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In some games, usually RPGs, a player character that does not start out in his actual home at the beginning of the scenario will usually have no prior history in the world of the game. He/she/it will never encounter people they know from before or have a hometown to visit. This is entirely justified in cases where the protagonist is in a foreign country or another world, but is decidedly strange in cases in which it appears that the scenario takes place in the protagonist's homeland.

If it is suggested that people in the gameworld should know of the hero, this trope becomes a form of Gameplay and Story Segregation.

Compare Gameplay-Guided Amnesia, where not even the character knows who they're supposed to be.

May overlap with Featureless Protagonist. Occasionally, can be created in-game by player actions with Schrodinger's Gun.


Non-Video Game Examples

Tabletop Games

  • Grimgor Ironhide appeared out of nowhere for the 6th Edition of Warhammer as the new strongest Orc special character. He and his bodyguard brutally murdered the first orc that asked where he came from and no one has had the stones to ask since!

Theatre

Video Game Examples:

Adventure Games

  • The Secret of Monkey Island starts simply with the hero washing up on a beach with nothing but a silly name and declaring that he wants to be a pirate.
  • Manny Calavera of Grim Fandango. The fact that he's stuck working for the Department of Death indicates that he did something bad in his life to warrant being there, but he claims not to know what it was.
    • It's suggested that he's one of the victims of the Big Bad's scheme to rob people of their #9 tickets.
  • In Broken Sword, it's never really indicated what George Stobbart's job is. He has spent most of the series being a tourist.
    • The first game has him mentioning that he studied law. In the third it is explicitly stated that he is an attorney specialising in patent law.
      • And by the fourth he's become a bail bondsman.

First-Person Shooter

  • The fact that the Point Man of F.E.A.R. doesn't seem to have a history is one of the game's plot points, as many of your increasingly disturbing hallucinations will point out to you.

Platform Games

  • Sonic the Hedgehog. Other than a mention of his [1] in the Japanese manual for the original game, his past isn't elaborated upon at all.
    • Tails comes close, with slight elaboration. It's not clear how he was born on an island that he was the only inhabitant of, though.

Puzzle Games

  • In the mystery PC game The 7th Guest, the player assumes the identity of a character known only as Ego. Ego's voice can periodically be heard during the gameplay, questioning why certain things happen or different characters do different things. His comment at the start of the game is "I remember nothing." Ego's identity is eventually revealed to be Tad, the child who is the eponymous 7th guest at this demonic house party. Ego regains his memory at the moment of the final confrontation, and his child self is rescued from the game's villain.
  • Portal starts with Chell waking up from suspended animation, and it's easy to go through the whole game without even learning her name. Over two games and a comic, the only reliable character trait we discover about her is that she's incredibly stubborn. Even the turrets get more Character Development.
    • Her history can be reasoned out thanks to two facts. The first game mentions that there is a "Bring Your Daughter to Work" day. In the second game you can find a set of abandoned science fair projects, including one signed "Chell" which used a secret ingredient from Aperture. It's likely then that Chell was an employee's daughter (possibly adopted) who was in the facility when GLaDOS came online and has been there ever since.

Role-Playing Games

  • In the CRPG Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura it is possible to give the character one creates the special trait "Child of a Hero", one of the effects of which is that the PC becomes twice as unpopular as normal if he/she commits evil deeds. The justification for this is that people know you are the offspring of a hero, and therefore expect you to be goody-goody. In spite of this, the fact that your father is famous is never brought up in conversation. Additionally, the player will (obviously) never encounter anyone they knew before the game started.
    • In the same game, dialogue with NPC dwarfs suggest that they place great emphasis on their clan and the sense of belonging it brings. One dwarf party member has a sidequest revolving around discovering the lost clan his ancestors belonged to. Yet if the player character is a dwarf himself, the subject of what clan he belongs to or where their clanhold is never comes up. Even when conversing with the king of the dwarves, who asks the above-mentioned party member which clan he belongs to.
      • In addition, one major quest concerns finding the location of the ancestral home of the elves. If you play as an elf, you still have to jump through the hoops to find it out from another elf, and they find it odd you don't know about it yourself.
  • In Dungeon Lords, the protagonist begins the came having just stumbled upon someone else's campsite. No inquiry into his/her past is mentioned.
  • Averted in Final Fantasy V, where Bartz turns out to have a hometown after all; it's in Lix. And while it does get destroyed much later on, so do half a dozen other places at the same time, and they all come back during the ending.
  • Final Fantasy VII plays with the trope; Cloud's last memory of his hometown, Nibelheim, is of the entire town being destroyed in a fire started by the Big Bad. When the party travels there, however, the town is perfectly intact and none of its citizens recognize him. This is later resolved when it's revealed that The Shinra Corporation rebuilt the town and populated it with actors to cover up the failure of the Jenova Project.
  • The four protagonists in the original Final Fantasy I do not have past at all, nor any dialogue, you can choose their names and jobs at the start, and at the end they Retcon the world so they (and the Big Bad) never existed at all. THAT is a protagonist without past or future. Or present, technically.
    • And then you can play one of these in Dissidia Final Fantasy, and this time, he gets talking cutscenes. In which you discover even himself doesn't know where he came from (due to the nature of the endless cycle, every time he was resurrected, he would lose more of his memory, and he's been in the conflict since the very beginning). Dissidia 012 reveals that he doesn't have a past, as he was a manikin infused with memory and personality.
  • Averted in Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. The player character, as a newly sired vampire, has nothing to do with his/her former life out of own will. But at one point in the game one does run into a friend from before the siring, who wonders what happened to the character and offers to help. As, without interference, this friend will indeed call for help, the goal here is to keep up the Masquerade. This editor was especially fond of convincing her that the player character is, in fact, her pet turtle.
    • While the game was still in development, there was a feature that allowed the character to choose a pre-Embrace background that would affect skill distribution (for example, if a normally social Ventrue chose the "Union Leader" background, Physical Attributes would become their new primary). The feature isn't available at first, but a careful bit of code exploration can open it back up to the player.
  • Turned on its head in Planescape: Torment: the hero encounters people who remember him all the time... he just doesn't remember them in return. Most of the time, he just plays along.
    • This does allow a few of those people to play him for a fool though.
      • Best example is Pharod, who will only help you if you go into the catacombs and find the Bronze Sphere. After you bring it back, he reveals that you originally tasked him with finding it and now since you don't remember he was able to make you go find it yourself.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and IV: Oblivion, the character may as well not have existed before the start of the game. No home city, friends, family, etc. In both, you start out in jail for a crime you don't even remember and which the authorities say is "not important". In the former game, the player character is explicitly stated to be an outsider to the island the game takes place on, justifying the trope. In the latter, however, even the prisoner in the cell vis-a-vis yours who taunts you at the very beginning will make statements indicating that you haven't even been conscious in his presence before. It's also hinted that you never committed a crime at all - when asked about it, the emperor says that "perhaps the gods arranged us to meet."(Or, to translate Emperor-speak: "Someone in middle-management fucked up and you got shafted. Sorry.")
    • Morrowind establishes that your parents are unknown ("On a certain day to uncertain parents"), and how and why you were moved from the Imperial City's prison to a boat on the way to an island. Beyond that, things are as blank as Oblivion.
  • The obscure DOS survival horror/fighting game BioForge had a very clever play on this; the game begins with a mad scientist chopping the player up and turning him into a hideous cyborg. As a result, the player begins the game with amnesia. The player's actions throughout the game (whether they spare or kill enemy guards, or use violence or puzzle-solving to progress) determines which of about 20 possible characters kidnapped and experimented on by the bad guys the player will ultimately turn out to have been. The 20 characters (ranging from heroic marines to psychotic killers) are ID files stored on the enemy computer system, you can read them all early in the game, but only get the passcode that tells you which one is YOU at the very end.
  • The protagonist from Neverwinter Nights has no past prior to coming to Neverwinter. The main characters in the expansion packs and sequels get somewhat better characterization.
    • Somewhat justified in that you start as a level 1 character who is just graduating from the Neverwinter Academy, so you wouldn't likely have any deeds to your name. However, you apparently never made any friends in the city of Neverwinter or any other place you visit during the game before hand. You're also quite unfamiliar with the rest of the city even though the Academy is inside it's walls.
    • The first expansion Shadows of Undrentide is really just like the original game; your character is someone who went somewhere to be trained to be an adventurer and is now "graduating". At least the details are less lame this time. You're learning under an independent master, whereas in the original the academy was set up to train potential heroes to save the city from the plague. That latter is either a really bad excuse or unrealistically Genre Savvy. The second expansion Hordes of the Underdark gets off easily by giving your background as "you're the guy from the other expansion" - even if you're not, and even if you're the guy from the original game, who keeps getting referred to.
  • Raidou Kuzunoha the Fourteenth is given no past before the completion of his training.
  • Ryu from Breath of Fire 3 is - he was pretty much born / awoken when the player first manages to take control of the game, so he doesn't really have a past prior to what the player sees.
    • Similarly, Ryu from Breath of Fire 4 was half of a botched god-summoning. Everyone knew about the other half.
  • Both Persona 3 and Persona 4 play with this concept. In both games, you arrive in new towns where next to no one knows you. As both protagonists are silent, there is not much need to discuss their respective backstories. However, the events within the protagonist's childhood in Persona 3 turn out to be VERY important to the overall plot, though he himself doesn't remember them. The protagonist's life up until now in Persona 4, by contrast, is essentially moot and unnecessary to the story overall.
    • Interestingly enough, the manga of Persona 4 makes it so that the protagonist, Souji Seta, is accustomed to being a distant loner having to move to different places all his life. But as The Hero, he'll end up triggering the aggregation of True Companions and learn to treasure friendships. Still not that plot significant, but kind of sweet.
  • In Titan Quest, the player-character simply shows up one day at a pier by a river.
  • Divine Divinity plays this trope rather blatantly. Your character was just walking in a forest, started fighting an orc, got hit by some magic thing from nowhere, then woke up in some guy's house in a random village. They don't even claim your character has amnesia or anything like that.
  • In Final Fantasy XI, your character has "traveled far" from noplace in particular to become an adventurer in the starting nation you choose. After this Hand Wave, the concept is never revisited, yet at the same time your character clearly doesn't have a clue about a thing in Vana'diel.
    • The game does mention that the continent on which the game takes place isn't the entire world. Most likely the player came from somewhere else to the continent of adventure.
  • Fallout usually averts this, and The Courier appeared to be the first example in the series. Subverted as past is revealed, mostly confined to plot points pertinent to this game, but a few seeds for Ontological Mystery have been sown and by the Lonesome Road DLC the player is given a glimpse into a major event of the Courier's past.
  • The fourth Geneforge game gives a variant. You're an Amnesiac Hero who clearly has some important past, but all anyone can tell you about it is that you were raving mad and throwing power around in messy displays of violence. No one recognizes you, although you might not look the same as you did. You may be a protagonist from a previous installment in the series. You may be an antagonist. You may be a nobody.

Stealth-Based Games

Third-Person Shooter

  • The Crusader game actually had this as a plot point. The Silencer thinks he remembers what his history is...but at the very least he may well have been genetically engineered. Also, if he has a name, no one (except possibly him) knows it.

Wide Open Sandbox

  • The first time the Player in Saints Row is seen, he nearly is run over, and then nearly shot. We learn nothing else about him, except that he doesn't talk much (but when he does...)

Notes

  1. Christmas Island
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