The Quiet Man Has me Worried About How Deafness Will be Portrayed

Hot among the rush of E3 2018 video game announcements came Human Head Studios’ upcoming The Quiet Man. A teaser that introduced a possible deaf protagonist, leaving me, a deaf gamer, both excited and worried.

The Quiet Man’s teaser introduced us to the city the story seems to be set within —Is it New York? I’m not great with recognising cityscapes— and then we see the hooded male protagonist walking off into a shady looking area. All live action by the way. He interrupts a giggle session with three gang members and places his lunch(?) down.

In response to the one intimidating gang member shouting at him, he points to his ear, then signs “what?” indicating that he’s deaf. The teaser then transitions into video game graphics and seems to show a very brief snippet of cinematic combat gameplay set to a third-person camera.

Not much to go from really, although more details about the game are expected this month. What is known comes through in the press release that gave a bit more information as to what we can expect. Frankly, I’m a little bit confused, and I’ll explain why below. Here’s the snippet from the press release.

“an immersive story-driven cinematic action experience, which players can complete in one sitting, seamlessly blending high-production live action, realistic CG and pulse-pounding action gameplay.”

Instantly my heart dropped after reading, “complete in one sitting”, then I re-read it and my heart dropped again at, “high-production live action”. However, this wasn’t concern about the longevity of the title, nor the visual style of the title. It was feeling disheartened and worried about how the game will portray deafness.

The teaser seemed to throw heavy Prototype vibes in terms of showing a large city, and a battle trained protagonist —at least to me it did— but instead, it appears like we’re getting a game similar to Late Shift or perhaps even Heavy Rain.

While these aren’t bad things at all, it’s a weird feeling for myself being deaf. There are very few movies and video games where a protagonist is deaf and is also a total badass. So it’s a strange, yet welcoming thing to see the disability captured within a game.

Seeing the teaser for The Quiet Man allowed me to feel as if the disability has been recognised enough in modern culture to warrant basing a video game around it somehow. My mind started fantasising what the game could contain.

“Perhaps the world is free-roam and silent relying on you to pay attention to finer details.”

“Maybe there’s a type of intuitive camera to focus on those details.”

“Just maybe the combat would evolve into slow motion to allow you to focus on possible attacks and feel like the character has, as a result of being deaf, been able to use his vision to his advantage.”

Those are just a few things my brain toyed with.

However, seeing the limited information from the press release crushed those assumptions. Suddenly I’m visualising a short movie like experience with quick time events, and moral choices. While not a bad thing as I’ve already stated, it felt like this is a way of testing the waters with a deaf protagonist as if The Quiet Man is introducing a disability into the spotlight and hoping it reflects well with the gaming community. 

Since The Quiet Man‘s reveal, the official Twitter account at the time of writing this has just over five-hundred followers. There really doesn’t seem to be much interest at the moment and one of my worries is that people just don’t care about the introduction of a deaf protagonist, especially not in the style of an interactive movie. I’d hope that this changes should the game turn out to be different to what I’m currently expecting.

But while all these worries are small, and are essentially myself hoping that people see deafness portrayed well, the biggest worry comes from a recent producer letter and throws the deafness concept into question.

Kensei Fujinaga’s producer letter —you can read below— back in July talked about the core concept of the title. It seems to be heavily focused on conveying feelings through emotional connections, and mutual understanding rather than words.

However, the letter seems to lack any mention of deafness and instead mentions, “Feelings that remain after words are abandoned.” Could this mean the protagonist isn’t actually deaf and is part of some cult?

It would make sense given that he placed a bag on a fallen gang member as a type of payment or a mark as if he was assigned. Not only that but if he was mute —which seems to be what the producer letter is implying— then there’s either the possibility the protagonist was born profoundly deaf, or he’s agreed to a life of silence and has, in fact, abandoned words.

If the protagonist is deaf, then I’m going to be worried about how the disability is portrayed. A game with a deaf protagonist is going to draw in a good amount of interest from deaf gamers.

If the protagonist isn’t deaf then I’ll be worried about how they incorporate someone who has chosen to abandon words and acts as if they’re deaf. I’m certainly leaning more towards the above simply due to the teaser showing him pointing to his ears and implying he’s deaf.

This is all speculation at the moment though until more details are revealed. It’s already known that The Quiet Man will be available for PS4 and PC and is being developed by Human Head Studios and produced by Square Enix.

I for one am excited for the arrival of the title and hope it exceeds my expectations. I still can’t shake the feeling that it’ll be a short-lived game though.

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A writer, coffee addict, father, and a gaming journalist.