Exploring the Role of the Silent Protagonist in Gilded

Many stories have a central protagonist driving the plot forward. Gilded has two, Jack and Gregor, each doing so in a different way. As far as the central story of the quest to become a Wishmaker and cure his sister’s illness while struggling with the physical and ethical challenges along the way, Gregor is the main character. However, Gregor is not the character the player controls – that would be Jack.

The role of the “silent protagonist” has been a recurring trope in many RPGs and other kinds of adventure games. The purpose of this is simple: it immerses the player in the game by giving them a blank slate to jump into and experience the world through. The success of this model varies just as much as the form it takes. Sometimes the silent protagonist has a predetermined name, and even backstory and appearance, but remain silent during the course of the game, perhaps with the player being permitted a few meaningless choices, being more of a window to view the game through than an actual representation of the player. In other cases, the player does get to give details such as name and appearance, but the characters personality and actions are predetermined, making the character a representation of the player in only a superficial sense. Some games, primarily western RPGs, let the player truly become the character, allowing them to pick the name and appearance, and creating a branching storyline which allows the player to make their own meaningful decisions to shape how their character grows.

For any who have played any part of Gilded, Jack is not an example of the latter. In fact, the first type I described would be most accurate. If it were that simple, I would call Jack the player avatar (to be generous), or even just a window into the game, but not a character. Most silent protagonists of this type are just pulled along by the plot, and are given no real motivation to do what they do, and for many games, it is enough for them to just be a pair of shoes for the player to walk around in. From a storytelling point of view, I find this unsatisfying, so instead, Gilded explores the idea of what it means to be this silent protagonist. I won’t spoil too many details, but while Gregor is on his quest to save his sister, Jack is on the quieter existential quest analyzing what it means to be an entity with no agency, no voice, and with another force controlling your every action with a series of keystrokes.