Video games have been around for decades, and they have come a long way since their inception. One of the significant changes in the industry is the way game developers have portrayed their protagonists. In the past, video game protagonists used to be silent, with no dialogue or voice acting whatsoever. However, in recent years, more and more video game characters have been given voices, and while there are some great video game voice actors, they have become more vocal than ever before. This has led some to ask whether it would be better if video game protagonists stayed silent.
Silence is golden
Some games simply lend themselves better to a silent protagonist. If asked, “What are you doing?” Your frequent reply is, “Playing slots on my phone.” You will have noticed casino game developers have started creating Indiana Jones-like characters that keep schtum. Slot characters such as John Hunter by Pragmatic Play and Cat Wilde by Play’n GO don’t speak because it would be a distraction from the action and the slot game mechanics simply don’t need dialogue. Similar to slots, in puzzle games, a silent protagonist can be more effective as the focus is on the gameplay and puzzle-solving mechanics rather than on character development or narrative.
In first-person shooters, a silent protagonist can allow players to feel more immersed in the game’s action. The player can project themselves onto the character and focus more on gameplay mechanics rather than the character’s personality or backstory. Also, in some role-playing games, the player’s character may be a blank slate that the player can customise and personalise as they see fit. A silent protagonist can again allow players to fully immerse themselves in the role-playing experience without the character’s personality or backstory interfering with their own.
Finally, in survival horror games, a silent protagonist can add to the atmosphere of fear and tension, as the player’s lack of knowledge about the character’s thoughts and feelings can make the player feel more vulnerable and isolated. Another advantage of video game protagonists going Silent Bob is that it can make the game feel more timeless. By not giving the protagonist a specific voice or personality, the game can appeal to a broader audience. A silent protagonist can be interpreted in different ways by different players, and the game can remain relevant for years to come.
While all the talk can create annoying video game protagonists, clearly, it’s not always beneficial having quiet time. For one, it can make the game’s story feel less engaging. A silent protagonist makes them harder to root for and players may find it hard to get invested in the game’s narrative. Additionally, a silent protagonist can make it difficult for other characters in the game to interact with them. Without dialogue or voice acting, the protagonist may feel disconnected from the game’s world and its inhabitants.
Furthermore, not giving the protagonist a voice can also limit the emotional impact of the game. Without a character who can express themselves through dialogue, the game may struggle to convey complex emotions effectively. This can be especially true for games that aim to tell a deep and emotional story.
There are pros and cons to both approaches, and it ultimately depends on the game’s specific needs and goals. A silent protagonist can help players to immerse themselves in the game’s world and make the game feel more timeless. However, it can also make the game’s story less engaging and limit its emotional impact. Ultimately, game developers need to carefully consider if the chatty protagonist creates a bond between player and character rather than something added as an afterthought that reminds players they’re playing a game.