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LONG BLOG

The Silent Hero

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(SPOILER FOR RED DEAD RED REDEMPTION IN FIRST PARAGRAPH!)
The main character in most video games always has something to say. John Marston, the main character in Red Dead Redemption, showed that video games can have the same narratives as movies and books. The player learned, through John Marston’s dialogue, of his struggle to save his family and leave his misdeeds in the past. His past eventually caught up to him and lead to his death. John Marston is no silent hero. He is not afraid to open his mouth when he is insulted by others. However, the best moment of the game was not from Marston’s words, but from his actions. Even though John Marston knows he can’t beat the odds he fights the government forces to his death. There is no one line that could capture the raw emotion of his brave act.

The characters that seem to stand the test of time are the ones that say very little. Mario is a great example of the power a silent hero can have. He is not completely silent, he does grunt and shout his name from time to time, but his actions as a hero are the focus. A lot of video game players can associate with Mario because people understand actions. Anyone can talk the talk but it takes a true hero to actually buckle down and do the hard work. Princess Peach always seems to find herself getting captured by Bowser but always ends up being saved by Mario. In Super Mario Galaxy the castle is torn from the ground and carried off into outer space by Bowser. Princess Peach cries out from the castle “Help!” as Mario rushes to the rescue. Mario is out of breath by the time he reaches the castle that is suspended in outer space. He reaches out towards the balcony in a last effort of strength only to be blown away by Bowser’s minion. This scene would be cheapened by words because there is no line that would make Mario’s actions make more sense. Even if some one liners for Mario were added, they could not strengthen anything that has already been said by Mario’s actions.

Mario has stood the test of time and has lasted longer than most video game characters to date. Twenty-five years have silently passed for Mario, and he likes to keep it that way. He has captured the hearts and souls of all gamers without uttering a meaningful word. Mario is the king of keeping his mouth shut, but who else is following in his footsteps? Nintendo is not the only company that knows the power of a silent hero in video games. Gordon Freeman, the protagonist in the Half Life series, has stayed silent for years.His journey takes place through Black Mesa on his quest to destroy the evil combine forces on Earth. Gabe Newell one of the creators of the Half Life series was asked whether they would give Gordon Freeman a voice in the future stating "We haven't had a reason to change that. Most of what I've seen to date has been gimmicky and is entertaining for just a minute or so. We're not philosophically opposed to this, but we don't have any good reasons to do it. Right now making your companions more interesting and compelling seems a more fruitful avenue to explore." Gordon Freeman’s experience within the Half Life series is that it is more about the connections you make than the narrative played out by the protagonist.

Team Meat follows the same formula, as Meat Boy saves Bandage Girl from the evil clutches of Dr. Fetus. This game is unique in that the game features no dialogue whatsoever and the story is told through short clips at the end of each chapter. Even after defeating a boss Meat Boy generally feels remorse for beating them. He even sobs after his evil clone saves him and Bandage Girl from the Castle. To give Meat Boy a one liner would cheapen the emotion that a player feels from seeing the tears fall out of his little meaty eyes.

The lasting power of the silent hero is great compared to the heroes with big mouths. I don’t hate characters like Kratos from God of War, or Commander Shepard from Mass Effect, but they cannot stand to the power of silence. Nintendo has understood this for years and has kept the majority of their protagonists silent. Adding dialogue to a once silent character can hurt the heroes we love and make them seem nothing like they once were. Sonic the Hedgehog had a long run not saying anything on the Sega Genesis, but in recent years he has been given a cheesy dialogue. Sonic has gone from being a character that we all know and love to a personality that will say anything to be cool. Sega is making a step in the right direction by stripping Sonic of narrative in Sonic 4. No one has ever needed a narrative to understand that Sonic was a hedgehog full of confidence. At the end of each level Sonic lets you know that it was just a breeze by wagging his finger at the screen. The little animals run free from the clutches of Egg Man, and Sonic stands simply wagging a finger.

Human beings are creators of a visual nature and have an understanding of actions greater than any dialogue can deliver. Mario is a cornerstone of pop culture because people simply understand his cause. Gamers might understand the struggle of Commander Shepard to save the universe but it can be harder for non-serious gamers to feel the same emotional connection. As the famous silent movie star Charlie Chaplin once said, “Words are cheap. The biggest thing you can say is 'elephant'.”
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About Gaming in Publicone of us since 9:37 AM on 02.17.2011

Back in the 1987 a bastard child was born. His name was Jacob and since then he has been gaming and leaving angry remarks at the world. A Virginia native who can only beat his head in as he feels caught between a "Hardcore" and "Casual" gaming world.
Xbox LIVE:GoodPostureClub
Steam ID:[email protected]


 

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