Know this: The Quiet Man is wretched. There is plenty more to say about it, but everything boils down to this fact: it is wretched, wretched, wretched.
For those unfamiliar: this is, ostensibly, a game about a deaf man, Dane, and the criminal world he is embroiled in. This is a lie, a trick—possibly intentional, possibly not, but a fool’s presentation regardless. Proof positive: on the official website, there are three ‘Letters from the Producer.’ Not a single one uses the word ‘deaf,’ or even brushes shoulders with the concept of deafness. I would suggest that you read them in full, because no isolated quote can possibly capture the fullness of their lofty hubris. Here, have an excerpt:
“Words shape consciousness; indeed, some even say that “words are life.” But what if we were to cast aside such a life? What if somehow, we were able to understand one another through connections formed heart to heart, soul to soul, and could once again look into one another’s eyes and form a bond so pure?” (Kensei Fujinaga)
Amazing. Extraordinary. Ten out of ten. These letters capture the essence of The Quiet Man—a jester’s tumble positioned as a visionary work. Immediately we see that, rather than acting as a stylistic guide to communicate a perspective, deafness is simply a tool to pose some Joe Rogan-level thought experiment about sociality. Through looks, touch, and gestures (like SIGN LANGUAGE), we already communicate a nuance of human connection that wildly exceeds whatever the hell The Quiet Man thinks it’s doing. From the get-go, it has set itself up for spectacular failure.
The best part is that sociality isn’t even really what The Quiet Man is about. The Quiet Man is about a guy whose mom died (ah, narrative, hrm), and this one guy killed her, but actually it was this other guy, maybe(?), and he’s your friend, but not really, because he’s been playing you this whole time, and there’s this weird mask(???) and another guy, and I think everyone is the mask-wearer, or maybe it was that last guy—who was also your friend, but was also playing you, and is at least definitely one of the most important mask wearers(?????)—and now there’s another woman you know that looks like your mom, so now you’re in love with her, but don’t worry—it’s specifically because she not only looks like your mom, but also plays piano like your mom, sings like your mom, and even gives you the same looks your mom did when you were a baby.
AH. NARRATIVE. HRMM.
That’s… a lot to unpack, but I think it can all be summarized as a creative vision that comically misunderstands how people be. That’s why we flock to these things, isn’t it? The composition can be terrible, the editing may be choppy, but we’re all really here to see a bunch of actors claw desperately at pulling any emotion out of self-important goonery.
Of course, there’s a trapping to this—the misunderstanding of human relationships often goes hand in hand with, uh, shit that sucks. Y’all wanna know how racist this game is? Every latinx man is a Death Wish level gangster. They smoke reefer and do violence. Their gang is referred to as ‘the savages.’ One character refers to them as ‘enchiladas’ (it will not surprise you to learn that the racism only becomes more pronounced when playing the audio-restored update, The Quiet Man: Answered). Yeesh.
One final note regarding the content: there’s an incredibly gnarly scene of domestic abuse early on in the game. It’s supposed to show off why Dane’s so tough. Yet another turd in the trash.
This blows. I’m savvy to a contingent of people within the community of folks who like ‘good/bad’ that perceive the exploitative element as not only necessary, but additive to the ‘good/bad’ phenom. This is fucking bizarre, and not a normal way to think about media. If one of your astute observations about a thing being enjoyable in its badness is ‘check out how racist it is,’ you’re an uncomfortable person to be around.
Of all the things to latch onto, too, why the above? It’s difficult to describe loving something for its flawed qualities, but The Quiet Man legitimately has something going for it outside of its nasty bigotry. Ridiculous animations. Nonsensical setpieces. A complete inability to communicate any perspective whatsoever. This story, in spite of its problems, gets fucking weird—even self-contradictory—on a level that exceeds that of other good/bad games. Not only that, The Quiet Man is infinitely more playable.
By comparison: have you ever tried playing Illbleed? That game is ROUGH—a sterling example of something better viewed than played. By that measure, The Quiet Man is actually pretty easy to play and beat. Sure, you’ll have no idea what you’re doing like 40% of the time, but it’ll still work. You’ll still move forward. And at a breezy 6-7 hours, The Quiet Man will be in and out of your life like shit through a goose. Truly, the platonic ideal of good/bad video games.
But, really, should anyone play The Quiet Man? I guess if you’re like me, and you like to muck in the trash firsthand, go for it. I’d be shocked if publisher Square Enix manages to recoup their investment on this, even with the sales boosted courtesy of the garbage fetish of people like me. You’re not going to tip the fiscal scales enough to reward a disaster like this. But if you’re someone who prefers to marvel, then you’re most certainly better off sticking to that. Find some no commentary let’s play to throw on the TV and repulse yourselves—hoot and holler at this pitiless vision.
Try to remember, though, that people worked hard on this, and that the busted thing you’re looking at was the result of directorial incompetence, rather than the perceived laziness of the people forced to develop one of the 21st century’s dumbest video games. Outdo The Quiet Man’s thesis in your consumption of it—show a little wordless solidarity. The joy of something like The Quiet Man comes from getting a kick out of its surface, not taking potshots at people who didn’t have the time or funds to make sure you couldn’t game the run animation into looking stupid.
If nothing else, watch the credits—there is a thematically-relevant song, and it is Good As Hell.