About silent protagonists: the reason they exist is because makers o’ games think that if they don’t have a really defined personality, it’s easier for you the player to immerse yourself. But I don’t know. I’ve never really felt that way. I’ve never really felt like a Chell, a Gordon a Serge or a Master Chief or an Isaac a-la DS1.
I have been intensely almost feverishly interested in what makes these characters tic. Any information about them, even the little joke in Crysis 2 about Alcatraz being hungover from too much tequila, is like lifeblood to me. I crave knowledge of their true characters so badly, I sit there and THINK about them. Whether what I come up with is true or not is another story! But the appeal is in the mystery.
Chell has HUGE appeal to me because you don’t know anything about her, she won’t speak, and you have to weed through Glados’ lies. I don’t think she’s electivly mute OR brain damaged, I just think there’s absolutely nothing to say in that situation, and the game devs are blatantly clear that Chell is just an avatar for the player. But it sure doesn’t feel like that, does it?
And then there’s Isaac’s elective mutism. I was feverishly into the dead space thing before there was a fandom, before DS2, before the universe was round-kicked into existence, because I was just enraptured by his dedication, his actions, etc. He’s one of those cases where his actions and the world around him speak FOR him, and his position as a mute also speaks volumes. Totally different than Chell!
But the intent on the devs’ part was the same: immerse yourself in a character whose personality won’t act as a separation between you, controller, and them.
So what am I saying?
They think they’re doing one thing. The developers have a single intent: have a mute avatar for the player to put themselves in the shoes of.
Lots of other things are happening, as above.
“Empty shell” is a term employed by people who just don’t THINK about whats going on in-game.