While initial reactions from the deaf community about the concept of SquareEnix’s new game were positive, reactions following its release on PS4 and PC misses the point, various gamers and deaf advocates say.
“The Quiet Man,” is a story-driven, action-adventure game that follows a deaf man, named Dane, as he navigates New York City and battles gang members. The game is almost totally silent, to represent Dane’s deafness and to allow players to “experience the world in the way Dane does.”
But what does experiencing the world as a deaf person actually look like in a video game?
“Seeing the teaser for ‘The Quiet Man’ allowed me to feel as if the disability has been recognized enough in modern culture to warrant basing a video game around it somehow,” Ben Bayliss a writer for Gamerccino, said in August.
But just as it left him excited, he says he was also worried.
Since ‘The Quiet Man’s’ release earlier this month, both deaf and hearing gamers have reported issues with the game. One major issue is the portrayal as deafness as a gimmick. The other is the overall weak gameplay.
“I think this game was equally hated by both hearing and deaf people,” deaf activist and YouTube vlogger Rikki Poynter says in her review. “…so hey, we’re coming together about something, right?!”
The major issue in the hearing loss community has to do around the inconsistent portrayal of Dane’s deafness. For example, Dane lipreads and communicates with every character, but players are unable to follow the advancing story because the conversations are not subtitled.
“The guy can lipread everything that’s being told to him,” Poynter says, “so he knows exactly what he should be doing. If he knows the information, why don’t we know the information?”
That question led to the release of a downloadable patch for the game, released a week after its debut. The patch, named Answered, provides provides a second play-through that restores the sounds, dialogue and soundtrack to the game.
Read more: Why subtitles are important for deaf gamers
“What this looks like to me, a Deaf person, is they’ve released an unfinished game forcing players to experience it in a not ideal fashion, a deaf character struggling to make sense of the crazy hearing world, then as a reward for suffering through the “soundless” game, players get their answers, finally, when they play through it again, this time properly, with sound,” says OneOddGamerGirl in her review.
“That’s right, deaf people bumble through the world clueless and dumb, until we have the good fortune of a hearing person coming to save us and give us the answers which we have been so desperately seeking.”
SquareEnix declined our request for an interview for their feedback on the deaf community’s reaction to “The Quiet Man.”
Have you played “The Quiet Man”? What did you think about its portrayal of deaf people or its accessibility as a deaf player? Let us know in the comments!