Voiced -Vs- Silent Protagonist


Ahhh the age old debate between the Voiced and Silent Protagonist. I’ve had many of these debates over the years and I think it boils down to this – people who prefer voiced protagonists like to play characters and people who prefer silent protagonists like soulless vessels to project themselves or a version of themselves on to.

If you can’t already tell, I’m in the Voiced Protagonist camp and since I tend to have these same debates/arguments/knife fights over the this I thought I’d use my blog to post my opinions on the matter. This means that next time I get into this topic with someone I can lazily link them to this site to both put my point across and increase my traffic. [insert evil laugh here]

Let’s kick off with my first reason why I prefer voiced protagonists; I prefer to Play Characters. Now don’t get me wrong, I prefer to play characters like Commander Shepard and  Hawke; over GTA protagonists because I get to control aspects of their character like gender and appearance but I do prefer to play a character. I can relate to characters, I can see their struggles as my own and I care about a well written character’s story. Whereas; a silent protagonist is simply a puppet to my whims and while I might care about their friends and companions, I don’t really care about them.

The theory goes that silent protagonists allow a player to project themselves on to them as they were a blank slate but I can never do that in a video game. I’m all too aware that I’m not the Warden or Link, I’m a person sitting on my couch playing a game.

Video game RPGs always have some limitation that jerks me out of the experience so I can never properly immerse myself in the experience; with a pen and paper RPG I control all aspects of my character so it is easy from me to immerse myself because my character can say any bit of dialogue I can think of  because they are my character.

In contrast  to this, the Warden, Link, the Vault Dweller etc. all have pre-set dialogue choices so why not just go the whole hog and have them voiced at least that would mean that we wouldn’t get those silly sex doll faces whenever a silent protagonist tries to emote something.

And that brings me to point number two – Emotional Displays. When a voiced protagonist is upset (and has a good voice actor) their tone of voice change to match that emotion and their face express that emotion. When a silent protagonist is upset, I select a response options and they pull a weird looking face that looks out of place because there is no voice to accompany it.

When Leandra died in DA2, I could see that Hawke was upset by her death, I felt empathy for her situation and all of a sudden I too was upset that Leandra had died. In stark contrast to this, when my Human Nobles parents died in DA:O, I didn’t feel that my Warden cared and frankly neither did I. She pulled a weird sex doll concerned face when she saw her father lying injured and I selected the most caring dialogue option but really who was I kidding?

My puppet didn’t care and neither did I.

Lastly there is the issue of “A Mute in a Voiced World” in older games I never minded (and still don’t when I play them) that my protagonist was mute because everyone else was too; but these days in most games from RPG Fantasy Epics like Skyrim to FPS Killfests like Call of Duty, everyone but you has a voice.

In Skyrim, I’m a Dragonborn with a voice that will shatter bones yet can I ask someone a question? Nope! Everyone else around me is yammering on about their day, that arrow they took in the knee that one time or that their swore to carry my burdens and I the mighty Dragonborn stand there mute.

In Fallout 3, the Vault Dweller rights wrongs or takes slaves or both and people sing her praises or damn her and she must stand there in silence. It’s even more annoying when it comes time for the RPG epic speech, you’ve done all the work, you’ve gathered the resources to save the world and some jumped up King/Queen/Jarl/Whoever gets to make a speech to the tropes taking credit for your work when they’ve done basically nothing to help.

At least Commander Shepard gets to make her own speech.

Are voiced protagonists perfect? No, they need to have a decent voice actor as a super dodgy voice actor like this could ruin the whole thing. But they add something to a game and not just RPGs, Rainbow 6 Las Vegas 2 is one of my favourite 3rd person tactical shooters because not only can you choice the race, gender and appearance of Bishop but s/he has a voice. Those two simple things turn Bishop from a generic 3rd Person Shooter protagonist into a character that you can care about.

Anyway those are my main reasons for preferring a voiced protagonist over a silent one. What do you think? Do you agree, disagree? Let me know by commenting but of course if you prefer you could always remain silent……get it silent…..cos of a silent protagonist….I crack myself up [insert laughter here] [pull sex doll face]

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Posted in Opinion By Rachel

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