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Should game protagonist’s speak?

February 22, 2007

How important is it that the main character speaks in a game? Look at Gears of War, Dead Rising, Resident Evil 4 and the main characters speak. Through speech we can see that characters thoughts about things, their emotions to a situation and exactly what they think. Now, take a look at Zelda, Okami, Oblivion and see that your character isn’t speaking (Oblivions choices don’t count as speech). Through this lack of speech, do you feel more in control of the character? Do you feel like your emotions are played through the character more successfully because the character doesn’t have a voice, and thus doesn’t have a say?

So, what am I babbling on about? Well, it’s quite simple, through a lack of character voice; do you as the player feel more in tune and thus in control of the main protagonist? This line of thinking has come to me after playing Okami and Twilight Princess. While Twilight Princess is a good example, Okami is far more prominent due to the amount of speech. While playing Okami you are accompanied by Issun, the wandering artist, who perches on Amaterasu’s head and when you meet key characters, Issun takes the primary role of negotiator, while Amaterasu (your character) stays mute. I felt that through this, I was able to form my own opinions of characters and events while Issun portrayed the designers intended reactions to the scene and through this I felt more in control of Amaterasu as its thoughts were more or less my own.

Am I saying that this should be how all games play? Surely not, Gears of War and Dead Rising set out to create film style experiences and as such, character development is a key component of their structure. But in RPG games at least, I feel that the main character should be silent to help the player sink easier into the role, just compare Final Fantasy X to Final Fantasy VII and you will understand what I mean.

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