Silent characters or also known as mute characters. Throughout the game, they will not utter a word but when the moment comes, will grunt, wail in pain or do a little battle cry. Silent characters work in different ways and seen to in different ways.
We have the mutes, who are known to be unable to speak, though we have some characters who do not speak mainly because they don’t have anyone to speak to like in Doom.
Then there is the secretive kind who is open for the player to self-impose themselves into the character. This type is very common and in most cases loved. Unusually, although these characters don’t speak in game they still manage to have a back story and NPC’s will treat him like a drink buddy, which adds to the allure of being that character, sort of like buying a house that’s been lived in by a nice family, making it all warm and cosey… right?…. Did that even make sense?
Japanese games love hyping up silent characters, just to add that mysterious touch to the broody protagonist, but although they are so reserved and silent, they still get a lot of attention and happen to be the center where their decision matters.
Whats really interesting, is how the NPC will not react in any way to show that the protagonist is in fact not saying a word. They respond to the unspoken words naturally which really pushes the experience of players feeling as though they are involved in making decisions and being the protagonist.
A really good silent character is Jack from Bioshock. Throughout the game, you, both the player and Jack are told to do a number of things to get closer to the goal of escaping; to
the players knowledge that is. Eventually, when meeting the truth, Jack finds out that he has been subconsciously obeying commands starting with “Would you kindly”. Now not only does Jack feel hate and confusion, but so does the player who at the point is fully immersed as the protagonist. The player will also feel cheated and lied to, and though they may have thought they were doing what they wanted, the player is made out to feel like a mere marionette.
Heck at the end of the game, i was scratching at my wrist believing I had the same chain tattoos as Jack!
Lastly there is the reactive silent character, who acts according to the games script. They apparently do speak in the game, as characters will treat them as though they have. For example, we have our beloved Link from the Legend of Zelda games. When asked of his name by Princess Zelda, no sign of showing that Link speaking appears, yet the princess says “Link?” as though he did tell her his name.