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To Mute or not to Mute

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Silent protagonists like Gordon Freeman (Half Life) and Link (Zelda) are popular but they never say a word at all (Not counting grunts during battles). On the other hand, former silent protagonists like Soap (Modern Warfare 2), Issac (Dead Space 2) and Sonic himself were once mute and now have fully scripted roles. Even COD: Black Ops avoids this concept by making ALL of their player characters talk during gameplay. More importantly, someone on Youtube made a series called "Freeman's Mind" and Gordon was featured with a full script in the series. You can check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/show?p=bYPdeqBaYDg&tracker=show0

I'm just wondering, how popular is the silent protagonist concept is these days and what is your opinion about the concept? I'm writing my own story for a first person video game I am making up in my head just for fun but I am torn between if I should voice the character or not.

Thanks,
Eric

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I prefer a silent protagonist. I like to think I'm the one running the show, and having some loud-mouth whose voice doesn't match the preconception in my head babbling all the time spoils it for me.

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I rather like a voice acted protagonist but only if its done well. If the designer can make it fit into the game, have an excellent voice actor and have a well written script then personally it can add a lot to the game. That is a pretty big if though. :P

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I really like the silent protagonist thing. It goes a long way in making me feel like I really am a visitor to this strange world, and the person I'm controlling is my avatar. I agree with JTippets when he says it "spoils" it when they speak. Dragon Age and Oblivion are two of my favorite games, and they both exemplify this concept very well. You really feel like you're reacting to the world with your own voice (through the branching dialogue options). But I've enjoyed plenty of games that had voiced protagonists, so that can work too. It's just not my preference.

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I think a talking protagonist is a perfectly valid thing to do. Silent protagonist is a bit of a fad right now, however numerous classics renowned for their story like Chrono Trigger, Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII had talking protagonists and everything. I don't believe the concept of "immersion" works like that, partly because we are making games and a person can't conduct the act of playing without "seeing the frame", so to speak. You can, however, have someone's full attention and engagement with HUDs, talking persons or without persons at all.

Silent characters can be appropriate however and are not a new thing. Portal writer, for example, described Chell as silent because she's the "straight man" in a somewhat standard comedy routine; her lines are actually superfluous. In short, anything they could possibly add to Chell could also be deleted. If you can delete something, you ought to.

This is old, and you can see the same thing in Pepe le Pew in the 1950s. Penelope, like Chell, says nothing (or usually almost nothing), because her lines are just superfluous. (There is a "le phew" and "le pant" thrown in though.)

So in short:

1) It's a fashion, not a rule.
2) But always see if you can delete something.

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Yeah, the immersion concept is really cool. However, there are a couple things that really bothers me which is why I am asking. If you played Half Life Opposing Force's tutorial, thedrill sergeant talks tothe player asking for his name. A moment of silence occurs and he goes like "Corporal Shepard huh?" To me, its just, well, awkward.


Also, the last 3 levels of Modern Warfare 2 has you play as Soap but he dosen't talk unlike his levels where he is featured as an NPC. I mean, you think he would at least say something even after being a chatterbox for the majority of the game. Again, its just awkward.

Then again, they are just games so I guess "suspending all disbelief" is nescesary....

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[color="#1C2837"]they are just games so I guess "suspending all disbelief" is necessary[/quote]
[color="#1C2837"]
[color="#1C2837"]Suspension of disbelief is not the sole burden of the audience. You can easily break it as a content creator, as you described.

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I guess it just all comes down to what you're going for. Neither approach is superior to the other, and they each afford the creator an opportunity to capture something that the other wouldn't. I think a stricter narrative would lean more on the side of necessitating a voiced protagonist. I guess my main point would be that whatever you choose to do, make sure you have a reason. If you choose to voice the protagonist, ask yourself how this would enrich the game in ways that a silent protagonist simply couldn't. If you choose to keep the protagonist silent, are you missing opportunities to depict interesting interactions between interesting characters who react to one another in a life like way simply because you don't want the player character to say anything? That kind of thing...

My ideal game is more of a simulated universe that evolves according to player input, and a set of its own laws, rather than a dead set narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. I feel like this is where video games really gain their distinction as an artistic medium. For a game that always unfolds in the same way (narrative-wise), I feel like I'm really just watching a movie in which I play Tetris between acts. The interactive aspect (and this is admittedly harsh) is more-or-less superficial. Artistically speaking, these games don't accomplish anything that couldn't be accomplished through cinema or literature (well...cinema at least...the visual side of it accomplishes things that literature can't.) And this is why I tend to lean toward the silent protagonist. If the player character talks, and possesses its own personality, this essentially says that (narrative wise), the player's input is irrelevant, if the player's input is irrelevant...why is this a game, and not a movie? What's being accomplished here that couldn't be in a movie? The answer is usually going to be nothing. A lot of games simply consist of fun game play mechanics that sit next to a cool story. The two are completely separate and don't affect one another in the least. As I see it, the thing that games provide that other art forms don't is DYNAMIC story telling (unless you count choose your own adventure goosebumps books...but let's not go there...) I guess you could say that all games enhance the whole "vicarious" experience associated with story telling because it allows audience to actually fight the antagonist themselves and what not...so that could be a reason that something is a game and not a movie; but that "something" isn't one that is central to the artistic statement. You could take ANY story and add limited player interaction to it just to add to the whole vicarious experience. WHY are some points better made in video games? Call me a purist or something...I feel like I'm being one of those art snobs who says "if it's just fun, it sucks, it has to be profound and necessary and what not." Anyway, that's my romantic perspective on video games as art.

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