Alright, let’s start by talking about what it can mean to be a silent protagonist. Now just cause a protagonist is silent doesn’t mean they cannot express themselves openly. After all they say that actions speak louder than words. I think people say that anyway. One of the easiest way they do that is to have the face express emotion. Not necessarily a ranged amount of emotion. Usually there are the trifecta of happy face, sad face, and angry face. That is as good as it gets, but at least it’s something. They are just trying to make them seem less like a total stand-in, but that doesn’t actually make a difference because that is usually exactly what they are supposed to be. These characters are usually so bland because they are either user generated characters or characters that are meant to react to their surroundings. After all, if the character you are playing as is already completely defined, then there is no reason to go on a journey of self-discovery. The ability to not act but react is granted to the player as a way to help them accommodate to a new world. Typically even when a protagonist isn’t silent most of the dialogue takes place in story segments and cutscenes. So the question is what is the main benefit to not giving the protagonist a voice. I mean, besides saving money on voice acting. Clearly there is more to it than that.
The thing about having a silent protagonist is that they don’t have much in the way of personality or growth. There is not much you can do with a personality that needs to be filled in later. So instead there are two approaches that are best to take with a character severely lacking in any. The first is to make everything around vibrant enough to contrast the dull lifelessness that is the main character. That means that the story is gripping you along and you can interact with many different characters to unlock their stories. Sometimes it is more rewarding to find growth in those other than the main character so have interesting types of people on your journey can help to guide you along. It is also beneficial if the world itself is just genuinely fun to explore. It doesn’t matter if the protagonist’s face doesn’t reflect the excitement on your face because typically they are just trying to survive. You are the one putting them in harm’s way if you think about it, but it doesn’t matter because you found something that is new and exciting. I can sort of see why my character may not be enthusiastic when I decide to rush into a high level area for fun. That feeling of having fun though is what keeps us going forward and if we aren’t spurred on by the desire to see something new, then what are we even doing here? I don’t know about you, but I enjoy videogames because I can explore worlds and ideas outside of my own. If having a blank slate is the price I pay to get me to focus on other good story and gameplay elements, then that is fine with me.
The second thing you can do with a character with no personality is quite simple actually. All you need to do is give him/her/them your own character. It isn’t like anyone is going to stop you. In fact most games will encourage you to do so. They allow for customization options in terms of clothing, body size, weapons, and hair color to name a few. There is a lot of freedom especially in sandbox games to give yourself your own story. It allows you to get creative with how you want to be perceived if you were someone entirely different. Isn’t it great to imagine you are someone else entirely and living out a whole new life? What? You’re happy with the way things are now? Yeah… me too. I was just testing you. Anyways, you know what games can also benefit from this aspect? Moral choice games. Why? Of course it is because the game is based around your character’s decisions so as you go along with the story you get to fill in the blanks and determine how you want them to be seen. Undertale is probably the easiest example to use in regards to having a silent protagonist who can make impactful choices without having to literally make an impact should they choose not to do so. That is the great thing offered here. You get to choose. you are in control here. You don’t always get to have things in control. Things don’t always work out the way you want them to, but that’s okay. It’s a videogame and you can choose how you want to be seen. You are totally in control of your own life. At the end of the day, since your character doesn’t have a voice, then it is up to you to give them one. Everyone deserves to be heard after all. I realize I started getting a little meta there, but can you blame me after bringing up Undertale? Anyway, have a good night everybody. See you next week. And thanks for reading!