space to hold hours of dialogue and thus our heroes remained silent. While there were some workarounds with written scripts, it would be many years until we heard more than the odd grunt or yelp from our heroes. Then came disc-based media and with it the space to finally give voice to the silent protagonist.

The silent protagonist has had its time in the video game sun, and it is an important reminder of how far games have come. But it should be only that, a reminder, and not a crutch to excuse poor writing in storytelling.

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