Sea of Solitude—A Game About Fighting Personal Demons And Trauma—Hits Hard But Fairly

Sea of Solitude—A Game About Fighting Personal Demons And Trauma—Hits Hard But Fairly
Credit: Electronic Arts

The subject of the mind has gone through a lot of consistent metaphors in art: spider webs, computers, and, often, the endless expanses of the ocean. But despite the constant use of those metaphors, each one makes a potent analogy with real implications for our understanding of the life of the mind. And games can be perfected or ruined based on how they handle that symbolism.

Sea of Solitude, recently released last week, attempts to use one of those metaphors—the ocean—to reexamine familiar but difficult topics about loneliness, personal demons, and trauma. The game manages to pull off its serious subject matter in an extremely gratifying way.

Many players got their first look at Sea of Solitude at last month’s E3. The game, developed by Jo-Mei Games and published by Electronic Arts, was released just last Friday. The new game places the problem of mental health within the context of a much greater metaphor involving the story of a girl named Kay seeking a larger boat in a world underwater.

Kay is forced to avoid looming dark monsters, which lie just under the water’s surface and will, quite literally, come out of the depths to try and swallow her. In addition to those monsters, each of the major bosses of the game are representations of the people who have caused Kay trauma in the past—her brother, her parents, and even an ex-boyfriend. Kay needs to defeat them and remove the power they hold over her if she wishes to move forward. Most of the game involves Kay seeking a larger boat to use while navigating the giant ocean, which is itself a metaphor about the survival of the ego in the larger extent of the human psyche.

Beyond the game’s amazing storyline, players will be astonished by the fantastic graphics and eerie themes of a lonely, submerged world.

This isn’t the first game in recent memory to tackle mental health. Many players will remember the critically-acclaimed Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, which tackled issues of psychosis and schizophrenia (more commonly known as having voices in the head). The game astonished players for using that topic in an even-handed, realistic and satisfyingly emotional story arc and gameplay.

But although Sea of Solitude is not the first game to tackle issues of mental health, it is a welcome addition to the new trend. It will hopefully not be the last game to do so. More games that tackle difficult topics are a welcome break from the constant stream of superficiality that we often use to occupy our time.

Sea of Solitude is now available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and the PC. Check it out if you’re curious.