First Person Monologue Shooter

One of the weirder notions that's become lodged in the oesophagus of game design is that a silent protagonist is somehow easier to identify with. Never speaking a word in any situation is actually a pretty unusual trait (whether it has its root in disability or otherwise), and when a game puts me in the shoes of the only person in the room who isn't speaking, even when everything also seems to revolve around me, it produces an eerie kind of disconnect. (The idea's also kind of belied by the fact that developers still so often identify their leads as white males.)

Watching Freeman's Mind, I'm reminded of Amy Hennig's pithy criticism of Half Life-style first person games: that they "leave the player enough control to make the game look bad." Which is not to say that this series doesn't seem to have been made with a great deal of love for the source material (no pun intended).

The premise of these videos is that Gordon Freeman is not only given a voice, but that he absolutely refuses to shut up, whether he's thinking about something completely irrelevant, noticing the bizarre inconsistencies in the world he inhabits, or trying to hold a conversation with other characters. Freeman's Mind is really well done, not just in the weird, in-universe, in-character commentary that it offers, but also in seeing the game played in a fashion that truly is reminiscent of how you might expect a real person to behave (albeit a person who's a bit of a jerk-face).


Zhoen said...

I've always loved Harpo Marx, for instance.

gnome said...

Great video and I definitely agree that something like that would have made Half Life actually worth playing. So, I mostly agree with your point, though admittedly at times like the neutrality of a non-talking character.

Pacian said...

@Z: Exactly. The weirdest, most characterful Marx brother is the one who never speaks.

@G: I like Half Life. And I think silent protagonists can work well. But I also think that silence is a character trait, rather than some sort of anti-trait that tricks me into thinking a fictional character is me.