Follow TV Tropes


Featureless Protagonist

Go To

"What's your name? [pause] Okay. I'll just call you Ageless-Faceless-Gender-Neutral-Culturally-Ambiguous-Adventure-Person. AFGNCAAP for short."

In an attempt to reinforce the notion that the player of the game "is" the Player Character, most early games went out of their way to avoid applying any characterization to the player character.

More often than not, a thorough examination of the game will cause this to break down as providing any kind of substantial interaction with a player character who is a cipher is problematic. Most often, the first thing to slip through will be a tacit assumption that the character is male.

Less common in its extreme form today, as it makes anything like compelling storytelling highly problematic. Much easier to achieve in Interactive Fiction, for the same reason that text is better suited to the Tomato Surprise, and to this day, many text games still take this approach, and enthusiasts have been known to be disappointed if forced to play a character who does not reflect their gender or sexual orientation. On the other hand, this can make for some very bland interactions, as the player character must be all possible people of all possible identities at once without ever being any one of them at any given moment.

Beyond adventures, most games at least need to graphically present the player, so some amount of customization is required. The result is often an extended form of Purely Aesthetic Gender, with little additional influence on the story.

A weaker form of this attempt results in the Heroic Mime. Often used in conjunction with Second-Person Narration. Media which try to put a definite name and face on the protagonist result in Canon Name.

In most Real-Time Strategy games, the player is either a Featureless Protagonist or just a Non-Entity General who directs the action but doesn't even have a character.

This tends to cause problems when the work gets adapted to other media. One solution is to give the character in question as generic and bland a personality as possible. The other is to remove them completely.

Often overlaps with Audience Surrogate. Compare also Reader-Insert Fic, which often features such a protagonist.

Video Game Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Action Adventure 
  • The main character in Overlord. Besides being male, all his features are obscured and blurred out by his impressive helmet. He's also never referred to by name by his former friend and colleagues. The later Overlords in other games are given some degree of Backstory, with the sequel starting him off as a Creepy Child along with several nicknames while the prequel Overlord: Dark Legend gives the Overlord the name Lord Gromgard though they still remain relatively faceless, wearing face-obscuring clothing before donning their armor.
  • Link from The Legend of Zelda series was originally meant to be this... in fact, that was the very reason he was named Link, because he was the "link to the gameworld", simply a player avatar. Ironically, he is now one of the most recognizable faces in all of gaming, endlessly tributed and/or parodied. Giving him a distinctive, recurring costume probably didn't help. This is most prevalent in the instruction manuals for A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening which are written using Second-Person Narration rather than referring to Link by name as Link. While Nintendo is still trying to retain some of Link's Featureless Protagonist qualities (the reason he is still a Heroic Mime), he seems to be growing out of this in the later games, especially with regards to his personality. A notable shift is in Twilight Princess where the name Link is pre-entered on the Hello, [Insert Name Here] screen unlike earlier games where there is no default name and the field starts out blank. Taken to the next level in Breath of the Wild where Link's name is set in stone and cannot be changed due to the use of voice acting. While Link is still a silent protagonist, he has a backstory that's more fleshed out compared to his previous incarnations and many of the dialogue options greatly show off Link's personality.
  • Samus Aran from Metroid started as a complete cipher in both person and motivation. (Robot? Guy in Powered Armor? Who knew?) This caused some players to think "Metroid" was the character's name. Only at the end of the first game did she get a confirmed gender and later a species, and her identity was only given any exploration in the later games.
  • In the second game of the Star Control saga, the player character is only referred in second person, or at most third (Young starship captain from Earth, alien, hunam, and the like). Game's background history as well as some dialog (mostly with Talana) and its ending present the character as a young male.
  • The player character in Ghostbusters: The Video Game is one of these, as Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis figured that was the best way for the jokes to work. There is also an in-story reason: the team is still very shaken up by what happened to the previous new recruit so they refuse to learn even your name to avoid emotional attachments.
    • Interestingly, all the Ghostbusters wear easy-to-read nametags on their uniforms. Including the unnamed player character. Thing is, you have to work to see it, because you spend most of the game staring at your characters backside. If you manage to get a good look at it, you'll see it simply says "ROOKIE".
  • In the obscure vehicle combat game Auto Destruct, the agent is only known as Booth, and never speaks, nor is he shown in person.
  • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag: All of the main Assassin's Creed games are actually simulations being experienced by someone from the present day, who needs to find something important in the memories. Due to the main protagonist's death by Heroic Sacrifice in the previous game, the "main character" of Black Flag is about as nameless and featureless a protagonist can get. He or she is a Heroic Mime with no lines, the present day segments of the game are all shown in first person, and there are no mirrors so the player can't even see their character's reflection.
  • ZanZarah: The Hidden Portal: Amy, despite being given a distinctive appearance and a nominal voice, expresses next to no personality, thus being the classical stand-in for the player.
  • Nobody Saves the World: The protagonist's default Form, "Nobody," is a naked white humanoid with an Eyeless Face as their only defining feature. They also have amnesia, leaving their past a mystery to both themself and the player. The Calamity stole any defining features from Nostramagus's form along with his memories as part of the ritual to summon it to the material plane.

  • In Code 7 you never learn anything about Alex’s age, gender, race, nationality, etc. Since Alex has Laser-Guided Amnesia, it's possible they don't know any of these things, either. And their only source of information about who they are is their coworker Sam, who, especially for a friend, knows surprisingly little about them.
  • Dark Fall: The Journal is bold enough to give the player character a nationality and approximate age range, but still sees fit to leave the character genderless. The full name of the PC's brother is given, but there's no guarantee that the PC is male or single, so may not share the same surname as him.
  • In The Journeyman Project, the player is only referred to as "Agent 5", and though we see his reflection, his face is computer-generated and featureless (all other characters are photorealistic). He gets a full name (Gage Blackwood), identity, and face in both of its sequels, as well as the remake, Pegasus Prime. Perhaps as a bit of Lampshade Hanging, in the second game, the player comes across an action figure of himself (the events of the first game had been turned into a popular action movie) with the same mannequin features.
  • In Myst, your Player Character is an invisible First-Person Ghost, and your appearance or gender is never mentioned. Even your name is never specified: Atrus and allies only call you as "my friend," while others only refer to you as a Mysterious Stranger. As the Myst series progresses, with "The Stranger" as the protagonist of most games, players are encouraged to use their imagination and role-play whoever they feel the character should be based on their actions in the game. The series breaks with this principle sometimes, though.
    • Myst IV: Revelation allows you to choose the color of the Hand Cursor you use to interact with the world — and, by implication, your ethnicity/race. The rest is still up to imagination.
    • Word of God places the first four Myst games some two-hundred years in the past, which contradicts the idea that The Stranger is yourself. However, Both Uru and Myst V are set in the present and therefore feature a different protagonist. In Uru, the Player Character is explicitly the player (one interpretation of the title "Uru" is "You Are You"). Word of God has declared that the protagonist of Myst V is Dr. Watson of the D'ni Restoration Council (an NPC in Uru, and the in-universe counterpart of developer Richard A. Watson).
    • Though a non-canon storyline/walkthrough for the original in the Prima Strategy guide alludes the player character as a male photographer from modern day finding the Myst book in a dusty old library which apparently sent him backwards in time. Other than that, the character in the guide is curious, clever, reacts to the few jump scares the game has with obvious results, and is slightly snarky...especially when Sirrus and Achenar start to threaten him into bringing more pages.
      Player: You're a book, what are you going to do? Throw footnotes at me?
  • The only personal information established about your in-game persona in Riddle of the Sphinx and its sequel The Omega Stone is gender, which you can choose in the second game. The only time it ever comes up is in found letters' being addressed either to "sir" or "madam".
  • In Shivers and its sequel, though the player is given a home town and set of friends, he is only ever referred to by others as "You", and only ever described in gender-neutral terms.
    • Except near the very end when you fall down a large slide and your screams are clearly masculine.
  • The Crystal Key, like Myst, handles this by showing everything from a first-person perspective and having almost no one with whom to interact (the occasional enemy soldiers don't speak your language). Unlike Myst, however, items don't teleport from the main screen to your inventory and back again—they levitate, as if you're telekinetic. Also of note is that you abruptly stop being a Heroic Mime if you're caught and tortured, but gender neutrality is still preserved—the resultant screaming is barely recognizable as human, let alone male or female.
    • The sequel has you play as the original protagonist's son, Call Lifeson. He hails from planet Evany, has a voice, face, and body. Athera's tablet diary also states that Call's dad was a colonel.
  • Some games give your character a gender-neutral name (e.g. in Rhiannon, you're "Chris") to allow some sense of identity without excluding any gender.
  • In Find the Cure! the player character is a member of a search party who discovered a portal to another dimension, and that's as far as their description goes.
  • Starship Titanic: The character is human, we know that much.
    DoorBot: "Human being isn't it? Well, one's heard mixed reports..."
  • The English-dubbed version of Detalion's Reah: Face the Unknown has a journalist who does speak quite a bit throughout the game, but other than his desire to be famous, we know nothing about him. However, everyone in the environment seems to have seen him before, and a phantom alchemist knows why. The player even hangs a nice lampshade on being faceless during a mirror puzzle.
    Why can't I see myself? I'm not a vampire, after all.
  • An in-universe example in Robot City, like the novels it's based on. The main character is a man named Derec only because of a label on his jumpsuit, which is actually the name for a company that makes jumpsuits; his DNA and facial patterns have no match in any Earth or Spacer database; and he has have no memories from before waking up in an Escape Pod that crash-landed in the eponymous city. All this becomes a problem when two other humans show up later, one of them having been murdered, as the first law of robotics forbids any robot from killing humans, pinning Derec as the prime suspect.
  • The BIONICLE Mata Nui Online Game is played in first-person and you're only ever referred to by your title of "Chronicler". Then near the end of the game, it's revealed that you're playing as Takua, the Matoran who later becomes Toa Takanuva.
  • Escape Lala: The games are done in first person, and almost no details of the protagonist are shown or revealed. One book in the library in the second game hints that the protagonist might be a member of the royal family, but the book is written in a Story Branching style, so it may have nothing to do with the protagonist at all. The games subtly reveal some broad details about the protagonist, though. In the first game, when you come up out of the water, you hear a rather masculine-sounding voice gasping for air. In the second game, the guard in the underworld refuses to let the protagonist go through the door for the dead, proving that the protagonist is not Dead All Along like nearly everyone else in Lala. Of course, there's also the issue of whether or not the protagonists of each game are even the same person.

    Edutainment Game 
  • All of the games in the Super Solvers series let you input your own name, plus the hero wears a unisex outfit that conceals their entire body. Their gender is never disclosed either. In Mission: T.H.I.N.K, Treasure Galaxy! and the Windows updates of the preceding games, Morty avoids using pronouns when referring to the Super Solver.
  • The player character in almost all Carmen Sandiego games is completely faceless and unidentifiable, only referred to by their rank (Senior Investigator, Gumshoe, Master Detective, etc.) The NPCs you typically speak with to gather clues never reference the player, outside of "How do you do?"

    First-Person Shooters 
  • BioShock:
    • The first BioShock starts out like this — the only clue to your nature are your hands, which are white, kind of masculine and have little tattoos of chain links on the wrists; and your voice, heard only in the opening cutscene, which has a nondescript American accent. You can also tell that Jack is wearing a white sweater. Then it gets weird and you find out the details of your identity. Jack also seems to lack a shadow, but that's an oversight on the developer's part.
      • If you examine the photographs pinned up right outside Ryan's office, you can see Jack's face captured in a couple of them.
      • If you pay attention, you'll notice that Jack is freaking huge, assuming that everything in the game is made for normal human size, he is easily seven feet tall. It does explain how he can convincingly disguise as a Big Daddy.
      • When Jack was given a character model for Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea they also refrained from showing his face, instead emphasizing his sweater. His face is fully modeled, though.
    • In BioShock 2, the protagonist has a name (Subject Delta) and an appearance (Alpha Big Daddy), but lacks any speech or real personality.
      • This becomes particularly notable in the game's opening, where Delta actually removes his helmet, but the first-person perspective prevents us from seeing what he looks like underneath.
      • You can find out Delta is a character that's only referenced in audio logs from before Rapture went to hell. However, the details of this character is kept vague outside that he's a man who went deep sea diving as an occupation for lost ships and planes and accidentally found Rapture by chance. It's even noted the name given may not be his birth name.
      • Also seemingly invoked with Subject Sigma in Minerva's Den. Like Subject Detla, Sigma is an Alpha Big Daddy whose features are concealed in a diving suit, and he doesn't speak due to the vocal chord surgery that is is performed on Big Daddies. He doesn't seem to have much personality either, and in fact seems to have even less of a backstory than Delta. This is ultimately subverted with the reveal that Sigma is Charles Milton Porter, a character we've gotten to know in detail throughout the campaign.
  • Call of Duty games before about Black Ops II have this in effect for most player characters, who never speak and are never seen in third person. One notable exception is 'Soap' MacTavish, who is the primary player character in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, but your squad's commander in Modern Warfare 2, in which he is a fully-modeled and voiced NPC.
    • Modern Warfare 3 is weird with this. Frost, Burns and Harkov are completely featureless (you do see a brief glimpse of Frost's head at the start, but his face is completely covered; even more weirdly, there's a full model for Frost, but it's only used in multiplayer), but Yuri's face is one of the first things you see in the cutscene before his first mission, and you can get another good look at him while remote-controlling a UGV as him in that mission. And, for the final level, you get to control Captain Price instead, with Yuri as an NPC.
    • In Ghosts you play as Logan Walker, who is not seen in-game, and when he is depicted in game-related artwork his face is concealed behind a mask. The same is mostly true with the other characters you play as (some of whom aren't even named), with the possible exception of the flashback level where you play as Elias (though even then, we still don't get to see the younger version who would have been present here).
  • Although we get a pretty good idea of his backstory and personality, Chernobylite avoids showing the face of protagonist Igor Khymynuk. The first person perspective keeps it hidden for most of the game. While most of the characters wear gas masks throughout the game that obscure their faces we do get portraits showing their faces... except for Igor. His portrait keeps most of his face obscured by a mask and hood.
  • The only thing we know about Alcatraz, the Delta Force Marine in Crysis 2, is that he's fond of tequila, though the tie-in novel Crysis: Legion does expand on his character a bit. Nomad, the protagonist of the first game, had lines and a personality but it was very subdued due to him not speaking much. The protagonist of the Expansion Pack, Psycho, received significantly more lines, emotions, and actually had a face compared to Nomad's One-Way Visor in response to criticism of Nomad being completely forgettable.
  • Word of God says this is the reason why the Doom Marine never talks. He was meant to be the player character, and thus was never given an official name and never speaks. Played less straight than other examples — you do know what he looks like, since his face is plastered over the status bar, and he is given some prior characterization as having ended up on Mars when he attacked a superior officer for ordering him to shoot civilians — but nevertheless, he was meant to be the player. Doom (2016) gets away from this a little by managing to give him a visible personality through body language alone, despite the fact that he never speaks nor shows his face even once, even if that personality can be summed up as "angry as fuck". Doom Eternal shows his face and has him speaking in flashbacks, confirming that he is in fact the same marine from the classic Doom games.
  • Far Cry 5 has the player take control of a junior deputy of the Hope County Sheriff's Department. In contrast to previous protagonists, The Deputy's appearance and gender is left up to the player, with the only non-player determined characteristics about The Deputy being that they hardly speak and are The Ace.
  • FEAR's lead protagonist, Point Man, is, aside from being specified to be male, basically a Featureless Protagonist. This is actually practically canon, considering that he is later revealed to be one of two attempts at a psychic commander birthed by Alma, with no memory and no name beyond the "Point Man" identifier; the other members of his team were even told to not ask questions about him. The third game finally revealed his appearance, but he still never speaks or shows much emotion aside from rage. Beckett from Project Origin is in mostly the same boat, only having a confirmed name and vaguely-defined appearance over the Point Man, though he does reappear in the back half of the third game, with a speaking role.
  • Half-Life:
    • The games themselves tell you Gordon Freeman's age and education, but on top of being a Heroic Mime, they make no mention of his appearance. The game files of Half-Life 2 don't contain a character model or skin for Freeman at all: since there are no reflective surfaces or (legitimately accessible) third person perspective, the player never gets to actually see anything but his arms. In the early (or just pirated) version of the game it was possible to look at your PC head, which revealed a mannequin face not actually covered in textures. For over two decades, the only official depiction of Freeman's facial appearance was on the game's box art until Half-Life: Alyx finally shows Gordon in-game, though even then he's in near-darkness (albeit fully modeled).
    • In Half-Life: Opposing Force the player controls the HECU marine Adrian Shepard. We're told at the beginning of the game his age and gender, but we never get a good look at his face due to the first-person perspective, and official artwork related to the game always depicts him wearing a gas mask that prevents us from seeing what he actually looks like.
  • Halo:
    • In the original trilogy, the Master Chief John-117 never shows his face, speaks only a handful of lines during cutscenes, and is referred to almost solely by his rank. The one time he takes off his helmet, the camera angle shifts to obscure his face just as he removes it; even when using cheats to keep his head in frame, all we get to see is another helmet! He has a bit more personality than usual examples of this trope, though.
      • His character is heavily expanded on in the expanded universe (particularly the various adaptations of Halo: The Fall of Reach), which also reveal that he is a white man with brown hair, though the only clear visual depictions of his face we ever get are of him as a child.
      • From Halo 4 onward, Chief drifts away from being this, since unlike Bungie, 343 Industries were specifically aiming to explore his personality. He speaks during gameplay as well as cutscenes, and 4's Legendary ending even gives us a brief glimpse of the area around his eyes when he takes off his helmet.
    • Interestingly used as a point of contrast between the protagonists in Halo 5: Guardians. We see the faces of Fireteam Osiris, but all four members of Blue Team (the one commanded by Master Chief) are never seen outside their armor.
    • The Rookie in Halo 3: ODST never removes his helmet or says anything. The only clue about his appearance is his fingers, which are white. His initials are apparently "J.D.", but that seems to be more of a reference to the generic placeholder name "John Doe". He gets a little more characterization in the Halo: Evolutions short story Dirt and the novella Halo: New Blood, but not much.
    • SPARTAN-B312 AKA Noble Six, the protagonist of Halo: Reach, is perhaps the ultimate example of this trope in the series, since the player gets to determine everything about the character from the gender to the appearance of the armor. S/he only speaks a handful lines, and we never get to see even a micrometer of him/her that is not covered in armor - like the Chief, s/he takes off her helmet only once int he game, at the end, with the camera positioned so that we never get a good view of his/her face through the several Elites bearing down on him/her.
  • In Marathon, the protagonist is drawn in a few art pieces, but his appearance is very inconsistent. You can only see what he looks like in-game in co-op, and he's wearing what looks like a flight helmet, which only reveals his jaw.
  • The hero of Phlegethon is unknown to be of which gender, race or ethnicity (it's one of the few FPS games where only your gun is visible during gameplay - if you use a melee weapon, you see the weapon onscreen slicing a chunk of health from enemies, but not your hand holding it). You being a Heroic Mime isn't helping either.
  • This has a tendency to come up with varying degrees in Rainbow Six Siege due to abundance of playable characters who wear bulky armor and masks that can make it hard to tell what they look like. Some of them we only really know their appearance because of cosmetics (usually a legendary skin), and some still don't have a canonical face. Some notable examples:
    • All four of the SAS operators wear gas masks that conceal their face. Thatcher is the only one whose appearance has been completely revealed note . Enough of Sledge's head is visible to see that he is bald, but his specific facial features are still obscured. There was nothing to indicate Smoke's appearance until his first elite skin was released (and even then it only indicates that he has dark hair). We have yet to see any indication of what Mute looks like, and the only real clues to his personality are in his profile.
    • The most extreme case is probably Nøkk. We know she is female, but her appearance is entirely concealed beneath both a mask and a veil. Her in-game profile lists her real name as "classified" and only provides a vague outline of her backstory and personal life.
  • The original Red Steel has this with Scott Monroe. We know from his hands that he's white, but that's it - he never talks, the game never leaves his perspective, and there are no mirrors you can look in to see what he looks like.
  • In Receiver, the protagonist does not even have a character model. Your weapon simply floats in the air in front of you.
  • Sir, You Are Being Hunted also gives no character model to its protagonist. You can pick your gender, but the only effect this has in-game is whether the person being hunted (i.e. you) is called "Sir" or "Madam".
  • The only thing known about the protagonist of Space Gunis that they're in the Special Forces.
  • The Pyro from Team Fortress 2, whose nationality (notable considering s/he's on a team of national stereotypes) and gender are unknown. Never removes that gas mask, is known only by Pyro, and speaks only in muffled grunts. (S)he does have some characterization though.
    • The release of the long awaited "Meet The Pyro" video finally clears up some things. Namely, that the Pyro is completely insane. While the other characters talk of the monstrous engine of destruction that is the Pyro, who even scares the people on his own team, we get to see things from the Pyro's point of view. Apparently, (s)he thinks (s)he's doling out rainbows and love rather than fire and death. Nothing else is learned about the Pyro, as even in his/her own mind, (s)he's still wearing the gasmask.
    • Compounded by the fact that Pyro is alternately referred to as "he" and "she," sometimes within the same sentence. "He's not here, is she?"
      • That can be chalked up to simply Valve trolling everyone. The Scout clearly says "He's not here is he?" in the video, but the transcript uses both pronouns. This video from The Game Theorists analyzes the Pyro's character model and other hints, and determined its likely a homosexual man. But hey, it's just a theory. A Game Theory!
  • The protagonist from Timeshift is this, thanks to the game having an Unbroken First-Person Perspective until the very end, where we see the time traveler (who is a Heroic Mime) shoot Krone, return to the present, and almost remove their helmet before the suit transports them to who knows where to avoid creating a temporal paradox. It's not even explicitly clear which gender the Player Character is; while the cover art and third person images of the Beta Suit seem to indicate the player is male, and they are shown to have a sexual relationship with Dr. Foster, the idea that the player may be a Butch Lesbian has been floated more than once online, made worse by the fact nobody uses gendered pronouns to describe the player character.

    Idle Game 
  • ALTER EGO (2018): Even though The Protagonist's psyche is represented as shards in a mirror, their face is never shown, nor they are referred to by any name other than the generic "wanderer". The fact that voice actors are never used for any of the characters further prevents any characterization from taking place.
  • Crush Crush: The player avatar is depicted as a featureless blob in a humanoid shape. Lampshaded by some of the girls as they try to describe him. You can add hair and a hat, and you're provided with facial features (butt-ugly at first, becoming gradually better-looking as you develop your hobbies), but always staying monochrome.

    Interactive Fiction 
  • The Interactive Fiction game Everybody Loves a Parade appears to use this. However, it's a trick. Towards the end of the game, you learn that your character is decidedly female, and using this to your advantage is necessary to actually complete the game.
  • Interactive fiction game Jigsaw takes this to extremes: Neither the player nor the main villain is ever referred to by gender-specific terms, but only by the names "White" and "Black" (after their costumes), but are taken to be whichever pair of genders the player is most comfortable with, given their evolving romantic relationship. That said, a number of details from the game have been taken to suggest that the two are almost certainly of opposite genders (you are taken to be a honeymooning couple at a time in history when homosexuality is illegal). It is also possible to provoke responses indicating that both Black and White are male, though this is believed to be a bug. One scene set aboard the train bringing Lenin to Petrograd just before the Russian Revolution requires the player to don the uniform of a British Army officer. However, as many people have pointed out (including the game's author), stories of women passing themselves off as male soldiers in times of war are not uncommon in fiction, nor are they unheard of in reality.
    • Jigsaw's predecessor Curses was very similar in its presentation, but without the romantic aspect involved, the question was not as urgent.
  • So solidly a part of the Infocom house style that it's easier to list cases where the protagonist has a name, face, gender or past: games based on licenced properties, Infidel (where you are deliberately loathesome tomb robber), Moonmist (which offers you a fig leaf of choosing a title and gender, but makes epic amounts of no sense if you choose to be anything but a Nancy Drew-esque girl detective) and A Mind Forever Voyaging (where you are a computer programmed to believe you're a man called Perry Simm).
  • The Infocom game Leather Goddesses of Phobos features several instances of (heterosexual) sex, so in order for the genders to "match up" the player had to specify their gender (but no other details about their character). This was done by making the player go into a restroom — either the men's or women's room. The implementation of this is wonderfully 1980s. If it wants to keep you from sleeping with a character, it just ensures you are the same sex, with an implied "well, that's completely impossible then." And this, in a game that spends half its running time slapping itself on the back for being transgressive!
  • Since you control a First-Person Ghost and are responsible for all your own dialogue, Façade (2005) can involve nothing but this. Trip and Grace will automatically assign you a gender based on the name you pick from the list, but then, you can spend the get-together asserting that you're honestly and truly a woman named Gonzalo and it could be perfectly in-character for that session.

    Mecha Game 
  • In the original MechAssault, the main character was a Featureless Protagonist. As new gameplay elements of the sequel required an onscreen avatar for the main, they were revised into an explicitly male Heroic Mime — to the disappointment of anyone who had previously imagined him as female.
  • The MechWarrior series has done this for the second game and it's expansions and the third one as well, which they commonly referred to you as "commander" or "lance leader". It stopped around the expansion to the third game when the player character was given a voice, name and gender for each subsequent game since.
  • Chrome Hounds uses this; it's fairly easy since it's a mech game.
  • Armored Core does this as well, referring to the player only as "Raven" or "LYNX".
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story The Blue Destiny takes this trope for a ride, as the player character never speaks and is even named "Yuu" (a homophone of "You", which is how it's rendered in English sometimes). When he started showing up in games like the SD Gundam G Generation series, he was given a face, personality, and even a voice.

    Platform Game 

    Puzzle Game 
  • Perhaps as a nod to this, though slightly characterized, the player character in The 7th Guest is referred to in the manual as "Ego", Latin for "I", and starts the game with absolutely no idea how he got there or who he is.
  • The Case Of The Golden Idol: It's not entirely clear if who the player is even exists. None of the investigations impact the ongoing plot as other characters are able to clearly lie about circumstances, and there's no clear explanation for how the Freeze-Frame Bonus style investigations are even plausibly done.
  • The player character in the Dark Parables games is only ever identified as "Detective," and never seen. At most you see gloved hands and jacket-covered arms. The series has confirmed that she's a woman, though.
  • The player character in the Ravenhearst arc of Mystery Case Files is only ever called "Detective" or "Master Detective." But at the end of Madame Fate, the character's voice is heard speaking on the telephone, revealing that the Master Detective is in fact a woman.
    • In the Collector's Edition of Fate's Carnival, you can collect bobbleheads of many characters throughout the series. The Master Detective bobblehead is masked and wears a full-length overcoat, making for a very generic figure.
    • Dire Grove, Sacred Grove provides the option of playing the Master Detective as male or female while conversing with the characters.
  • A Dark Room has this for the protagonist and most other characters, although some are assigned genders.
  • All one ever sees of the detective in the Mystery Trackers series is gloved hands.
  • In the Dark Tales games, the player character is the friend and assistant of the Great Detective C. Auguste Dupin. The character is never seen and has no dialogue wheel. Some games have commentary suggesting that this character is male, but illustrations in other games indicate that she's female. The developers seem to have not quite made up their minds on the subject.
    • The game Ligeia gives us a look at the player character for the first time, and in that game you're playing as a male.
  • The Dr. Brain series has you as Dr Brain's nameless lab assistant, with the entirety of the first game being your application for the job. Nowhere in any of the games are there any hints about the player's character other than the fact that you're good at solving puzzles.
  • Pony Island is an Ontological Mystery game that eventually subverts this with the revelation that the protagonist is named Theodore, and he was a Crusader from the 1200s with a wife and kid, though this can only be fully learned by way of multiple playthroughs.
  • In Quilts & Cats of Calico, the Quilter is never shown onscreen and is represented by their caravan in the overworld map and board game. They're not referred to with any pronouns and are called "my child" towards the end of the game.
  • The Room (Mobile Game): You are only referred to as 'you' and there are no indications of what you look like whatsoever. Not even hands.
  • The player character is confirmed male in Vermillion Watch (he's referred to as another character's nephew). From a painting of his parents and uncle in his house, we can deduce he's either Caucasian or adopted. All that's seen of him is gloved hands and the occasional shoe.
  • The Player Character of The Pedestrian (2020) is a black image of a person (who can either be male or female depending on which you choose).
  • Superliminal: Nothing is told about the protagonist of the game, nor do we learn anything about their appearance. All that we end up knowing is that they were likely suffering from anxiety or another similar mental illness, and volunteered to enter the dreamscape as a form of therapy. The developer commentaries imply that their intent was for the player to be the protagonist, however.

  • Destruction Derby games always have these. You're represented by a person whose face is fully obscured by a helmet.
    • Depending on how much story there is, this can be common. Even when you're in the roofless 1880s-era Mercedes early car in Gran Turismo, you're still in your firesuit and helmet. And taken to an extreme in the Burnout games, where no-one at all is driving.
    • Same for the Need for Speed games. The PC's face is either obscured by a helmet, or pixellated.
    • Notable in the first to third games that the windows of the cars are black and opaque enough to be considered illegal.
  • The player character and his B-Spec drivers in Gran Turismo 5.
  • A dominant "Career" feature in many arcade-sim racing game (NASCAR, MotoGP, Kart, Formula One, etc) where you create a character representing yourself to compete in the championship and scenario modes.

  • As mentioned in the description, most RTS games simply have no player character beyond a Non-Entity General.
  • In the Command & Conquer games, the player is only ever addressed as Commander/Comrade General (or other appropriate rank). In fact, the original game played as if the game was an actual command interface and the characters addressed the player directly, though subtext with your female assistants in later games assumes Most Gamers Are Male. There are some exceptions though:
    • Tiberian Sun actually has a specific player character who's seen in cutscenes: Anton Slavik for Nod, and Michael "Mac" McNeil for GDI. James Earl Jones' character in the same game, General James Solomon, was retroactively the GDI player character from Tiberian Dawn. The Firestorm expansion went back to the usual, with the returning Slavik and newcomer Lieutenant General Paul Cortez addressing you directly in cutscenesnote .
    • In the initial mission of Kane's Wrath, it's implied that the Nod Commander in Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars proper is supposed to be one of the grunts down on the field, while at the end it's revealed that you are LEGION, successor to the mad AI that is CABAL.
    • Your character in Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight appears to be male, inferred from dialogue with the (still nameless) Commander's wife Lily, and your undergoing plastic surgery to resemble Kane during the story.
  • The Commander in Dawn of War 2. No information is given about him except that he is recently promoted, a man of few words (he doesn't have any lines - not even unit responses) and so awesome that he is expected to beat back an ork invasion on his own.
  • In StarCraft and its expansion, the player character was called by titles such as Magistrate, Cerebrate, or Executor depending on what campaign you were playing. The game's expansion, Brood War, the Executor is promoted to a story character, "Artanis", while the player takes on the role of a different Executor. Meanwhile the Zerg PC in the original game is killed by Zeratul in the novel Queen of Blades.

    Role Playing Game 
  • The Player Character of Dark Scavenger is never described.
  • The original release of Dragon Quest IV allowed the player to select a name and gender for their ultimate main character (though unusually, you wouldn't actually get the character until very late into the game, and so could easily be confused when the game first has you playing someone else). However, this breaks down at many points, especially in bath scenes that have decidedly (and presumably unintentional) Les Yay overtones if you're playing a female character.
    • The DS version of Dragon Quest IV lets you choose your name and gender again, with some of these incidents corrected. They also added a 'Prologue' that lets you see your hero briefly before the main game begins.
    • Dragon Quest III also allowed you to pick the name and gender of not just your hero, but the rest of your allies. Again, in the original translation of the NES game, several referred to you as 'Ortega's son' — starting with the king himself. This was corrected in later versions, though. Corrected with a Lampshade Hanging: "Ortega's Son... er, I mean, Daughter!"
    • Dragon Quest IX lets you customize pretty much everything about your hero's (and their companions') appearance... and then forces you to don a suit of "Dragon Warrior Armor" whose mask covers your face for a climactic battle and cutscene late in the game!
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In general in the series, you are free to customize your protagonist in terms of race, sex, class, appearance, etc. Any games which reference a past game's protagonist (which most frequently occurs within in-game books) will use that character's Red Baron nickname ("The Eternal Champion", "The Emperor's Agent", "The Nerevarine", etc.) while providing as few other details about that character as they can get away with. Each game does offer its own little quirks, however, usually in terms of how this intersects with Protagonist Without a Past.
    • The protagonists from Arena and Daggerfall have the most information available about their pasts of any protagonist in the series, but are still customizable. The Eternal Champion of Arena has also been mentioned as being male in later works, giving a rare confirmation of sex.
    • The Nerevarine of Morrowind is likewise customizable, but does have a few background facts confirmed that make them eligible for the Nerevarine prophesy. The Nerevarine was a prisoner, they were sent from the Imperial City's prison to Morrowind, there was something special about their day of birth ("born on a certain day"), and their parents are unknown. A Dunmer Nerevarine wasn't born in Morrowind, either, which still makes them qualified since the lost prophecies said that the Nerevarine would be an outlander.
    • Skyrim is completely customizable with the only background fact known being that you tried to hop the border in the wrong place at the wrong time. This leads to some goofy scenarios where features about the protagonist are assumed. When a character reacts to your appearance, they generally act as if you're a scrawny, unimposing kid and on the stupid side - even if you made your character look like a muscular grizzled badass and have him equipped in dragon scale or bone armor.note 
  • The first and third Final Fantasy games apply all characterization to your whole party; the individual members are completely interchangeable. This is especially true in III, where you can change your characters' very identities at any time through the job system — all they have to call their own are their names (which you chose).
    • This is nodded to in Dissidia Final Fantasy: Onion Knight and Warrior Of Light are called by their class and title, respectively — the Warrior says he doesn't remember his name (because he never had one; it was the player's choice).
    • The DS re-release of III gives all four characters their own names, personalities and backgrounds, and they each have their own character models for every single possible class.
  • Baten Kaitos has a mix of this and Non-Entity General; while the cast are all well defined, the player is in fact a spirit connected to the main protagonist. Twisted in the second game when YOU get a Tomato in the Mirror.
  • Etrian Odyssey:
    • The mainline games do this in two ways. One being that all of your guild members have absolutely no background, name, gender, or anything; it's up to you to give them a class, a face (which also defines their gender), and a name. The other occurrence would be the guild leader; being impersonated by the player, they even only get vaguely mentioned in the beginning as one of many daring explorers who are willing to challenge the labyrinth. And the games seem to assume that it's a "he".
    • Strangely, the guild officer in Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard invites you to register yourself as a member (i.e. name a character after yourself), but the system isn't designed to recognize which character is "you." If you take her up on her suggestion, the narrator will refer to you and your avatar as separate people for the rest of the game.
  • Pokémon:
    • In the Game Boy version of the Pokémon Trading Card Game, the player character portrait is shown as a bust portrait with young, tween-like facial features of ambiguous gender, an ethnically unclear anime look, and hair tied up in a bandanna on the forehead though it's clearly black.
    • Pokémon X and Y is a very straight example. Not only can you choose your gender, name and now your skin color at character creation, but every other part of your trainer is customizable even after that point. Hair color? Sure. Haircut? Why not. Clothing? A dizzying array of options await you, especially once you have access to every city. The clothing options vary so much that it even gets hard to assign an exact age to the protagonists.
    • Pokémon Sun and Moon also follow suit in some ways, though it's toned down overall compared to X and Y, with initial customization being mainly just skin color differences. The clothing and haircut options come into play once you enter your first major city and are added on to. You are however reminded several times that canonically your character is at a set age.
    • The protagonist of Pokémon Red and Blue and their remakes appears in the Super Smash Bros. series as a fighter known simply as "Pokémon Trainer". While said protagonist appears in sequels and spinoffs as an NPC known as "Red" (male) or "Leaf" (female) and is usually given a more defined personality, their Smash depiction is based exclusively on their depiction in the Kanto games, where no traits are given besides their name, gender, hometown and age of 10-11 years old. Furthermore, unlike in other generations, the opposite-gendered Trainer does not appear as an NPC rival.
  • While you do get to customize the player character in White Knight Chronicles to a ridiculous degree, in cutscenes they don't actually do anything other than stand around and watch the other guys talk about stuff.
  • Amongst Bioware RPG games, the Baldur's Gate series, Neverwinter Nights and its expansions, Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire and Dragon Age: Origins plays it straight while Dragon Age II and the Mass Effect series do not.
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 2 does this somewhat to the player character from the first game. There's a journal entry in the manual from the first game's PC talking about what s/he did after getting exiled from Vault 13 which never states his/her name or gender, but does state that s/he eventually settled down and got a spouse of indeterminate gender with an androgynous name. Eventually, the player runs across a statue honoring the character from the first game, but the text on the statue calls the character "he or she."
    • Likewise, Fallout: New Vegas has someone describing a person that's likely to be the son of the player character of Fallout 2. Even assuming that is the case, the only details this specifies for the Chosen One are his gender and that he slept with the wife of one of the crime families in New Reno.
  • FromSoftware:
    • Armored Core, King's Field, and Shadow Tower all have featureless protagonists.
    • Demon's Souls and Dark Souls also use this, but add the option of appearance customization. In the former the character is a person who wanders into Boletaria's fog (for reasons assumed to be exploration, heroism, pillaging, etc) and is referred to by the Maiden in Black as the "Slayer of Demons." In the latter, the character is an Undead who awakens and escapes from the Northern Undead Asylum and is referred to as "The Chosen Undead" by Frampt/Kaathe (of course whether or not this label is accurate depends on how you read the story). The protagonist does not speak other than Yes/No and actions, this actually plays into the games online component where your only method of speech is gestures. The other protagonists are referred to as "The Bearer of the Curse" in Dark Souls 2, "The Ashen One" Dark Souls 3 and "The Tarnished" Elden Ring.
    • Bloodborne carries this over from the Souls games with "The Hunter" or "Good Hunter", as the Pale Doll calls them.
  • In 7th Dragon each class has four portraits, two for each gender. One portrait in each class would be a Rushe, a race of elvish or cat-people depending on the gender. There are no default names for each portrait except for special names that would give one extra skill point to the class. In 2020, there are only two portraits for each class and the Rushe are gone.
  • Played with in Undertale: You name the fallen child at the beginning of the game and control a child who is a Featureless Protagonist; however, the child you name and the child you control are actually two separate characters. The child you control has no backstory or traits (besides being "determined") other than their true name "Frisk" which is only discovered at the end of the Pacifist route. Meanwhile, the child you name (who has the default name of "Chara") does get a backstory and character traits, though it's arguable who the actual protagonist is between the two.
    • The spin-off Deltarune greatly subverts this with the Player Character, Kris. They initially seem as a Featureless Protagonist; No dialogue, don't express emotions, and shows no personality. However, as The Stingers for both chapters and some other, easy-to-miss pieces of dialogue show, being a quiet kid who rarely shows emotions doesn't mean that Kris doesn't have an agenda of their own, that sometimes might even oppose the player.
  • The main character of the Tales of the World Radiant Mythology series, The Descender, can be completely customized and has no default name or looks. The manga adaptations avert this.

    Simulation Game 
  • Ace Combat:
    • Subverted in Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere. The Player Character turns out to be an AI, and the entire setting of the game is an in-universe simulation. All those planes you flew? They were never real, and even if they were, they'd be unmanned. The point of the simulation was to see if you would assassinate a particular person regardless of other circumstances, which indeed happens in every route (even the ones where you supposedly side with him, instead). While hints to this exist in every ending, it's only fully spelled out in the Omega Ending, just minutes before your "character's" creator deletes you and sets out to unleash a fresh copy of your program on the real world.
    • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War comes really close to revealing the player character's face. The one thing that stood in its way? Chopper's elbow.
      • Happens again in Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. During the mission briefing for Mission 10, when the briefing is over, the pilots’ reflections can be seen leaving the room. As they’re leaving, McKinsey adresses Trigger, and one of those pilots turns around. However a window pop up shows up at the exact time to prevent his face from being seen.
    • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War makes this a minor plot point. The game's Framing Device is a documentary on the eponymous war ten years afterwards, by a man trying to find out more about the player character and being completely incapable of finding anything concrete other than that he was an insanely skilled pilot.
  • Aerobiz: The player is only known as the CEO and always addressed in second person ("You").
  • Each Animal Crossing game starts in a First-Person Perspective as you ride to your new home, with a character (Kapp'n in Wild World, Rover in the other games) asking for your name. After your name is entered, you say it is cool (burly in Wild World) or cute. What you say will have the other character call you a boy or a girl, and you get a chance to correct them if it's wrong. In the rest of the conversation, your responses determine your actual appearance, which you won't get to see until you arrive at the town. In Happy Home Designer, the game instead starts from the perspective of the animals awaiting your arrival, and Tom Nook has lost your hiring forms, so he has to remember your gender and appearance after asking Lottie for your name, and it's all completely determined by you.
  • The FreeSpace series of games, where the player is only ever addressed as "pilot" or by the wing position "Alpha 1". Just like all the other Red Shirt wingmen, except the Red Shirts actually talk, so they aren't exactly Featureless Protagonists. The only thing we know is that the PC is Terran ("Terran" being the only name the Vasudans use to address the PC, ever).
  • Hacknet implies, like Uplink, that the player is the player character.
  • In Hundred Days, Emma is never shown onscreen whenever she talks to the residents of Langhe, with her speech bubbles simply coming out from the bottom of the screen.
  • My Child Lebensborn: The Player Character, whose age gap with their adoptive child in unclear, is always referred to as the child's "parent". Just about anything else about their personality is determined by the player's parenting choices. Their hand is seen holding the child's at the very end of the game, but all it shows is skin the color one would expect from someone living in a small Norwegian town in the 1950s.
  • No Man's Sky plays this straight. The developers originally promised that you'll be able to get an idea of what you look like from other players' descriptions, and that you'll be able to help other players you run across figure out what their player-character looks like. However the released game originally had no multiplayer and meeting other people was impossible. Now when you meet other players, they're just floating orbs.
  • In Papers, Please, the player character is a male head of a household, and shows a small amount of personality through the (unvoiced) dialogue he has with entrants. However, he and the other members his family all remain faceless and nameless, which ironically contrasts with his job being largely about closely scrutinizing other people's names and faces.
    • If your wife is still alive by the last few days, she finds a family photo. If you guess that the old man is your uncle, then you play as a tall, bearded man with broad shoulders in northern wear, but you barely see anything else.
  • In PowerWash Simulator, the Player Character is wearing a full-body suit complete with a respirator mask and opaque visor, leaving no clue as to how they look like except the fact that they have an average build. One of the last jobs in Career Mode is an ancient statue that's said to be carved in the player character's likeness, but the statue's face is androgynous enough to be equally likely to be male or female.
  • In Red Baron the player character has no real characterization whatsoever beyond the player-input name. It can be reasonably deduced that he's male, but this is due to the fact that, other than nurses, there were no female personnel in any of the major armed forces during World War I (officially).
  • Star Trek: Bridge Commander plays this straight. You are the nameless Captain (or maybe your name is Captain) of a starship, and nowhere, anywhere, can you get a glimpse of yourself. The entire game runs in first person view. However, a Ferengi is outraged that you allow a woman (your First Officer) talk to him. That makes you very likely male.
  • In Sticky Business, the player is only represented by a generic humanoid avatar in their sticker shop's website, and at the end of Anja F.'s storyline, she draws them as a cat because she doesn't know what they look like since they've been only texting each other.
  • X:
    • X: Beyond the Frontier through X3: Reunion do have named protagonists, but for the most part this trope still applies. Kyle Brennan (X:BTF and X-Tension) is expanded on in the Tie-In Novel Farnham's Legend, while his son Julian Brennan (X2: The Threat and X3R) gets explained some in the encyclopedia packaged with the X-Superbox.
    • X3: Terran Conflict and X3: Albion Prelude only ever address the player as "pilot" or "captain". You can rename your PC, but it never has any effect on gameplay.
    • X: Rebirth's Player Character Ren Otani has a full story arc and characterization.

    Stealth-Based Game 
  • The original Castle Wolfenstein games cast the player as an unnamed Allied POW captured by the Nazis during WWII. He would not be named until Id's 3D FPS remake, Wolfenstein 3-D.

    Survival Horror 
  • Isaac Clarke is portrayed this way in the original Dead Space. His face is almost always concealed by his helmet and he never speaks. This was dropped in the second and third games, which gave him a voice and had several shots of him with his helmet retracted.
  • Five Nights At Freddys: You never get to see the appearance of the night guard, because the game is in first person. The only thing that's been revealed about them is their name Mike Schmidt and their eye colour on the game over screen; they're blue. In the second game, you can only find out what their name is: Jeremy Fitzgerald. There's also a third guard who goes by Fritz Smith, but we don't know a thing about him either. The player character in the third game has No Name Given, and even has Ambiguous Gender since their terrified hyperventilation could be that of a man or a low-voiced woman. The appearance and personalities of these protagonists are left to the player's imagination. It's actually a bit of a shock that the player character in the fourth game has a (rough, 8-bit approximation of) an appearance.
  • Frosty Nights: You never really see the character that you play as.
  • Iron Helix: By virtue of the player not actually controlling a living, breathing person, but a zoological probe which is merely being remotely-piloted by the protagonist, the game avoids giving any real detail about them. Not even a name or gender.
  • Sleep Tight (2021): All you ever see of whoever you're playing as is a floating pair of hands... that disappear whenever they grab an item.
  • Slide in the Woods: You might as well just be a floating pair of eyes in the game, as you NEVER get a single hint as to what the Player Character looks like.
  • Zigzagged in Unfortunate Spacemen. All the astronauts where colour-coded spacesuits, which is how they identify each other. The suits, meanwhile, have helmets that obscure their faces from view. The alien, meanwhile, can disguise itself as one of the astronauts. Its real form has spiked tendrils and a mouth as big as an astronaut's head.

    Tower Defense 
  • In Plants vs. Zombies, the protagonist doesn't have much discernible characteristics. But since they have a tricycle, it's an almost-certainty that they are a parent, and probably a single parent. Crazy Dave considers the protagonist a neighbor, so it's also likely that the protagonist owns the (rather nice) house, which means that they are likely to be middle-class.
    • The trailer for Plants Vs Zombies 2 shows Crazy Dave's house, and one framed newspaper clipping says "Crazy man saves world" so one could guess that the player from the original is Dave all along and he's been talking to himself the whole game. Why? He's crazy.

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • Advance Wars puts you in the role of an "adviser" to the Orange Star Army, who is spoken to directly but never shown onscreen. Absolutely nothing is known about your character except that they are new to the job. In practice, your "advising" consists of telling the various generals what to do (they never go against your advice) and they in turn deliver these orders to their troops. This makes your character seem a bit redundant, which is probably why the adviser was removed completely in Advance Wars 2, which puts you in control of the generals directly (which is basically what you were doing in the first game).
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade does this, too. You're a wandering tactician, and you meet one of the main characters before the first fight. Of course, after the prologue chapters, you're rarely mentioned. In fact, you can actually choose to not have a tactician, in which case the sprite will not appear on the map and the characters will not address you. However, this also means that Athos won't give you the Afa's Drops (a very good item that is almost a must to use on characters like Nino), because he normally hands them to the tactician personally! Otherwise, the differences are fairly minor.
    • The exceptions are New Mystery of the Emblem, Fire Emblem: Awakening, and Fire Emblem Fates. My Unit/The Avatar can either be a boy or a girl, and their looks are freely customized by the player. In New Mystery their fighting class can be chosen, and in Awakening and Fates they have their own Classes: Tactician (which is similar to Magic Knight) in the first and Nohr Prince/Princess (which includes swords and Dragonstones) in the second. The Awakening/Fates avatars even have love interests whom they can marry and have kids with, including the main Lord Chrom in Awakening if the Avatar is a girl.
      • And yet in the love confessions and the plot-important CGs describing their in-story position as the Soul Jar of Grima (Awakening) and the Child of Two Worlds (Fates), the Avatar's face is never clearly shown.
      • When the Avatars of both Awakening and Fates were revealed as fighters for Smash 4, he/she used the default appearance and name (Robin and Corrin, respectively).
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! Tag Force Series has the player character as a Hat-wearing Slifer Red Student (in the first three), and a rather lean-built red-clad guy (In the fourth installment). Hilarity Ensues to find that in the fourth installment the developers have left inside jokes about him as you play the games:

    Visual Novels 
  • Faceless (and even more so, nameless) protagonists are becoming a Dead Horse Trope in visual novels now days. More story-based games sometimes maintain the faceless look early in the game, but then reveal the protagonist's face in cutscenes later in the story when the player has gotten to know the character better.
  • In most dating sims, the male protagonist (being, effectively, the player's stand-in) when he is on screen is a vaguely dark-haired youth whose bangs conveniently hides his face if he is ever seen from the front. Dating sims with female protagonists, and sound novel-type dating sims, tend to avoid this and do show the girl's face from the beginning.
    • This Dating Sim trend is spoofed in Crush Crush where the protagonist is depicted as just a generic human-shaped white blob who looks quite out of place in CGIs with the far more vividly-drawn girls. The girls even refer to the protagonist as "Marshmallow" at several points, implying that the protagonist literally is just a white blob.
  • Lampshaded in the final picture scene of Daughter for Dessert:
    Protagonist: Pictures always seem to miss my face.
  • In the original release of Fate/stay night, Shirou's face is always obscured during the few times he shows up in cutscenes. His personality, on the other hand, is much more fleshed out than most visual novel protagonists of the time, even though he originally wasn't intended to stand out much so that it would be easier for players to project themselves onto him. Later rereleases of the game would fully show his face.
  • Toyed with in The Prince of Tennis dating sims. The first one, Gakuensai no Oujisama, never shows the face of the brunette main girl note , and there are extremely few mentions to her possible looks (i.e., Kawamura's path implies that she uses glasses). In the other two, Umibe no Secret and Sanroku no Mystic, the girls's faces are clearly seen from the beginning (Sanroku's Tsugumi Obinata is a long-haired girly girl, Umibe's Ayaka Tsujimoto is a short-haired tomboy), and yet sometimes the CG's deliberately show them only from behind or from angles where we cannot see their faces, despite us already knowing how they look like.
  • The Shall We Date? series used to play this trope painfully straight in their earliest games, taking great pains to never show the otome protagonist's face even during the kissing scenes. However, their later games like Love Tangle and Lost Alice give their protagonists actual faces and backstories.
  • The Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side games give the heroine a defined appearance, that of a generically cute girl with reddish-brown hair in a bob cut, but she's only fully displayed as a Super-Deformed sprite in game menus and minigames, while CGs typically avoid showing much more than the back of her head.
  • Since the player is meant to be the protagonist in the Death Room, you don't get an in-game sprite.
  • The nameable protagonist of Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ is supposed to be the player himself. He's represented with an eyeless face and has no personality outside of being a dorky otaku. Since the game is specifically made with a foreign audience in mind, he's an Occidental Otaku by definition.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend's Hiyoko Tousaka has a very vivid, hammy personality and a defined past - but no canon appearance or voice actor. In the manga she breaks the fourth wall to say that it's like an FPS, so the viewer will never see her - in a later issue they do, but she's covered in mushrooms.
  • When They Cry:
    • Higurashi: When They Cry only pretends to be a dating sim at first, so it follow this trope for half of it. Later it is revealed the true series protagonist is someone else and the previous main character gains a face (the new protagonist was present since the beginning, so they had a face already).
    • Umineko: When They Cry gives the main character a face from the beginning. The author even commented he wanted to avoid having the main character go faceless for so long again.
  • Played with in Key/Visual Arts' works, though the male protagonists actually have a strong characterization. Some protagonists are more bland than others, though (i.e. in Planetarian). Their earliest release, Kanon tried to play this straight, though fans generally associate Yuuichi's appearance with the one given in Kyo Ani's anime adaptation.
    • Little Busters! takes it even further - Riki does have sprites, though they only show up in special situations, and while most CGs don't show his face, a fair few still do. He even has a voice, though he only speaks during batting practice, while battling, during the scenes where Masato, Kengo, or Kyousuke become the POV character, and in the scene where the boys disappear.
    • The makers of some of the Key VNs made an older title called One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e which plays this up to the point of stupidity. In CG in which Kouhei is kissing someone, he will have no eyes, nose, etc. depending on the scene. Funnily enough, you actually get a clear view of the back of his head very early on in the story.
  • The protagonists of the Romance Games produced by Voltage, Inc. are depicted without eyes when they appear in CGs — sometimes by the use of a bangs effect, but often their faces are simply blank where their eyes should be. The short introductory animation of Office Secrets does show the protagonist with eyes, but in the in-game CG that the footage was based on, she's eyeless.
    • In one of the spin-offs of In Your Arms Tonight, it gives you the option of displaying the MC's sprite, which gives you a clear image of what she looks like, face and all.
  • War: 13th Day follows this trope to great effect. The player is meant to think they're the protagonist when in reality, they're one of the characters in the story.
  • Minotaur Hotel: Zig-Zagged. You never get to see what the protagonist looks like, aside from some translucent hands that appear in a cutscene. His personality, however, is fully fleshed out, though ultimately he's meant to be primarily an Audience Surrogate.
  • Mystic Messenger has a couple of pre-drawn women's photos you can pick from as your chatroom icon, or you can choose whatever picture you want off your phone, but the default icon for MC is a woman with fair skin and long brown hair, whose eyes you can only see in the icon—they're brownish-gold, but in every one of the CGs with her present, her eyes are hidden by her bangs.
  • Song of Memories has this with the main character, Minato. Bizarrely, he does have a(n albeit very generic) personality, backstory, voice acting, and a number of things you wouldn't expect this to be. In spite of that, the game takes considerable effort to avoid showing him from the front when possible, and has his face completely blank when they have no choice but to show him from the front. Not covered by bangs - blank.
  • Cybird's first released English romance game, Midnight Cinderella played this trope straight with its protagonist who was perpetually eyeless in CGs and had "generically nice" and "is a princess who gets kidnapped even more frequently than Princess Peach" as her only defining personality traits. However, their later games' protagonists, starting with Ikemen Sengoku and its plucky, outspoken heroine with a career in fashion design, thoroughly avert this trope by having well-defined personalities, careers, and actual eyes in CGs.
  • While the player character of Our Lovely Escape does have an established past and personality, we never actually see their face, or even body, likely a result of the ability to chose their gender.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • In Crackdown, you are only ever called "Agent". The only certain thing is your gender, as there are no female Agent models.
  • SunDog: Frozen Legacy: Downplayed; the manual gives the character's original name as Zed, and specifies that he is male. However, this has no actual bearing on the game, and if the player doesn't read the prologue, they might never know.

  • 9.03m: The Player Character is a random person on Baker Beach, San Francisco. The character you play as isn't dwelt upon, since the focus is on the fallen of Tohoku, Japan.
  • Buckshot Roulette: We know absolutely nothing about the person we are playing as, since they are simply supposed to be a stand-in for the player.
  • Cleaning Redville: The game casts you as some featureless garbage truck driver whos hands aren't even visible when they're holding the garbage bags.
  • The Convenience Store is played from the P.O.V. of a woman who works the night shift at a convenience store. The only way we know the Player Character is female is because she's referred to as such at one point.
  • Telltale Texas Hold'Em was the prototype for Poker Night at the Inventory and Poker Night 2, all of which follow the same formula: four established characters interacting with each other over a game of poker across from The Voiceless and mysterious "The Player". Canonically, these are all the same "The Player".
  • Nothing is known about the titular ''Lazerman except that he's ... well, a man.
  • In Not for Broadcast, the player takes the role of a broadcaster named Alex Winston, who controls the framing and the editing of the National Nightly News broadcast. Alex's gender is never specified, since they are unisex and go by the "you" pronoun in interactive fiction style.
  • Emily Is Away is an "interactive story" that takes place entirely over AOL Instant Messenger, so naturally we never see what the protagonist (or anyone else for that matter) looks like. Nothing about your character's gender or appearance is ever mentioned, but it is defined that you start the story as a high school senior and end it as junior in college. You get to pick both a screen name and the first name or nickname Emily will address you as note , and the dialogue avoids using third person pronouns or any other language that would imply gender. However, whether you pick a male or female name, your character is canonically attracted to females, since the plot has you romantically pursuing Emily and another girl named Emma at different points.
  • We know absolutely nothing about the main character of Potion Maker except that they are a talented alchemist and the girls find them attractive.
  • DownWell The protagonist has a featureless white body. The official game description does tell us that they are young. Their name is Welltaro.
  • Cook, Serve, Delicious!: The first game, your appearance is a mystery. The second game you can choose a chef avatar. The third game, all we know about the chef's physical appearance is that they wear the typical chef outfit and they're portly. Your robot companions just call you "Chef" and use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to you.
  • The protagonist of Ensemble Girls! has this as a gimmick, given his lack of uniform, minimal backstory, and namelessness (his default name remained "Transfer Student" for years). His female counterpart/sister from Ensemble Stars!, on the other hand, has a little less ambiguity; despite having no face and looking fairly plain like her predecessor, she she at least has a Canon Name (Anzu), and her past, while on the backburner, is visible— parts of it even showed up in the former's Expanded Universe novels.
  • The Hex: One of the suspects is ???, the protagonist of an Environmental Narrative Game who's depicted as a faceless figure in a trenchcoat whose features are entirely cloaked in shadow except for their hands and feet.

Non-Video-Game Examples:

    Fan Works 
  • Self-insert stories, whether they call their protagonist Y/N, Anon, or simply "You," always have protagonists lacking features to let the reader insert themselves.
  • In the Heroes of the Storm fanfic Heroes of the Desk, the "Player" character is this. The only known facts about them are: they play Heroes of the Storm, they own a powerful gaming computer, and they probably live in America somewhere. The Player has lines (unlike the First-Person Shooter above), but both characters and narration go out of their way to avoid ascribing any definite characteristics to the Player. They don't even have a Gender-Blender Name!
  • A Brighter Dark: Given that the original game allowed allowed players to create their own character, the author took pains to make as few assumptions about the protagonist's appearance as possible. With some exceptions: Their name is Corrin, Corrin is female, and she has pale skin that is typical among Nohrians.
  • Despite fan artists depicting a particular appearance with some measure of consistency, the author of Fallout: Equestria does not go into much detail regarding protagonist Littlepip's appearance beyond being a small unicorn mare with a PipBuck cutie mark; a deliberate choice to enable the reader to imagine her appearance however they like, as if she were their own player character.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, they lampshade the fact that in first-person shooters, your perspective is a surround view of the landscape with two arms in front of you and a rifle. In this case, they show that in Hero's Duty, the player is not playing as a human soldier, but rather, is controlling a short, nondescript, voiceless robot with a gun in one arm and a two-way TV screen for a face. Outside of gameplay, it does have its own personality — in particular, it takes offense at Ralph getting too close to it during gameplay and causing the player an untimely Game Over.

  • Lone Wolf's title character is explicitly male from the outset, and his race, the Sommlending, are described as white-skinned and blond-haired. However, during the New Order Kai series, when the protagonist is one of Lone Wolf's top pupils, the narrative goes to ridiculous lengths to avoid calling him by name, mostly having characters refer to him as "Grand Master". There is even a random table set up in the books to help players generate their own Meaningful Name for their character.
  • Most Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks portrayed "you" as a child or teenager of unspecified gender... who, in the illustrations, was sometimes slightly androgynous but almost always unmistakably white, and often clearly male.
    • There are a few books, however, where the history and/or illustrations consistently portray the protagonist as a tomboyish girl. Mystery of the Maya as well as The Magic of the Unicorn are two.
    • Jay Liebold's Mystery of the Ninja series starts with a protagonist drawn as a boy with a ponytail, but the following titles made said main character a long-haired girl.
    • Fight for Freedom is set in apartheid-era South Africa, and with your dark skin a few bad things happen.
  • Fighting Fantasy:
    • Most books never draw your player character and no-one ever remark upon your gender (although the cover art for some of the early American editions would depict a generic male fantasy warrior).
    • Black Vein Prophecy has you wake up in a sarcophagus with no memory; as such, you were some character of significance, and you have to learn about your past over the course of the story, culminating in a fight with the people that put you in the tomb.
    • Appointment with F.E.A.R. is one of the few books where you do have a name, but it turns out to be a Gender-Blender Name, Jean Lafayette, the Silver Crusader. As your character is a superhero in this adventure, the book does show you in a few illustrations, but your cape covers most of your character making identifying the gender impossible.
  • The protagonist of GrailQuest is a young person named Pip whose body the player occupies. Pip is never referred to as any specific gender, and whenever Pip appears in illustrations, they are carefully chosen to avoid showing Pip from the neck up. As befits the humorous nature of the series, some of the illustrations in later volumes start to openly parody this, with illustrations featuring Pip's Mirror Self (who is so hideously distorted it is impossible to tell if they are male or female), Pip seconds after they have discovered a substance which turns their head invisible, and perhaps most memorably of all a full-page illustration of Pip's head as it graphically explodes.
  • The Destiny Quest books go to pains to avoid presuming anything about your character except for a few minor background details, even referring to you as "them" or "themselves" in dialogue when some kind of pronoun has to be used. At least in the first book, though, sometimes it slips and refers to you as male.
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!: The "monkey girl" assumed that Maria was not only purely an insert character, but also a perfect lady despite her humble upbringing. It wasn't until she lives the game as an outsider that she begins to notice more unsettling details about Maria's background.
  • In the Star Challenge books, even if the reader is referred in second person and there're very little -if any- clues about him/her in the text, illustrations depict the PC as a young, white male.note 
  • The Twisted Journeys books tend to leave “you” in shadow or as a silhouette on the illustrated pages, or show things from your first-person perspective when possible, but there are a few exceptions— in The Time Travel Trap, for example, “you” appear in full... while wearing Antarctic expedition gear that covers your whole body and leaves you effectively faceless anyway!
  • Though the narrator of I'm Thinking of Ending Things refers to several events that happened during her childhood, readers are given surprisingly little information about her, not even her name. The only things explicitly stated are the feelings on her and Jake's relationship, with virtually nothing revealed about her past, appearance, or independent thoughts. This is because Jake imagines his girlfriend as a woman he almost talked to in a bar once, therefore having to make up only a basic backstory for her with little detail.

In general, because there is no virtual avatar for a pinball game, there isn't any need to visually identify the player character, if one exists at all. As a result, this trope has been a frequent sight in pinball up to this day. This trope even shows up in Licensed Pinball Tables, where the pinball team will add in a Featureless Protagonist who interacts with the existing characters. After all, the player is always represented as a shiny metal ball, which can potentially stand for anything. It says something about this trope's ubiquitousness in pinball that the pinball communities' equivalent term for "player character" is "role," a word broad enough that it doesn't necessarily have to have any defining characteristics.
  • The protagonist in Banzai Run is never given any description aside from being a racer and male.
    • The same goes for the fellow pinball table about motorcycle racing Full Throttle. What story exists is defined entirely by the antagonist Francisco Valentino's interactions with the player character.
  • All that's known about the player protagonist in Varkon is that he's a white man with blonde hair.
  • In The Addams Family, the player is a guest to the Addams' mansion. It is unclear if the player is even an individual or a group, considering sometimes Gomez says, "Look, everyone! We have guests!" when a game begins.
  • There is no explanation on who the player character is in The Simpsons Pinball Party except that the character is male (possibly by accident) and is of legal age to drink alcohol.
  • In both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, the player character is someone who has joined the cast of characters on their journey and has to earn their respect by proving oneself helpful in situations that occur through the books they were based on (though they are technically adaptations of the movies).
  • The player character in Whirlwind is a civilian caught in the rage of a storm system generating tornadoes. Any characters speaking directly to the player character does so in the imperative mood.
  • The Chicago roller coaster trilogy of Comet, Cyclone, and Hurricane all have their player characters as a visitor to the carnival or theme park in which they're located, with no further description. Subsequent machines themed on amusement parks like Jolly Park and RollerCoaster Tycoon follow suit, though the latter, in the spirit of the video games they're based on, also has the player character opening rides and improving the park. Still no physical or behavioral description whatsoever though.
  • A strange case with Ghostbusters: You play as one of the ghost-catching quartet, but it's unclear which.
  • In Cactus Canyon, you are the sheriff's new hire to the Wild West town, tasked with cleaning up the criminal mess the town is in. The player character is suggested to be male, as the saloon girls seem to show romantic and/or sexual interest in the player character, but considering no one ever uses any third-person pronouns to describe the player character, there is room for Alternate Character Interpretation of a female law enforcement officer as the player character.
  • In Attack from Mars, you are part of Earth's special forces assigned to observe and fight the Martians. No other information is given about you.
  • The player character IS actually depicted in Medieval Madness and is shown to be clearly male, but he doesn't appear in any of the artwork, only on the dot-matrix display, whose resolution is too low and whose colors are too limited to clearly make out any physical characteristics other than that he has hair and has a nose. Any close-up shots of this character has him in full armor and thus completely obscured.

  • The "You" character from Twilight Histories is written as vaguely as possible so that the listeners can envision themselves in the role.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the solo Dungeons & Dragons adventure "Blade of Vengeance", the pre-generated character is an elf whose gender is deliberately never specified, even on the enclosed family tree that names (and gives genders for) all the relatives he/she is attempting to avenge. The interior artwork depicts the PC as androgynous.

    Web Videos 
  • In Cube the protagonist is a cube.
  • All the characters from S&D Tier are played by the same person, with no makeup or costuming. The creator has gone on record saying that all the characters can have any appearance the viewer imagines them to have, including their ethnicity or what kind of clothes they wear. The main characters Alex and Morgan don't even have canon genders.

Alternative Title(s): Invisible Protagonist, Ageless Faceless Gender Neutral Culturally Ambiguous Adventure Person, Faceless Protagonist, Yourself Is You, AFGNCAAP