HERMIT: Silent Protagonists Do My Head In

While it is commonly accepted that video game stories are abysmal, there is a recurring concept in video game storytelling that manages to grind my gears despite my already deplorably low expectations in that department. I swear, the next time I hear a developer excuse the fact that he forgot to come up with a personality for the protagonist of his game by claiming it’s somehow more immersive, I’m going to start throwing people out of a helicopter above the Bolivian highlands.

Because, really, what does a developer expect me to do? To make up my part of the dialogue when I’m playing the game? I’m all for role-playing, but immersion tends to only work when you forget you’re playing a video game. And being forced to indulge an imaginary conversation with a two-dimensional video game character doesn’t really help break that barrier. Apparently, the idea is that the main character is silent and void of all personality because, in reality, “you are the protagonist”. I find that rather difficult to buy into. I’m an anonymous loser with gynophobia and rampant back hair, so it is near impossible to uphold the notion that I am in fact that witty, handsome bloke with basic communication skills I see poncing about on my screen.

It gets even worse when NPCs occasionally comment on the fact that “you”, i.e. the protagonist, never speak. A notable example is the de facto PC exclusive Half-Life 2, in which Alyx Vance makes several comments regarding Gordon Freeman’s eerie, serial killer vibe-evoking silence. So, how does this work? I am the protagonist, but for the game to make sense, I am forced to role-play as a messianic scientist with severe Asperger’s?It’s time that game developers got off their vegetative asses and made an effort to provide their games’ protagonists – normally the most important characters in any work of fiction – with a little more personality. Or at least come up with more creative ways of justifying their embarrassing aphasia than ‘lol u haev 2 make it up urself’.Just as an example, I envision a protagonist with a severe lack of charisma, and a phobia of speaking in public because he is genuinely afraid that he won’t be able to finish a sentence without dropping an s-bomb in his loins. His evident motorial handicap, thick foreign accent and complete inability to empathise with other individuals further impede his ability to converse on an elemental level. This communicative impotence limits him to the point where his only tangible contact with the outside world manifests itself in the form of nonsensical rants on a random blog.

Now there’s a protagonist I’d empathise with.

About the author: The Hermit is a dedicated PC zealot who combines unreasonable elitism with a complete absence of self-esteem. Unable to leave the house on the account of his gargantuan posture, he is forced to spend most of his days behind his trusted computer, preaching the gospel of PC gaming to Lems, Cows, and other casual gamers.