A strange realisation settles upon me when I realise, now that Half Life no longer defines the most excellent depiction of a genre that I enjoy playing I no longer have any reason to think well of Gordon Freeman as a character. I mean, I liked Dr Breen as an antagonist, complete with his pathetic crumpling under threat, I really like Alyx Vance as a good, positive female character in a genre normally starved for characters, and I really appreciate the way the games sought to create atmosphere and narrative in a genre which has potential for great storytelling.
And by the way, it’s not that silent protaganists can’t be useful – the huge stretches where Gordon spends his time walking silently, with nobody around to speak to? That’s fine. And Bioshock and Bioshock 2 both had a great reason to have a silent protaganist, where the unrevealed information either built into the setting or helped hide a plot point until its revelation would matter.
Gordon Freeman is now someone I’m fond of, but I see him as a primitive piece of the genre I love; an oddly archaic spur that somehow survived sheathed by the magnificent technological progress of the rest of his genre. A grandfather clause, as it were, somehow protected and now having become a trope unto himself.
What if Gordon Freeman is intensely shy?
I mean, he’d be a crazy bastard – anyone whose kill count beats word count is a bad sign, after all. But what if Gordon Freeman has this enormous amount of social anxiety, and now thinks that everyone around him regards him as this superhuman, wise, heroic figure – which makes him all the more anxious about talking? And so he spends all his time completely mute, massively relieved when people around him just fill in the blanks for him and direct him to things he can do.