Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I wanted to revisit the game Soma. I’ve played through the entire story three times now and each time I have really enjoyed it. The challenge is expressing what it is that I love so much about this game. This game is a great horror story that demands that we examine what it means to be human.
The two primary characters of the game are Simon Jarrett and Dr. Catherine Chun. Simon Jarrett is the protagonist of the story which the player controls through out the game. He is a copy of a brain scan from the past that has been uploaded into a cyborg body. Dr. Catherine Chun is Simon’s sole companion and guide through out the game. Catherine has clearly defined her boundaries between herself and the Other. She does her best to avoid further consideration of the topic since she finds it distressing. On the other hand, it is the distress that causes Simon to continue to revisit the topic. He cannot accept he previous definition of being human in context of his current existence.
All those simplistic minds we’ve run into. Just reviving a dead person doesn’t seem to work that well. A robot body seems to make people a bit… unreliable. You are the best of both worlds. A sound mind in a sound body.― Dr. Catherine Chun
Catherine has determined that she and Simon are different then the other creatures we encounter in Soma. It is interesting though, that her definition here of being a reliable person does not actually include her. This is not a point that she ever discusses. But what she suggests here is that even she is not reliable and that it is only Simon who has been able to maintain hold of humanity. While Catherine does seem to have a sound mind, she lacks the body completely. She is nothing more then a computer program within a machine at this point. Simon questions if that leaves room for humanity.
However, Catherine takes the approach that most of us do: I feel that I am human, so I am going to consider myself as being human. From that assumption, she judges the other creatures around her based on how like her they are as the measuring stick for being human. Simon on the other hand, is not able to make the assumption that he is human which allows him to consider the creatures around them in a completely different light.
When Catherine tells Simon to attack and destroy a robot to get a chip she is able to propose this because she doesn’t consider them as being human. To her, they are the Others. They are monsters. Being monsters allows humans the right to destroy them. Simon challenges this idea. He questions where the line should be drawn or if there is even a line between the other robots and themselves.
Throughout history, we as humans have defined ourselves in relation to the ‘Other’ and it can be quite a problematic practice, as it reinforces marginalization and social persecution. It makes them the abnormal ones, reinforcing our constructs, aesthetics and perspectives as the norm and anything different is interpreted as a challenge, making it the ‘Other’. This fear and refusal of difference creates monsters and can fester into unwarranted and unjustified hatred.
This is demonstrated by Catherine’s willingness to kill the other creatures in Soma while she is reluctant to kill the Simon that they are forced to leave behind when Simon is copied into a new suit. What is the fundamental difference in killing one of the robots to get a chip from it and killing the Simon that they are leaving behind? The lines that we draw between ourselves and the Other are the only reason that we are able to justify violence. Acting out violence is never considered justified when it is against those who are considered to be part of the in group. Killing those who are part of the self makes you into a monster.
I never felt that comfortable being human in the first place. This isn’t much worse.― Dr. Catherine Chun
At one point, Catherine confesses how she has never felt like she fit in with humanity. In this way, she raises the question if she was ever human. As you move through the story, we see that Catherine was someone that never fit in well with the rest of humanity. She often felt that she was different because she felt socially awkward. Because of this, Catherine was always in the category of being Other even while she was human. Yet, when she becomes a machine, she still chooses to identify herself as being human. She struggles to complete the Ark project because she believes in maintaining humanity; herself included.
You know what sucks about dying? The crash. Everything up till now. The brain damage, you guys, everything—it has made my life so much more real. I started thinking about all the things I was going to do. I’d never been more excited to be alive! All that hope… wasted.― Simon Jarrett
The game presents the idea that it is only with the context of our mortality that we can truly appreciate living. When we ignore that everything we have will eventually come to an end, we also ignore the importance of embracing the life that we are given. Monsters represent the unknown, our deepest fears, and the eventual death that we all face. Soma does not approach this subtly. Instead, it presents us with a world where humanity has already died and all that remains are the monsters that we have created. There is no way to avoid the topic of human mortality as it is all around you. There are dead bodies that you discover and can get information from. The very objective of the game is to save a piece of humanity by launching the ark into space.
It is the brilliant use of monsters as a lens with which to examine our humanity with that makes Soma such an amazing story. As you move through the game you are challenged to think deeply about what it means to be human. We are presented with a variety of people that have been infected with the structure gel and are now distorted hybrids with the machine.
The part that I love the most is that the game never gives you the “right” answer. It presents the questions, but makes no effort to inform you on what the answer to that question should be. Each moral dilemma you are presented with asks you to examine what it means to be human. Yet, how you answer that question has no impact on how the story plays out. There are no “good” or “bad” story endings that cast a light of judgement on the way the question was answered. Instead, all the choices lead to the same ending. This removes the judgement upon those choices, leaving it entirely up to the player to determine what is “right” and “good.”
Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!