I’ve done something I never dreamed I’d be capable of. I got on a boat and rode an hour off the coast until miles stretched between me and the ocean’s abyss. And I jumped in. OK, I eased in with a vice-grip on the ladder and trembling limbs. But I did it.
This is one of my worst fears: this vast expanse of the ocean. Seeing nothing between me and whatever else exists out there. Suddenly I’m face to face (literally) with how small I am, how infinitesimal my existence is in the grand scheme of it all, and I am afraid. I’m afraid to die, aware of all I’ll never see humanity experience or experience myself.
But I got in the water, guys. And it wouldn’t have happened with you and, as asinine as this may sound, a video game. Our playthrough of Subnautica was hard on me on so many levels, and something I assumed I’d never finish. If you told me a year ago that I would have finished the game, loved it, and also went swimming in the deep ocean I would have unapologetically horse laughed in your face. But each time you guys pushed me further, I too wanted to see how strong I was. So I got in the water.
In that moment of fear, you know THE MOMENT, when I looked down and couldn’t see anything below me except that vast expense, when the fear was closing my throat and I could feel my heartbeat pounding in my temples, something incredible happened. Pilot whales came out of that vast expanse. They came close, slowed to a creeping drift, and looked at me. And in that moment of fear a stillness washed over me. To another something else, I was part of an expanse. Little, infinitesimal me, was their vast unknown. Wow.
But then the moment of awestruck wonder passed and I realized I had to, against every instinct I had screaming GTFO ASAP, very slowly return to the boat because pilot whales are carnivorous and messy eaters and are usually tailed by sharks looking for an easy meal. Ha. HA HA. (Dear God.)
Games can be for fun, but they’re hardly ever “just games”. They can be super powerful. They can bridge the gap between other human experiences, they can tell stories that bring us together. They can be therapeutic and healing.
Thanks Unknown Worlds, for all the hard work you put into Subnautica. Thank you adventurers, for showing me strength and love. Thank you, past PB, for being brave and facing fear- I’m so proud of you. And to all of you (& future PB) – get in the water. The vast expanse carries so much unknown, and it can be very frightful at times, but it’s 100% worth it.
Music by Krale – “Among Trees”