Editor's Note: Is silence always golden? Super Game Geek explains that while the silent protagonist archetype can be used to good effect, most of the time it's best that our heroes not plead the fifth.
When Crysis was announced as a downloadable title for Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, I was ecstatic. I never was able to run that beast of a game on any PC I owned. The minute it was released, the game was downloaded onto my hard drive, and I enjoyed every second of it. Once I completed the game, I wanted more. Knowing there was a sequel already released, I decided to pick Crysis 2 up and continue the nanosuit experience. It started out well enough, but one thing I noticed started to really bug me: Alcatraz is a silent protagonist.
Some may think nothing of this since it is a technique used in many games, but I actually find this really annoying. While I have come to terms with this in the Half-Life and Legend of Zelda series (because those two have shown their success utilizing silent protagonists; even though it is implied Link is speaking during conversations), I hate this mechanic when used in other video games such as Dead Space or Call of Duty.
Yes, I know that the reason for this is to "immerse yourself into the world" and "make you the character," but I don't feel that when I play. Plus, I don't play video games to be myself; I play to become a badass soldier or and spaceship engineer. Let's face it, I am not Soap, I am not Alcatraz, and I am not Isaac Clarke. I cannot throw a knife with pinpoint accuracy into someone's eye while injured, I cannot cloak myself to stealth kill enemy soldiers, and I cannot dismember necromorphs while floating in zero gravity (although all of these would be really cool). So, when I play video games, I enjoy the fact that I am controlling these characters and utilizing their abilities; not my own.
It also ticks me off when conversations occur in video games with silent protagonists. They are always one-sided and it is awkward (at least to me) when another character asks a direct question since they are always answered with silence. If I am supposed to be the character, I wouldn't stand there with my mouth closed while being spoken to. Being in the military, when someone orders me to do something, they want a response. If you do not give them one, be prepared to get chewed out. I also wouldn't be able to keep quiet when chaos is taking place. There are missiles dropping, aliens invading, and people dying. I understand keeping calm under pressure, but the occasional "Shit!" or "Look out!" would add some life to these characters.
There are times when silent protagonists don't even make sense, like the Modern Warfare and Crysis series. In Modern Warfare 2, Soap talks the entire game but the moment you take control of him, he zips his lips. In Modern Warfare 3 however, Price won't shut up when you take control of him. Why is this? Why? Why?! It makes no sense! I apologize for the outburst. That is simply a mystery I cannot seem to solve.
With Crysis, the first game had a protagonist who spoke, and it was a nice touch to hear his dialog when traversing the alien infested mountain. Why did the developers feel need to alter this in the sequel? Early on in the game, Gould mistakes Alcatraz for someone else because he is wearing Prophet's suit. Eventually, he discovers the truth and even pulls a gun on him. This could have all been resolved had Alcatraz stated, "I'm not Prophet." Some people say that the reason for this is because of the injuries Alcatraz suffered at the beginning of the game. While I can accept that, no character in the game states this is the reason behind his silence. I know I may seem like I'm asking for a lot; but it would have been a nice touch if any scientist or main character said, after analyzing the suit, "His larynx has been badly damaged resulting in a loss of speech." Then, I would have thought, "So that's why. Okay, I can deal with that."
However, not all games need a character speaking out loud (I know many characters whom I would love to have shut up , *ahem*Bulletstorm*ahem*), but he or she can still be given a voice. Take the Penumbra series or Amnesia: The Dark Descent, for example. The character speaks during the introduction yet, for most of the game, you can only see his thoughts from the subtitles at the bottom of the screen. Sure, there aren’t (m)any characters to interact with but the character is thinking. The subtitles allow the player to read his thoughts and discover what he is feeling, giving him a voice.
I simply feel a character with a voice is much more effective. Take into consideration Dead Space 2 and the Jak & Daxter series. The characters, once given a voice, evolved into people with emotions and desires, instead of mindless zombies taking orders without debate. Because of this, I develop a deeper connection to the character and their plight.
After some disappointing cutscenes in Crysis 2, I needed to share my reasons on why this mechanic doesn't work for me. I know you all have different opinions on this subject, and I'm fine with that; to each his or her own. That being stated, what's your take on silent protagonists? As always, thank you for reading!
Some silent protagonists can work, especially if handled in the form of Link. However, silent protagonists do not always have to be silent if done right, if done in the form of Isaac Clarke.
I would rather be Charil Sheen then you. At least he knows when he did wrong. Want to troll some more? That's all you're doing right now. I mean I thought you where done. I guess that since you think throwing insults at me makes you a better person. In some way that makes you better then Charil Sheen? I don't think so. Also if you're going to insult me at least try to be intelligent about that. I mean god. Your insults our just an insult to yourself. They hold no real meaning to me. But hey LOL. Thanks for saying that I have at least half the talent of Martin Sheen. At least its still more then you.
And I'm the one who's supposed to be 12? Good job, Charlie Sheen.
There we go thats what I wanted to see. You just admitted that you are a troll. I love how you think name calling and fit throwing makes you look like an adult. Only makes my day. I've been laughing at you since we started this whole thing. You just think you're special because you were never forced to grow up. I wrote a song about you.
Troll. your nothing but a Troll. All you do is Troll. And when you're caught, you try act like an adult. Saying adult words like bitch. (Even thought thats just really just childish.) But your're nothing but a Troll. So go back under your bridge. You self centered kid. I'm sorry that you mom never loved you enough, and that you get attention from someone else. I'm sorry you never grew up. But that's why you're a Troll.
Now insult me again and prove me right, Kid. I just love laughing at your dumb ass.
I actually love everything you're doing there. Keep it up, it's hilarious. I have not met someone on the internet as stupid and outright retarded as you in a long time. Comedy gold. So, thank you. Hope there are others enjoying this as much as I am.
You want a cup to for those tears of yours. Now who is angry for being called out on something. I don't care about my spelling errors. That happens. I'm not going to edit ever single one of them out. I only treat people the way they want to be treated. Since you want to throw a fit and call me names I'm going to treat you like you're 12. Don't like it? Well thats too bad because thats how you acted. You want I should call myself a hypocrite? Nah, I just like treating people the way they treat me.
You might want to fix your spelling errors before you go calling someone 12. Secant? Superpose? Seriously? Read a book. Also, when you criticize someone for attacking your character and then you attack their character, that is called hypocrisy and those guilty of it are called hypocrites.
I didn't want to continue a discussion with a 12 year old kid who doesn't want to accept evidence of character development either. When I mentioned the bridge, the death and when he went to save the princess you didn't accept it. I'm sorry that you can't accept that just because it's the player who does it. When the character is superpose to do it. I'm sorry you still think you won when all you did was attack my character and dismiss anything I said because I ripped apart the only argument I cared to read. (Only because you acted like a 12 year old brat after that one piece was ripped apart. And all your unintelligent babel after words didn't count because of that.) I'm also sorry that you think I'm acting like my opinion is the only one that matters. I respect the blog writers opinion. Because it was presented like someone with real intelligence and even gave a good reason for why he doesn't like the silent protagonist. All you did was throw a fit the secant I showed why your argument didn't hold any real wight. Now I know one day you will have to grow up and I look forward to it. But until then, don't you ever try talking to me. I'm only going to make you look like the 12 year old kid you act like.
If you did not see a single argument I have said, I can only conclude that you were were either too lazy to read anything after four sentences or you were too busy crying over someone on the internet who refuses to accept your Chrono Trigger street cred. I don't owe you an apology. If you don't want people to call you a bitch, don't act like a pretentious wank. Don't say you're special and then expect people to think that makes your opinion have extra weight. And if you want to have an argument, spend less time talking about yourself and make actual points. Address things the other person is saying, say WHY you would disagree. So far, all you've said is that I'm wrong because it's Chrono Trigger, it's your favorite game and also have been playing games a long time, all of which HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING. I don't care to continue this "discussion" because you add nothing to this Monty Python type argument, but it's pretty funny otherwise.
I didn't see any of those arguments. Now if you want me to continue you need to apologize. I gave you examples of character development and you didn't bother to accept them. Also I think you think too highly of yourself. I'm sorry if this hurts you but... YOU NEED TO ACT LIKE AN ADULT. I don't care about anything you say from now on because of you act of bulverism.
You lost when you gave up. And I have made several arguments against the silent protagonist. Every other character speaks, therefore it is awkward when only one of them doesn't. It does not serve a purpose and especially not the character. Immersion is not improved in this type of storytelling. Implementing the device into any other game (or any film) with a protagonist that normally speaks would not be an improvement and would even reduce the effectiveness of not just the character but the story and a lot of emotional impact that character had on other characters. These points and more and you have not addressed even one of them. In your long-winded rantings full of logical fallacies and bad grammar, all I've learned from you is that you like Chrono Trigger and have a very high opinion of yourself, despite your shortcomings or ignorance of them. I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.
Dude you lost when you called me a bitch. You have no argument yourself. Grow up and stop acting like you won when you lost. Fuck off I'm not waisting my time with an idiot like you.
Edit: Also I din't read past you calling me a bitch. I knew right there and then I was arguing with a 12 year old kid. My you've been playing games for 2.5 years but thats not 25 years. Also when you can learn to give your arguments without calling someone names then I'll treat you with respect. The simple fact of the matter is that you had to resort to name calling to try to get your argument to have any wight. What you don't know is that when you go to name calling your argument loses any wight it had. Thats why I gave up. It's because I realized I was arguing with a kid and not an adult.
Ha! Now that's how you lose an argument. You talk about yourself the entire time instead of the issue and then you give up. I'm not even going to try to figure out what a "pure excuse of an argument" is supposed to be and why I should feel it was ripped apart by you talking about yourself.
Okay asshole I'm tired of your bull shit. Don't get angry and cry like a baby just because I ripped your pure excuse of an argument apart. If you think you're wining something just because you're calling me names, your not. You are only showing that I'm smarter then YOU because you can't really defend your position. I'm not listening to what you have to say anymore because I don't care. You are nothing more they a wienie little bitch. Go fuck off. I'm tired of waisting my time with an idoit like you.
See, there you go again with being pretentious. You think someone on the internet is going to care that someone said you're good at describing a movie plot this one time when you were 3? You think I'm going to care that it's your favorite game and will magically accept that reason alone makes you the sole authority on all things Chrono Trigger? Bitch, I bought the lone copy at a Service Merchandise in 1995 (and still have it) and obliterated that game and played New Game + to get every ending and grinded multiple playthroughs for stat tabs until everyone had max stats, then I played it some more. Years later, I then played a hacked ROM that was retranslated from the original Japanese with more accuracy (the Gurus' original names are Vinegar, Mayonnaise and Soysauce for example). And do I expect you to give a shit? No. However great the amount of useless information about this game that I have absorbed, there is always going to be someone out there who knows a little bit more than me and you should expect that of yourself because you really shouldn't think you're hot shit just because it's your favorite game. Oh, you been playing video games since you were five? Wow, I'm impressed. But my father had an Atari implanted inside his scrotum and I've been playing video games since I was a sperm.
Your arguments do not work because they're solely based on your opinion and you do not present evidence. You do not present arguments, you say things like, "He ate the apple because he put it in his mouth and chewed." You aren't saying why he ate an apple, you're stating a fact and then stapling your opinion to it or vice versa: "The simple fact of the matter is Crono works in Chrono Trigger because he doesn't need to say anything." Crono doesn't say anything, this is true, but you give no reason as to WHY he works or doesn't work. A debate class would do wonders for you.
Challenge: Tell me five specific things (adjectives) about Crono's personality and only his personality without using generic hero terms that could encompass nearly all video game protagonists like "brave", "selfless", "heroic," "helpful" or, "cool". If you can't, he's not much more dimensional than the red and blue guys in Contra.
Oh man I can not agree more with this article. I hate silent protagonists with few exceptions. If its not a create a character game then it makes the character feel hallow, nor do I feel like the character if I am not making the choices or responding to others or customizing how my character looks.
If its not a character that's supposed to be me then they should have personality and dialogue, they don't need to talk all the time, its ok if their relatively silent especially if their alone, but under certain circumstances the character should say something unless they are literally unable to speak(like in drakengard).
Jak 2's(and 3's) story was made so much better then the first game by making him an actually character instead of what is basically a blank slate that can't be filled, sure he had some personality, but it was rarely seen(though in the first game their is one scene where he is about to speak but he is interrupted by Daxter).
my sole exception in where I actually was ok with a silent protagonist(still would have preferred him to talk) is Ryu from the Breath of Fire series specifically 3 and 4. for those who don't know each BoF game has a different set of characters and while their is always a Ryu and a Nina in the party, they are always different people. In 3 and 4 they give him a surprising amount of personality despite not talking, often seen in his reactions and stuff he does in the background. although its kinda of a special case with him, in both games he does talk, their are just no text boxes saying what he is saying. Despite this he rarely "talks" unless spoken to first. bit of a weird design choice, he talks but no text boxes then another character will usually repeat back what he said. for example someone will ask his name, he'll move his head or something, and the other character will say "oh your name is *insert whatever you name Ryu here*."
First of all, I didn't put any words in your mouth so I have no idea where that came from. All I said was if I where to use your argument on other things it doesn't work. Second. I don't see how Crono having dialog would make him a better character. Third don't get angry just because I'm explaining what something is just to prove my point. I will admit I might have gone too far with something I said, but I didn't mean to put you down. All I'm saying is that Crono does have character development and that he is a well defined character. I don't need words for him to be a better character. I just don't think that the whole argument that if someone were to speak it would make them a better character works. But hey what do I know? I've only been playing games since I was five and explaining the events in every movie I have seen more efficacy then most people since I was three. The simple fact of the matter is Crono works in Chrono Trigger because he doesn't need to say anything. I think he is a well developed character. Nothing else needs to be said about that. If you think he needs more lines then maybe you didn't pay enough attention to Crono to begin with. Also, this is my favorite game of all time. You're not going to convince me I am wrong about this because I know the game better then anything or anyone else.
Oh, hell no. Dial down the pretentiousness if you want to continue this discussion. Oh, REEEEEEALLY, Video Games with a captail VG are a Visual Media with a capital VM? I'm SO sorry, but I'm blind and played the text adventure version of Chrono Trigger.
First of all, stop putting words into my mouth and while you're at it, stop viewing the world in terms of stark black and white. I am not simply "used to" modern media. I was growing up when Chrono Trigger came out in stores and have been playing games for well over 25 years.
Crono is a character no matter what. What is up for debate here is whether or not he is a GOOD character and that is specifically determined by whether or not his lack of dialogue enhances or detracts from the STORY. This is not about silent characters, characters who are not seen speaking, characters who do things offscreen. This is about a main character who is made to not speak on a conscious level of the game developers and/or writers.
I do not believe Crono not having dialogue enhances the story. The story is really good but it is completely told through dialogue of the other characters. You just cannot tell a story that way and have it still be organic. Using a device like a silent protagonist needs to serve a PURPOSE. It needs to ENHANCE the story. Any sense of immersion is ruined by your other characters having dialogue.
Let's take a look at some Final Fantasy games, specifically Final Fantasy IV. Picture, if you will, Cecil as a silent protagonist. Now, imagine taking away all of his dialogue and redistributing it amongst other characters. While you can experience the same story, you assassinate Cecil's character if you sell his remorse over attacking Mysidia through the guilt of other characters. I don't even want to think about how it would work if he was literally ignoring Rosa afterwards.
Now, imagine Chrono Trigger where Crono has dialogue. "Hey, is this your pendant?" "That robot looks just like Robo! Only ... sassier?" "You shut up about Lucca's glasses, you little jerk. She needs them to see." "Everyone ... take care of each other." (just before the red knife incident)
What I am trying to say is that consciously making Crono a character who befriends and interacts with other characters but does not speak a line of dialogue in a game that tells its story through dialogue is both weird and detrimental to character development. You can imagine how you want your version of Crono to be, but the tradeoff is that he will never be as memorable as the developed characters. The entire Frog VS Magus arc is worthy of its own game, for example. And while Mario might not need to speak, it is only because the Mario games tell their stories with very little dialogue. And it is arguable, but I think Mario is a better character than Crono (but that's for some other time).
nice article i completely agree with you.
I think you're mistaking voice with a character speaking out loud. Like I stated in the article, a character doesn't need to speak out loud to develop character. Philips from the Penumbra series is a perfect example of this. His thoughts are laid out in subtitles as he traverses the horrific locales. But he hardly ever speaks out loud even when someone else speaks to him. However, I know what he is feeling, what his reactions are, what he thinks of others because I know his thoughts.
Also, silent movies have been done many times and given characters voices because they threw in subtitles to let the viewer know what is going on. The thing is, those silent films were a result of the technology back then. Now, silent films are few and far between (although there was a really well done one released not too long ago, can't remember the name) because technology has allowed filmmakers to do things that were infathomable back then.