Personally I’m not a big fan of summer, I find that this season is just a large amount of time where people force themselves to complete meaningless and futile tasks under the pretext that it’s to get us out of our comfort zones. This idea is not necessarily contemptible, but personally summer has always taken the form of a trip to the Atlantic ocean. An ocean from which the only thing we take full advantage of is this incomprehensible body of water that is a constant reminder of how insignificantly small we are. Unlike other landscapes, but the ocean is the only one to make me feel this heavy weight that is loneliness. Being at a loss in the face of the incomprehensible, and the fear of getting lost, never being able to find shore. I always assumed that I wasn’t the only person who gets this feeling of discomfort when faced with the seemingly endless body of water that is the ocean. So when a game decided to exploit this feeling and made it a starting point for the development of all their ideas, it piqued my curiosity.
I saw this game: Sea Of Solitude. (July 5, 2019, available on PS4, Xbox and PC) while it was competing for the title of best indie game at the 2019 Games Awards. I’ve already had the opportunity to talk about Sea Of Solitude in a previous issue. Although I mainly focused on its creator Cornelia Geppert and her approach to video games. Today I’m primarily going to focus on the use of water, the omnipresent and founding landscape. A quick reminder, this game from Jo Mei Games shows us that we need to embrace our fears like the creator did by staging her trauma with this game.
We follow the journey of a character called Kay on her little motor boat, who is travelling around a small town submerged by the sea. In this town there are two different types of living beings: monstrous black animals (crows, jellyfish, chameleons, wolves, crustaceans and a whale) and luminous beings. There are also two types of humanoid beings: Kay and a radiant young girl dressed in an anorak with a bright yellow bob. This contrast between light and dark, fear and hope can be found throughout the game. Monsters hide within the black water with the sole purpose of destroying you. The water is your enemy just like in many games, touching the water or staying in it for too long will lead to your death. This is to add a more practical side to the game since it makes it possible to delimit the playable areas from the non-playable ones and to ensure a logical end to the rest of the story. The notion of this limit is particularly visible in the passages where Kay remembers her past, since she should have her feet on the ground for these moments: the water disappears.
In Sea Of Solitude, water is present visually but it is also there to represent morality. What Cornelia Geppert is trying to explain to us through these stories and these moments of life, is that if we understand our fears we will be able to control them. The water goes from being this hostile place to a haven of peace. So now we can jump head first into this place that understands us, a place that has sheltered our sorrows, our fears and our sufferings. After all, these are the places that know us best. Once we’re free of our fears, diving into these places can only be a source of happiness. We reminisce over the miles that our little boat helped us sail across. It’s as if these places kept all our happy memories, the pleasures that were made invisible by problems that are out of our control. And it is then, at that precise moment, that we are able to see them for the first time, and we become one with ourselves and the monsters living inside of us disappear forever.
I would like to end this article with a quote from Christopher Johnson McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp the hero of the film / book that retraces his story: Into The Wild. He spent the last three years of his life trying to understand the demons that surrounded his own Sea Of Solitude. It’s only by facing the ocean that he realized the distance traveled and all that he still has to go through to reach his completion: “The sea’s only gifts are harsh blows, and, occasionally, the chance to
feel strong. Now, I don’t know much about the sea, but I do know that that’s the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing the blind, deaf stone alone with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head.”