Friday, October 23, 2015

Soma: A Deeper Look

A day or two ago I started watching a Let's Play by markiplier of the game Soma. I don't tend to watch Let's Plays as it means me keeping up with new parts coming out or just needing a lot of time to watch the entire thing.

But I watched this one. I then got so invested in the story, so many twists and turns, that I ended up watching another Let's Play of the same game by TheRPGMinx. Even though I have finished watching the game last night, it is still with me.

It left me with questions, as well as disturbing images, and so I felt the great need to make a blog post about it. I woke up drafting the first chapter of a fic that would continue the story (I don't have the time to write it so that's probably not going to happen).

Before I continue, I must warn you that there will be major spoilers. So if you don't want to be spoiled you can go play the game or watch any of the two Let's Plays I linked to.

 For those of you sticking with this: get ready for a wild ride.
Basic Plot Synopsis

The game begins normally, well more normal than it later gets, as Simon Jarret wakes up after a nightmare of a terrible car crash. It turns out that his brain was injured and his head will sometimes bleed. This makes him okay to take an offer by David Munshi for an experimental procedure.

Simon's brain will be scanned and then Munshi will decide how his recovery will go after that. After the scan, Simon is suddenly in a different place. He quickly discovers that there are monsters, he is in an underwater research facility called PATHOS-II, and he can't find any other humans besides himself.

He is nearly ecstatic to find another human via an intercom system. So he quickly goes to where Catherine Chun is...only to find out that she is an AI. She convinces him to help her launch the ARK, a personal project of hers to help save mankind.

It turns out a comet crashed to Earth and Catherine's idea of making scans of people's brains and sending them off into space was the best idea to save humanity. These scans would be like her, indistinguishable from the original person. These people would then be living in a paradise in a Matrix-like world.

Simon ends up agreeing to help Catherine. Over the course of this adventure they slowly figure out what happened. An AI system, called the WAU, ended up mutating the people there all in the name of protecting them. Besides mutating people, the WAU will put scanned humans (like Catherine) into machines.

At one point a character, kept alive by the WAU, says 'It won't let me die.'

Also, people went crazy as more of the crew got scanned. Some believing that if they killed themselves they would get on the ARK.

Along the way, Simon also discovers that he is just a copy of the original Simon, like Catherine, and is actually in the cortex chip of one of Catherine's former colleagues. The original Simon died 100 years ago. Later he changes bodies when they can't find any other way to get into the Abyss.

Simon eventually finds the ARK being guarded by Sarah Lindawll who is most likely the last human alive on Earth. He can decide to kill her and if he does...he's killing the last thing that he knew as a real human.

Simon can decide to help Johan Ross afterwards. It turns out Ross had a plan to destroy the WAU by covering himself in a substance that would be toxic to it. But he died and people didn't catch on to what he was doing. Now Simon is covered in that substance. After Simon helps, Ross attempts to kill Simon as he feels that is the safest option to ensure that the WAU doesn't recover.

Simon and Catherine do eventually launch the ARK into space. Simon is beyond pissed when he is still at PATHOS-II and not in the ARK. Catherine, calling back to an earlier scene, reminds him that brains can only be copied. That one of him would remain at the bottom of the sea while one of him would live in the ARK. She also points out that the same thing is happening to her and she is not panicking.

Simon continues to argue and Catherine ends up being overloaded and shutting down. Leaving Simon all alone.

After the credits there is a scene where the Simon on the ARK reunites with the Catherine on the ARK. It is shown that Catherine's goal was accomplished.
What Does the Title Mean?

There are some instances where titles can be completely meaningless and only there for a little flare like The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations (2009) and times when they can be meaningful like The Road to Perdition (2002).

Soma's title is the latter. Besides meaning 'body' in Greek, another of its definitions is: the body as distinct from the soul, mind, or psyche.

That sounds very much like the overall theme of the game, from the main plot to little side stories. The game continually asks us what is it to be human? What about the people who killed themselves so they could truly be on the ARK? Do their theories hold any water?

You could simplify the title to mean 'the disconnect between the self and the body' as that is the theme of the game.
Simon's Inability to Accept His New Reality

The Simon you play as for the majority of the game is just a scan of the original Simon Jarret's brain. So now there only exists copies of that Simon. Making each copy no more fake or real than the others. Simon is a legacy scan and his scan is used as a template.

However, Simon keeps trying to deny this fact. Whatever copy the player ends up being is the real one to him. Even at the point he switches bodies and has his brain copied yet again. It's a problem similar to that found in The Prestige (2006) in which a copy of Hugh Jackman is made. One dies and one lives. But going to that in detail would be going very much offtrack.

He never seems to accept the fact that there no longer exists an original Simon, who died 100 years ago, and I think that's partially to blame for how human languages are. I think it was a book by Robert A Heinlein that really showed this point to me.

How do we know what left is? By knowing what is right. How do we know what is cold? By what is hot. Ect.

Human languages are a series of contrasts and so Simon easily falls into that trap like so: If I am Simon then the other Simon must be a copy. I am the real Simon.

For Simon to grasp on to some for of sanity he must think of one version of himself as more real than the other. Hence his outburst at the end of the game, when the Ark is finally launched, he gets so mad. He thinks of himself as more real than the other copies of him so he should be on the ARK. He never learned to accept the fact that he was just another copy with no more importance than any other copy of himself. No more realness.
Catherine Didn't Want to Fully Explain Things to Simon

Catherine was an interesting character. Throughout a good majority of the game I thought she was the WAU in disguise. This was due to her not liking to give out a lot of information. Now looking back at it, I think there might be another reason why she didn't explain everything to Simon. At least not to the point he always clearly understood things.

Catherine doesn't do good with people, she's very much an introvert and is a little bit of a pushover. She probably knew that if she got too stressed out that she might overload and, throughout the game, the Omnitool is pushed to its limits.

So explaining things to Simon would be highly stressful. Especially as it seems Simon might be prone to outbursts, with his situation I don't blame him, and so it's not until the very end she risks getting stressed out/overloaded.


No comments:

Post a Comment