Portal and Portal 2 writer Erik Wolpaw, during a talk at NYU’s Game Center, shared why perpetually silent protagonist Chell chooses to stay that way – in short, it’s just funnier.
“There’s this thing with comedy…there’s sort of two different patterns. One is, you’re the straight man in a world gone mad, and the other one is you’re a crazy person in a straight world. ‘Portal’ is definitely the world gone mad straight man, and the straight man is you,” said Wolpaw, adding that though players aren’t as invested in Chell as a character, they are invested in her as their point of entry into the gameworld. “[Chell] could be anyone. It could be you. There’s the silent protagonist, which I don’t know is specifically a Valve thing, but it’s a thing…You may want to know Chell’s backstory, you may want to hear her say things, but I guarantee, if she had to say her straight man lines at the expense of half of the other dialog, it would suck.”
Not that she couldn’t talk if she wanted to. “She [can] talk,” conceded Wolpaw, “she just chooses not to, what with robots all being dicks, why give them the satisfaction?” Why, indeed.