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What I think about the silent protagonist trope

The silent protagonist is a recurring trope in video games, which I tend to dislike.

I'm a JRPG fan, and the story in those games is usually almost completely linear, with very few choices and customization options. Dialogue is prevalent as a method of storytelling in those games, therefore there's no place for non-player-created silent MCs there. Crono, the heroes from Dragon Quest, Yu Narukami, all feel completely devoid of personality and characterization.

For a silent protagonist to work there has to be one of those conditions:

A) The character is player-created and stars in a game where choices are relevant.

Only in that case can the MC really feel like the player inserted into the world, where options of customization are large and sometimes actually meaningful. This happens in WRPGs like Skyrim and Fallout.

or B) The game tells its story through actions, visuals or lore instead of direct dialogue.

This works in games that mostly uses isolating atmosphere, ambient storytelling and lore instead of relying on direct dialogue. Think Metroid, Dark Soul, Stanley Parable, Half-Life 1 (NOT THE 2) and Bioshock 1 and 2, and maybe BOTW (in that case the protagonist himself is involved in said lore, so at least in the flashbacks, it would have been better if he talked, though he doesn't have to speak outside of them). In those cases, the story is implicit in the setting, or mostly happens indirectly, and the player is just "discovering" it, and isn't supposed to be an active agent.

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or C) the character is literally mute or somehow doesn't talk in-universe (Caim from Drakengard)

or D) if the entire rest of the playable cast is player-created or supposed to feel like "objects" instead of characters, think Pokémon, Chrono Cross, Dragon Quest 9 or dungeon crawlers where you create the entire party.

If those conditions aren't met, the presence of a silent protagonist actively hurts the plot

The worst use of a silent protagonist, at least to me, is either Joker from Persona 5 or Ludger will Kresnik from Tales of Xillia 2, or all the characters who had talked in the past but became silent due to being the MC (Maya from Persona 2, Felix from Golden Sun Lost Age, all chapters' protagonists from Mother 3 and maybe Emily Kaldwin from Dishonored 2, which I haven't played so I don't know if she becomes silent when you play as her).

The reason why I hate Joker and Ludger is because you have a character with a fixed appearance, that has facial expressions and gestures that express a specific personality and dialogue options that only have subtle variations between each other if at all, what you choose does not influence the plot at all, being neither a full-on character nor a full-on self insert (and failing at both) in a roster of otherwise well-characterized party members.

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Source: reddit.com

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