If Gordon Freeman was the emblematic poster child for the Silent Protagonist, then for a time his foil, Adrian Shephard, became the iconic parallel for the faceless ones. Gordon’s robust Gen-X “nerd turned combatant” archetype was intended as an answer to the typical grunting brawn-over-brain space marine motif we have come to endlessly celebrate in every perennial iteration of DOOM, subverting the expectant trope audiences had grown accustomed to over the years.
Gordon had a ponytail, he didn’t speak in one liners or at all, and the player’s perception of who he is was built up entirely from in-world clues and inferring meaning through NPC commentary. A theoretical physicist seemed like an unlikely protagonist for 1998’s hit action game blockbuster, so when it came time for Gearbox to approach Valve to make an expansion pack, they had to come up with a character that not only built upon this framework, but also made a powerfully distinct protagonist. Thus, Adrian Shephard was born and swiftly embedded into the adolescent imagination of thousands of gamers.