Creating Empathy With Silent Characters in Troll and I

two protagonists troll and i adventure game

In the early days of video games, I never questioned why the heroes didn’t speak. Nobody spoke unless it was in dialog at the bottom of the screen, sometimes with little nonsense noises to accompany the words. But the first time I was introduced to fully voiced characters, I never wanted to go back—hearing lines spoken aloud made the stories feel so much more alive.

Nowadays, when a character doesn’t have a voice (or, at least, a voice we can understand), it’s a deliberate choice on the part of the developer, not merely a byproduct of the medium’s current technological limitations. Purposely taking away a character’s verbal capabilities, however, means developing their personality through other, less traditional means besides spoken lines of dialog, and doing this well often proves tricky.

In Troll and I, Troll and Otto can’t exactly chat it up—they don’t even belong to the same species, let alone speak the same language—but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. In fact, the game goes out of its way to develop a relationship between the two characters without using dialog; their connection goes deeper than mere speech, celebrating the differences and similarities between the two without words.

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