Rebekah Valentine (Twitter)
Many of my favorite games have featured a silent protagonist. Ness, Crono, Isaac, Link, the player in every Pokemon game, Ryu, the Hero in Fable…I could go on. But with the exception of franchise staples such as Legend of Zelda and Pokemon, new games with silent protagonists are dwindling. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as they’re being replaced by well-written main characters, or characters that have variable dialogue depending on the player’s choices.
But there’s something about a silent protagonist that I just love. Crono never spoke. Instead, we learned about him through what others said of him. Silent protagonists make a player feel as though they are in the shoes of that character, but instead of making the character’s choices, the player is told what sort of person he or she is by others, and by the game. When I was Crono, I was brave and kind. I was willing to sacrifice anything for my friends and was in love with Marle and had a thing for cats.
Silent protagonists allow the player to step into the hero’s shoes in a different way from other types of heroes. Though their numbers are waning, I hope silent protagonists don’t disappear completely. They’re a trope almost fully unique to video games and a staple of my favorites. Besides, with technology and story-telling in games constantly evolving, the silent protagonist could be used in innovative ways to create unique stories. Come on, developers! Save the silent protagonist.
Daniel George (Twitter)
Side-scrolling beat ’em ups were such a prevalent form of action games a few decades back. During the 1980’s and 90’s, it was a means of getting around hardware limitations; have a small amount of color-swapped enemies jump into screen at key times, then face a “big bad”-type boss at the end, with the possibility of more grunts thrown in to make it interesting or difficult. There was no better way to get your friends involved than to throw down an extra controller and team up against waves of foes, one after another.
Now that we have consoles with 8 gigabytes of GDDR5 RAM, let alone the 2 MB of RAM that the original PlayStation had, developers have pursued bigger and more open worlds for players to explore, finding enjoyment more in discovery and narrative. While I genuinely treasure these kinds of experiences, and am glad to see how gaming has evolved in such a short amount of time (comparatively to other forms of art), it was great to just be thrown into a confined space with minimal story background and fight around the limited scope of field available. Gameplay at its purest.
There have been some games recently released that aim for this sensibility, and nail it right on the head. Dragon’s Crown built a beautiful world like this from the ground up, while Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara and Double Dragon do an amicable job of bringing classic games back to a newer generation of players. With a slight shift towards independent development and “AA” game studios, I can’t begin to imagine what a great RPG developer could do to expand this realm in 2015 and beyond.