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Interdimensional Observer

How Into Avatars/Silent Protags Do You Get?

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Avatars and Silent Protagonists have existed from the beginning of gaming, and continue to remain popular. Some like Cross in Xenoblade Chronicles X are totally customizable and totally silent (in the important story dialogue- they can battle yell all they want), with practically no backstory. Others like Link, whose name is literally a reference to what they are between the player and the game itself, are silent, but have fixed appearances and defined backstories. Robin and Corrin in FE have customizable appearances, but talk and have fixed backstories. The Rune Factory protags talk, and aren't customizable, but generally have dull personalities and weak backgrounds (Aden and Sonya the exceptions), the same for TMS's Itsuki, so you can project yourself onto them somewhat at least in dialogue choices and fantasies.

A key premise behind these figures is you're supposed to relate to them, for them to reflect on you, to be you and thus be yourself in the game. But how often are you actually this immersed and feel like you are the character and in the game and to what extent?

 

For me, I'd like to think that I don't get that immersed. I'll vehemently deny that Robin is ever me, and I sure as anything will revolt on seven continents at the notion that Validar is dear old dad.

Even someone like Cross I don't fully invest myself into. Partly because I base my answers to most questions/decisions on what will benefit me most in gameplay, there is often an incentive to not be yourself, to be instead a courtesan pandering to every character's wants or developmental needs. Contrariwise of course, it being only a video game means if I did not care about gameplay benefits, I could be true to myself without worry (whereas in reality, I have more reason to kiss up/be restrained than be myself).

But, I do think I let myself get into the characters more than I'd like to admit. The game wants you to be that person, so I give it a little effort.

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Well, I'm just going to thow my ideas around without any organizations. It can still be detilled later.

Party, liek in Etrian Odyssey for example works similarily for me. I don't really write story or anything more than a basic personality for them.

Robin/Corrin are bad, because they are a frauds. It's nothing more than a Marketing Scheme, but no matter how customizable they are, they are "fully fletched" (no commentary about the writing here) characters. I think part of the backlash towards them is because of this original lie.
Actually, the best Avatar in FE is clearly Mark, because they aren't a character.

Though Silent Protagonists aren't necessarily Avatars.
More often than not, they have story, experiecnes that we never had (and will never have.) Link is a good example, but the one I really like is DQVII Hero, efined entirely by the other Characters (Maribel and Kieffer)'s description.

I actually can feels more immersed when watching fully written characters, because I can relate to their life in some aspect. I can't really relate to blocks.
However, where the Avatar is usefull is how I react to the other characters through him. (The main reason behind Robin and Corrin, let's be honest. ) Since I interract with those character through him, I can be more implied on their story. And also why Shinji's my waifu, since playing through P3P.

The relations with silent protagonists is more an "us" than a "me". That's also why Mark is the best kind of Avatar for myself : We are not supposed to be Lyn, but our entire role resolves around her (In Lyn Mode at least. Mark being a real ntity in EM and HM.). ANd that's how I see myself and my Avatar most of the time.

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I can live with silent protagonists but I always find them to be sub par and less interesting then a fully realized character. When Xenoblade X switched from Shulk to some blank slate I immediately had the reaction that the game would be poorer for it. I tend to give Link a bit of a pass on this because someone like Toon Link definitely is his own character even if he refuses to speak. 

I just don't really get anything out of a silent protagonist and technology is to limited to fully push yourself or your desired persona into the game. The conversation options you get are often so very limited which puts a damper on any attempt to roleplay. You can imagine your character saying whatever you want but NPC's can't really react to that. When it comes to rpg's and customisable protagonists I relate much more to real characters that you can customize like Hawke or Shepherd then I do with complete black slates which are supposed to be ''you'' such as the Dragonborn or the Warden. 

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I personally prefer the silent protagonist because I much rather be invested in a world where I'm at least a part of the world that I am in.  Yeah it sucks Xenoblade X's avatar doesn't talk in cutscenes but otherwise you would have the same issues that people are constantly complaining about in Fire Emblem where the avatar talks too much and has too much impact in the main story itself and they become the center of attention instead of the other characters in the game.

I personally liked how Xenoblade X does it because you're just an ordinary soldier in this big vast world and the sidequests you get into the game, they actually acknowledge you for what you did and you actually make big impacts in their sidequests.  This is something I feel a lot of people overlook in Xenoblade X because they give you a ton of options over the options in XC1 and XC2.  You can build and customize your characters that fits to your playstyle and gameplay wise mechanically it does an amazing job to offer you to play how you feel like it.  Not to mention the sidequests in XCX encompasses 80% of the game so majority of the time at least your avatar is part of the game and NPCs actually acknowledge your avatar frequently.  When you do complete sidequests later on you can find them in other parts of the city and they'd thank you for what you did or blame you for failing to do so.

I think it does a much stronger job than Fire Emblem's avatar system any day of the week.  Because in the end you are witnessing the story and struggle of the characters in this world and not because you become a god destroyer like ever JRPG story always gets into which becomes very cliche and overdone.  Sometimes people forget the definition of a RP in a RPG is that it's about "role playing" in a vast world that the creator has given you to explore.  If I am watching cutscenes and story of a cast, but I can't make any decisions during quests or any small little options that's not really a "role playing" game.  It's more like I'm playing an adventure game where I have no interactivity or opportunity to make any decisions or changes.  Which is a reason why I don't like most linear JRPGs.

Did I think XCX did it perfectly? No I still think it has a lot of room for improvement but if anything I much prefer having an avatar system over watching the same shounen teenage boy who gets a harem of women story any day of the weak.

Edited by kingddd

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When it comes to Avatars, the more vague they are, the better. It's why Cross works so well. Pretty much any part about Cross is customizable and their backstory and personality is vague enough so that it's easy to project yourself on to them.

But then you got the FE Avatars, who are too established that they shouldn't be considered Avatars.

Now, i don't have much experience with Rune Factory outside of 4 but the protagonists there had a good balance of establishment but also vagueness. So while i couldn't exactly project a personality onto them, since they already have one, i can more-or-less create a backstory for them and there's enough player choice as well.

Then there's Link, who has an established backstory and that's basically it. The rest is up to you. Even in Breath of the Wild, the first Zelda game where Link can't be renamed, there's enough for you to project a personality onto him. The Pokemon Trainers are also good examples of Avatars.

Now, with all that said, i prefer having silent protags and Avatars only in games that work with them. Cross is amazing in Xenoblade Chronicles X but put him in literally any other Xeno game and he just would not work. 7th Dragon III: Code VFD has an Avatar Party system, similar to early Final Fantasy, but i feel that it brings down the game a bit. While it is possible to project personalities into your party members, the game is too story-focused for that. The game acknowledges your party but as if they were all one person and it just breaks the immersion.

 

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3 hours ago, kingddd said:

I personally prefer the silent protagonist because I much rather be invested in a world where I'm at least a part of the world that I am in.  Yeah it sucks Xenoblade X's avatar doesn't talk in cutscenes but otherwise you would have the same issues that people are constantly complaining about in Fire Emblem where the avatar talks too much and has too much impact in the main story itself and they become the center of attention instead of the other characters in the game.

Or Final Fantasy. Many have probably one main character (coughtiduscough) they have a problem with.

It can be a problem if you have issues with the character's actions (and that was doubly the problem with FE Avatars, since they aren't true Avatars.)

I started Radiata Stories a while back, and the main character's attitude kinda limit my enjoyment of the game.

Silent Protagonists are a "safer" option.

3 hours ago, Armagon said:

Now, with all that said, i prefer having silent protags and Avatars only in games that work with them. Cross is amazing in Xenoblade Chronicles X but put him in literally any other Xeno game and he just would not work. 7th Dragon III: Code VFD has an Avatar Party system, similar to early Final Fantasy, but i feel that it brings down the game a bit. While it is possible to project personalities into your party members, the game is too story-focused for that. The game acknowledges your party but as if they were all one person and it just breaks the immersion.

That's a good point actually. There's also the issue of the event between your generics which leads to generic conversation. The silent protagonists are actually stopping the immersion...

And that's also where Etrian Odyssey works, since you're only named by your Guild Name. EO is better designed around silent protagonists/party.

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I like them quite a lot- I like having “me” in the game. I tend to relate and project myself onto them well too, I think I just find it fun to get really into it and immersed in the world. Especially in games like Rune Factory! 

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I mean, I love customizable characters (especially in anime games like Xenoblade X), even if they aren't implemented in the best fashion. My creative side takes over and I go nuts for maybe even an hour on a custom character. That being said, I do prefer them if they don't have a predetermined backstory; otherwise, it'll make a minor dent in my enjoyment, or if there's already a default version of the custom character, I'll go with the default version after a run or two with a custom character. Robin in FE Awakening is such an example.

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A silent protag's quality depends of the game . And the story. And kinda the person who played the game obviously. I mean, we don't all have the same tastes.

Zelda is... or rather was I guess ?... cool because I can easily put myself into Link's shoes, no personality, barebone backstory if he even has one. It's an adventure simulator. Then they started pulling absurd things like prophecy, timeline, retcons, reincarnations and the Zelda chilling... or chilling of anyone really. That's one of the reasons I could never get into Skyward Sword, cuz I didn't gave a damn about it all, Zelda included, I just wanted to go adventuring. It's... kind of ironic considering we are talking about what were linear games.

I loved, The Witcher 3 for kinda the same reason, Geralt have a goal, a personality, a past, but those things actually make him malleable because of the world he's in, if that make any sense, most of the time, you don't bother with his actual goal, Ciri-sue, nope, it's all adventuring, witcher contracts, treasure hunt. Fun things, and that make sense, it's Geralt's job. There's also the choices and consequences,  any choices that are proposed to the player, Geralt would do it too,  that's the world of TW3.
It's literally the stars that are alligned.

FEA and FEFates were already explained, The Avatars have a (disgusting) personality, a past, goals (...?) but, with the added malus of being in a really, really bad story, with really, really bad characters, that just chills them. That's basically it.
I like Mark from FE7 cuz you know one thing from him, he's a tactician and that's it. Nothing. Maybe a little tad of chill, but that's it. You could remove him from the story, and nothing would change. And you can do just that. Almost perfect insert.

Etrian Odyssey, you are literally a group of adventurers ala Wizardry, everything is in your head. You can choose everything. to think you are one of the adventurer, the boss... anything is possible, that's the whole point.
 

I'll finish this mess of a post by saying that, I think those kind of characters need a good balance, even if I have preferences for the silent ones, and that boy, this is a complicated subject. :p

Edited by B.Leu

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3 hours ago, Retyl said:

I think that this is worse. You can't immerse yourself as the protagonist but the devs also don't want any of the other characters to dislike and criticize the avatar unless they're the villains because that would mean disliking and criticizing you, the player, and as a result of this, all the characters kiss up to the protagonist. The next Fire Emblem protagonist will probably be like this.

Besides critciizing us is perfectly fine. Tactics Ogre LUCT was an amazing game because it wasn't afraid of testing your limits. It's harder to do riight, since nothing's worse than being condemned by the game just because the story said so, but personnally, it's when my beliefs were directly challenged that I had some of my best gaming moments.

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On 3/22/2018 at 12:47 PM, Retyl said:

I can deal with having a silent protagonist but I always prefer a character with an actual personality. There has never been a time where I thought that a silent protagonist was better than what a protagonist who talks and has a personality would be unless I'm forgetting something.


I don't think of Robin as a silent protagonist either. The weird thing about Robin and Corrin is that, I guess, they're supposed to be you, the player, but they also have a backstory and they talk. They talk a lot. I think that this is worse. You can't immerse yourself as the protagonist but the devs also don't want any of the other characters to dislike and criticize the avatar unless they're the villains because that would mean disliking and criticizing you, the player, and as a result of this, all the characters kiss up to the protagonist. The next Fire Emblem protagonist will probably be like this.

They will? I think they've learned their lesson after the backlash Corrin got. I'd be surprised if they made an avatar protagonist again.

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Depends on the game, but usually I treat them as a template with which to create a new character, never as an extension of myself or representative of me. Basically I use them for more roleplaying as a character than anything else, I guess. In general I don't do the self-insertion thing, because it feels weird to do.

3 hours ago, NoirCore said:

They will? I think they've learned their lesson after the backlash Corrin got. I'd be surprised if they made an avatar protagonist again.

Corrin was only criticized by a small number of fans not even belonging to IntSys's primary target audience. As both CYLs and various other popularity polls show, they're still very popular with the general fanbase.

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It all depends on the strength of the supporting characters and how much sense it makes for the plot. If your character is supposed to be the leader and the one driving the plot forward, then it feels really awkward that they're not talking, but if you have a well charatcerized secondary cast, all with their own wants and goals and relationships with the villains, then the fact that the main guy isn't talking never becomes a problem, because the secondary characters are driving the story by themselves. The protagonist just becomes the focal point that the plot can focus on. I think probably the best example of this would be Chrono Trigger. The game has such a good secondary cast, that you can continue and finish the story with the protagonist dead!

18 hours ago, NoirCore said:

They will? I think they've learned their lesson after the backlash Corrin got. I'd be surprised if they made an avatar protagonist again.

What backlash?

Edited by Jotari

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7 hours ago, Jotari said:

It all depends on the strength of the supporting characters and how much sense it makes for the plot. If your character is supposed to be the leader and the one driving the plot forward, then it feels really awkward that they're not talking, but if you have a well charatcerized secondary cast, all with their own wants and goals and relationships with the villains, then the fact that the main guy isn't talking never becomes a problem, because the secondary characters are driving the story by themselves. The protagonist just becomes the focal point that the plot can focus on. I think probably the best example of this would be Chrono Trigger. The game has such a good secondary cast, that you can continue and finish the story with the protagonist dead.

DQ7 is also a formidable example.

Kieffer and Maribel have really strong personality, so the main protagonist being quieter makes sense.
And the way he is constructed through his interactions with everyone else is pretty good either.

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I believe silent protagonists works better than Avatars, they can make you feel more part of the story, while Avatars tend to become to much praised and end up losing the idea of what an Avatar is supposed to be . An example is Suikoden II main character. 

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I would really like an avatar who'd be in the army, but has little/no significance to the story, so they don't mess it up and make the story their story. Just kinda there, maybe a friend to the main protag, but not a hero.

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I don't like silent protagonists for the most part. I much preferred Shulk to the customisable avatar in Xenoblade 2, and one of the worst things in Tales of Xillia 2 was the weird choice to not voice the main character so that you wouldn't hear a spoiler that was really obvious anyway. You can unlock the option to have him voiced in the second playthrough, but I rarely play through games a second time, so it was just a nuisance. 

Games that do it well are the ones that still voice the characters, I think. Dragon Age and Mass Effect are probably the best examples. 

Then again, I don't play games for immersion - I avoid first person pov titles, for instance. I play them for interactive stories, so I want to play the characters as characters, not as me playing a game.... if this makes sense. Not sure I've explained it well. 

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9 minutes ago, Cute Chao said:

I much preferred Shulk to the customisable avatar in Xenoblade 2,

Uhh, you mean X? Because 2 doesn't have an Avatar.

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6 hours ago, Armagon said:

Uhh, you mean X? Because 2 doesn't have an Avatar.

Yup, I meant X sorry. I always forget that it goes X and then 2 ><

I haven't played 2 yet,which doesn't help

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