What is your stance on the "Mute" protagonist phenomenon.

#1 Posted by mordukai (7830 posts) -

I was just playing through Dead Space and the same thought that came into my head. It's the though I have whenever I play Half Life 2, Bioshock or System Shock 2. That thought is: "Doesn't any of the other characters in the game think its odd that the main guy never says a single word?". I know that having a silent main character allows you to project a piece of your personality  onto the character but for fuck sakes say something now and again. They go through all that shit and still manage to not have any opinions on their situation, which generally is not good. 

Although on the other side there are main characters that I think should have been 'Mute" as in the case of Kane and Lynch and others I can't really think of right now. 

- Can you imagine going through all the shit they go through without saying a single word?

- I wonder what Gordon Freeman says when he spills his morning coffee all over his trousers?  

What are your thought on this matter?

#2 Posted by Deusoma (3193 posts) -

The only time I ever thought a silent protagonist worked was in Doom, when there wasn't really much of a story to go on, and was all about mindless demon slaying.

Every single time I've run into one since then, and I mean every time, whether it's in an RPG, shooter, or whatever, it's always rubbed me the wrong way. Don't get me wrong, Half-Life 2 is an awesome game, but it would have been better if Gordon Freeman was a human being and not a turret with arms.

I thought that Halo had a pretty good set up going where the Master Chief speaks his mind in cutscenes, giving him a personality, but remains silent in actual gameplay, allowing the player to step into his shoes.

#3 Posted by Ginger_Avenger (204 posts) -

I think in a lot of cases it works (Half-life 2, Bioshock) But I thought it felt a bit off in a game like Dead Space. It has to be done really well for it to be acceptable.

I also think that it works better in a first person game as that has you inhibiting the character while in a third person game the character is just a mute.

#4 Posted by DanielJW (4929 posts) -

I first noticed this in Ocarina of Time. It actually kind of bothered me then, seeing as I was young and was expecting the game to personally address me and allow me to talk through the TV to them.

I'm ok with it now, I only yell at the TV when I'm watching Video on Trial.
#5 Edited by Mithlas (54 posts) -
@Deusoma said:
Don't get me wrong, Half-Life 2 is an awesome game, but it would have been better if Gordon Freeman was a human being and not a turret with arms. I thought that Halo had a pretty good set up going where the Master Chief speaks his mind in cutscenes, giving him a personality, but remains silent in actual gameplay, allowing the player to step into his shoes. "
Pretty much said what I was about to. I may love the gameplay of the Legend of Zelda, but after the nth time where somebody walks up to Link and says "What happened? ... Oh, so moblins came from the forest and disappeared north?" or something to that extent. It's inexcusable laziness in cases like that where information needs to be expressed. The argument about storage space is only valid for games back around Zelda 1, and I personally find the "the player can project his/her personality on the character" argument to be fundamentally flawed. I like playing Link, but I'll champion Ratchet (Ratchet & Clank) any day because Ratchet talks. When somebody speaks to him, he speaks back. Even better, he has an attitude and while a lot of the time he lets his actions be his expression, he doesn't mind letting loose a sarcastic wisecrack.

While some times that you mentioned (Halo, I suppose, though I watched somebody else play that) was well done how the character had enough personality so I could say 'okay, there's good reason and motivation to be doing this, they just said so in the last cutscene, and while he's not saying "Holy crap I'm being ambushed by zombies!" like I am I can understand the lack of talking there'. As for Half Life, I always felt like there was this vacuous dead space where Gordon Freeman should have talked, even if a writer may have been able to get away with not having an exchange.

A lot of this depends on the character you're playing through. If the character has a pretty shallow personality, as is often the case for FPS, then it's pretty easy to let the player be the personality and ignore that entirely. However, trying to have a deeper character (such as virtually any RPG like Haseo from .Hack) would have been disastrous at best. The fact that he'd speak and not just say things making me cheer for him but also have me shouting "you moron, don't say/do that!" is part of what makes them non-flat characters that I can rally behind. I'll cheer for Haseo for years. I'm not going to be cheering for Battlefield 1942's Sergeant #4237.
#6 Posted by WilliamRLBaker (4941 posts) -

I hate all silent protagonists there is no reason for it...these people should have a voice simple as that.

#7 Posted by AgentofChaos (1575 posts) -

GTA III was really the game where that got to me, like people are asking him to do some dark ass shit, and he says nothing?!?!?

#8 Edited by Demo (272 posts) -

I like it, specially how Link is portrayed with just actions, rather than words.
Characters like Marcus Fenix (and his mates), Ratchet, Jak or Sonic should be muted aswell.

If you see silent films, many times most of the personality is said through motion and expression, though expression is rather difficult in Isaac's case :\.

#9 Posted by c1337us (5877 posts) -

Its never bothered me to be honest.

#10 Posted by CoverlessTech (763 posts) -

I don't really like it. I mean what kind of ass is Freeman? When Alyx Vance talks you damn well better respond you ass hole.

"Hi my name is Alyx"
"Talk much?"
"Ass hole"

#11 Edited by Radar (917 posts) -

Never really gave mute protagonists much though honestly. I guess it doesn't bother me at all.

#12 Posted by gingertastic_10 (4314 posts) -

It allows the company to cut back on the voice acting budget ;) Haha no, I don't know, it never really bothered me. The only thing I hate is when other characters act like you talked to them. Like in I think it was Zelda, OoT I walked up to someone and they said something like, "Oh you you asked me for the bottle". What? No I never asked you for a damn thing, my guy never said a word.

#13 Edited by L33tfella_H (925 posts) -

Leaves me Speechless.

#14 Posted by oldschool (7641 posts) -

One day maybe the AI will be so good, that you are the voice of the main character and using key words will trigger different responses from the other characters in the game - that would be cool.

#15 Posted by PenguinDust (12838 posts) -

I just mention this over on the Nameless character thread.  Any, yeah I hate it.  I'd rather have a voiced response to anything I choose than nothing.  Even if the character then has some sort of funky accent, that is still preferable over silence.  When I played a bunch of JRPGs this year, hearing nothing from the character all the time got to be downright annoying.  Mass Effect does it right by inserting responses that you've chosen into the conversation.  It feels like you are part of the exchange rather than just an observer.  I haven't played many current generation JRPGs so I don't know how they handle it, but I think there is no reason any more not to include voice replies into the dialog trees of RPGs.

#16 Edited by themangalist (1853 posts) -

What's the problem with bioshock and dead space? I mean, they're survivor horror games. The characters don't need the personality, simply there's no one to interact with. If anyone were to give these characters personality, then you would definitely drop those games.

Because they'll be chickens, mumble prayers in their mouths, and scream at every splicer you see on the way.

#17 Posted by EvilTwin (3312 posts) -

I think the only time I've actively thought about whether or not it worked for me was Half-Life 2.  Though, I'd be interested in the character Gordon Freeman, I think letting him remain silent really works in that game.  Otherwise I'm pretty ambivalent about it.  I recognize that it would be pretty jarring for some characters to suddenly have a voice in certain franchises, but for the most part I feel like I'd prefer active protagonists. 

#18 Posted by atomic_dumpling (2513 posts) -
Besides, the dude in Bioshock talks in the intro.
#19 Posted by Jambones (1726 posts) -

I generally don't mind mute main characters, but  I think games in the third person perspective benefit from a vocal main character. It stands out like a sore thumb with games like Dead Space;   You are able to see the character physically emote, but that character having no dialogue takes me out of the game world. First person perspective games lend themselves to that projection of the players personality you mentioned, and as such I seem to be able to over look it a little more.

#20 Posted by Titl (541 posts) -

i think it is really annoying, because you cant connect with the character, or really put yourself in his/her shoes, because i almost every time seems really awkward...and i think that the only reason why it works in games like Half-Life 2 and bioshock, is because there are no cinematics, you never leave that persons POV...except when it's g-man time...

#21 Posted by HandsomeDead (11854 posts) -

It works in some cases like in Half-Life 2 and GTA III for example where they work it into the story but in something like Dead Space, it completely fails.

#22 Posted by mordukai (7830 posts) -
@HandsomeDead: Hey man. What's up with the new Avatar picture?
#23 Posted by HandsomeDead (11854 posts) -
@Mordukai said:
" @HandsomeDead: Hey man. What's up with the new Avatar picture? "
I watched Confessions of a Dangreous Mind the other night, realised how much I like Sam Rockwell and that's a pretty cool picture so I thought it was time for a change. What do you think? Better or worse than Zac Efron's head?
#24 Posted by super_machine (1972 posts) -

I think its old hat. Times change, taste change.

#25 Posted by Diablos1125 (188 posts) -

I think the real question is would you really want them to talk? I wouldn't want Mario actually having to talk to Bowser about why he should give the princess back, or even giving Link some kind of personality to "connect" with the audience? I think it would fail, because you immediately have to make them relevant to the times and you have the akward scenes between two fantasy characters spewing dialogue that doesnt need to be there. Then all of a sudden you feel like you're watching a dumb kid's show. For the case of HL2 and Dead Space, I think they try to create this world around you as a character. There are already games out there that feature characters who think and act on their own will so its nice to feel like you are the person going on that adventure for a change. I think it really works when the player doesn't realize he is actually playing the role of a mute character and the winning examples are all these titles. If you stop to think about the game mechanics, then you are no longer engaged in the experience and pretending to be a part of the virtual world. I commend developers for creating games that invite the player to participate instead of making them watch a movie through gameplay.

#26 Posted by Vinchenzo (6466 posts) -

I love a silent protagonist. Oh and Half-Life is amazing.

#27 Posted by papercut (3812 posts) -

I think it depends. in some cases like FEAR or the early GTAs, i think it was a good way of having players really like they're in the game. Instead of this character needs to go jack this car or shoot this guy it was "I" need to. But then there are cases like Gorden Freeman where he IS the character. I have no idea how he got so popular because you never see him in the game. I think It's really cool that that character is such an icon where someone like Doomguy is really just a name on a silent character. Gordon IS the character.

most of the time i think that the silent protagonist is just a asthetic choice made by the developers. If they want to draw you in thats a good way sometimes. Other times it just falls on it's face.

#28 Edited by trophyhunter (6039 posts) -

the mute protagonist is just the developer being lazy.
it makes the main character seem like a sheep that will do whatever someone tells him to do without any thoughts on the matter.
the mute protagonist instantly turns any main character into a mindless robot.

#29 Posted by Disgaeamad (1404 posts) -

Despite not having played too many games with a silent protagonist, there are times when I think that it's better off having them silent, as it's difficult to associate them with any sort of personality.

#30 Posted by sketch (196 posts) -

I think it works fine where you don't have NPCs explicitly aking you questions and somehow, magically receiving an answer from you that they then reiterate.

I always thought it worked well in Half Life, and at this point any voice given to Freeman would be seen by fans as "the wrong fit", so he may as well continue being silent

#31 Posted by Creamypies (4165 posts) -

I freakin hate it when the main character doesn't talk. It doesn't make any sense half of the time. The Half-Life games were awesome, but the story felt really flat because of Gordon Freeman never saying anything. I mean I understand a character not talking much CAN be a good thing, but when it comes to them being directly addressed by another character and they make no reply, it totally baffles me.

As for the person above who thinks Marcus Fenix should've been muted... what the heck are you thinking?! For a game that has practically no good story going, it needs those voiceovers to keep me playing.

#32 Posted by roofy (1021 posts) -

pretty late to be calling this a phenomenon since you bring up system shock 2

#33 Posted by Cerza (1678 posts) -

I have no problem with the silent protagonist so long as the other characters and things in the game are interesting enough.

#34 Posted by agentboolen (1935 posts) -

Sometimes its o.k. and sometimes it bothers the HELL out of me.  You ever play Mario Sunshine???  Mario doesn't say a freaking word!!!  When a character already has a set personality it just comes off lazy.

#35 Posted by Mithlas (54 posts) -

Seems most of us have a consensus. Like Sketch and others besides myself said, it's a stylistic choice that can work, unless there is interaction with NPCs.

As I mentioned above: where somebody walks up to Link and says "What happened? ... Oh, so moblins came..." Sorry, that doesn't work. I can appreciate the idea of him remaining silent most of the time, but when information needs to be spread I get this vaguely insulting-to-my-intelligence feeling like my character is Lassie telepathically transmitting the information and I, the player, am the only one left out of the loop.

#36 Posted by Lunarbunny (1055 posts) -
#37 Posted by Cloneslayer (1759 posts) -
#38 Posted by natetodamax (19421 posts) -

I'm on the fence about it. In some games, I'm fine with it. I didn't mind Jack not saying anything in Bioshock because it seemed to fit the game better. You were left wondering what was going on, and you could come up with guesses in your mind and you weren't entitled to whatever your character said.

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