Souring games, part 2

So a month ago I talked about what made me leave a game, what made me stop playing a game outright. Today I’m going to visit something close to that. What can spoil a game for me. Not to the point of stopping playing, but things that make me say. “It was good, but…”

Now any games can have glitches or bugs that sour the experience one way or another. Maybe the difficulty curve was too high. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about deliberate design choices made in the conception of the game that automatically step back and ask: Why?

The biggest for me, without a doubt. Silent Protagonists. Oh boy, this one has been building a while for me. I HATE silent protagonists. and yes I’m going to use a very beloved franchise as an example. Half-Life 2.

Now, preface time. There are times when a silent protagonist (written from now one as SP for brevity) works. Doom, it works, Metroid it works. Portal, it works, games where the main character does not have to interact with other living beings, it works. Heck, technically it works in the first Half-Life. My two favourite games of all time Suikoden and Suikoden 2 are technically SP’s and I love those games.


Then we get onto games with a heavy narrative like the example Half-Life 2. Gordon Freeman is Half-Life 2 is a floating camera with arms, that’s it. There is no emotion in him what so ever, and when stuff is happening all around him and he doesn’t say anything. It zips you out the moment so fast you get goddamn whiplash. NPC’s react to him and events around him but Gordon does his best statue impression and does nothing. The player could want to scream at and NPC to warn them. Gordon simply stands there and watches them get eaten by a headcrab. Well done Gordon, good job you’re not a medical doctor cause that Hippocratic oath would be out the window.

SP’s are the bane of my gaming experience. If it stated that the character is mute like at the end of Portal 2. I’m fine with it. I even let GTA 3 of the hook for 2 reasons. 1 in GTA:SA it’s stated that the character is mute. and 2: in the opening of GTA 3 it looks to me at the time like his was shot in the throat which could have damaged his vocal chords.

But there are so many games out there with SP’s that just kill the experience for me. No witty come backs, no one liners, no “what the hell are you talking about fruitcake?” moments. When the character is an SP they just seem to drift through the world, reacting to it without emotions. Imagine you were watching a movie with a character like that. It’d be like watching a Ben Affleck movie… I kid, I kid, even SP’s aren’t wooden.

I’m not going to say we should get rid of SP’s, like I said earlier, they have their uses for certain games. This is just me venting. We’ve already seen a reduction in SP’s in narrative driven games. But it still bugs the crap out of me when one shows up.


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