It’s a great thing when Deaf characters are included in media, whether that’s on the screen or on the page. The more authentic representation there is, the more likely that people who have not had the chance to interact with Deaf people directly will form opinions that are based in reality.
So we were happy to see that a new video game, “The Quiet Man,” would feature a Deaf protagonist, and also include an immersive experience so that every player can get a sense of what it’s like to be Deaf. As one reviewer says, “Games are a powerful tool for empathy.” There’s so much potential there.
Unfortunately, that opportunity was pretty thoroughly squandered. Here, we round up some reviews from video game experts.
The Many Problems of The Quiet Man
Negative. Deaf gamer offers the perspective that the developer was sloppy in execution, and points out weaknesses. Says that the game reinforces negative stereotypes of Deaf people, especially with introduction of the “with sound” version that implies that one finally progresses with a hearing savior who provides “answers which we have been so desperately seeking.” Mentions developers consulted with only one Deaf person, to focus on ASL inclusion. Damns the game as a “mockery,” says inclusion of Deaf character was only a gimmick, and entirely disrespectful to Deaf people.
“This entire game that is built around the experience of a deaf man was created entirely by hearing people who only felt the need to consult a deaf person for the ASL parts of it. The Quiet Man, in my opinion, is nothing more than a bad take on a deaf fantasy of the magical deaf Dane of a hearing guy and that is glaringly obvious the more I play this game.”
Please do not play The Quiet Man with sound
Negative. References other reviews, including OneOddGamerGirl. Wonders whether the developer thinks that Deaf people are “magical.” Mentions that the game will receive update with sound, recommends against that. *Spoiler alert: major plot and gameplay reveals.
“Actual deaf people have played The Quiet Man and found it very much wanting; when you play it you clip into almost every surface available and during fights may suddenly teleport from one punching animation to another with a block of frames missing in between; the main character Dane isn’t a Quiet Man at all and he actually makes a lot of noise. Yes, sure, all that is true. You’ve seen everyone tear into it already, and say why you absolutely should not buy it until it’s approx. £3. But I also want a go doing that.”
You’re better off setting 15 bucks ablaze than playing “The Quiet Man”
Negative. “An interesting case study in atrociousness.” States that the game was a missed opportunity to explore the experience of a Deaf protagonist. Points out the absurdities, errors, and confusion points in plot and gameplay, and combat “so godawful that it feels like a low-budget PS2 game.” Says that the patch update including sound and promising “clarity,” is likely to be worse off than the original release.
“Dane’s deafness really doesn’t make sense in this context. It’s not implemented in a way that adds to or contextualizes the story, which left me wondering why Human Head wanted to further obscure an already broken narrative. Perhaps that was the reason behind it. Adding to the mystery to ‘elevate’ the artistry. The problem is there is no artistry here.”
The Quiet Man is The Room of video games and a once-in-a-generation trainwreck
Negative. Difficulty understanding logic behind where sound appears or doesn’t. Protagonist seems to read lips perfectly – carries on conversations with minimum of signing. Damns game, says more money and attention was paid to martial arts than the portrayal of deafness, and the combat is horrible. Controls are not explained, and makes several assumptions about what the Deaf experience might be like. Says the game is racist and sexist.
“Games can be a powerful tool for empathy, and a title that shows hearing people what it’s like to live without that sense could be a very valuable thing. It could also be a chance for deaf players to feel represented in a game that both explores and actually accommodates their disability. But… no. Instead, Dane acts exactly as he would if he could hear, while we look on in confusion. This is real-world disability repurposed as a pretentious gimmick, and it quickly becomes clear that more research was invested in making sure the game’s martial arts were accurate than its portrayal of deafness.”
The Quiet Man review – fascinatingly awful
Negative. Says that the game is gimmicky, and the gimmick fails. Completely inaccessible to the player. Plot is difficult, nearly impossible to follow, and the game is of such a “staggering ineptitude we’re almost impressed Square Enix had the nerve to release the game.” Says the game producers should be paying you to play it.
“…one of the most galling [ideas] is that Dane himself clearly understands what people are saying even if you don’t. This creates an impenetrable disconnect between player and protagonist where you never feel like you’re really playing as him, because he seems to know everything that’s going on and you’re left completely out of the loop. It’s a mistake Quantic Dream’s David Cage has often made but not even he has ever failed on as grand a scale as this.”