Computer/Video Games, Diffability

Subnautica and the power of distraction

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I recently started playing Subnautica. It is a beautiful game. It also seems to scratch several itches I didn’t realize I had. Most importantly though, it has provided me with a much needed escape.

What is Subnautica? It is an open world, alien planet, survival game. It’s website description:

You have crash-landed on an alien ocean world, and the only way to go is down. Descend into the depths of a vast underwater world filled with wonder and peril. Craft equipment, pilot submarines and out-smart wildlife to explore lush coral reefs, volcanoes, cave systems, and more - all while trying to survive.

Ok, cool, why are you writing about it? Well one, I think Unknown Worlds Entertainment deserves credit for an excellent game. Two, finding a source of escapism can be life saving and perhaps others will benefit from my find as well.

As a little kid I wanted to be a marine biologist. The ocean has always fascinated me. As I grew up though my physical health as well as artifacts of neurodivergence (anxiety, irrational fears of dark waters, even difficulty dealing with the sensation of wet) made this unrealistic. I’ve maintained a love of the ocean and its different flora and fauna though.

Being able to explore an open world alien aquatic planet despite my physical limitations has in many ways been living out a childhood dream. I hollered with triumph and glee when I finished building the large submarine in the game. I showed it off to my children and spouse giving details of its diving depth limitations and its cool features. The game still taps into my idiosyncrasies providing a chance to play with those fears and hang ups without risking myself though.

On top of the cool childhood dream fulfillment component the game has provided me with a sense of freedom during a particularly difficult flap in pain and chronic illness flair ups. As a largely wheelchair bound person I don’t get out much anymore. When I do, there are physical barriers as well as physiological ones determining where I can go, for how long, and whether or not the effort is worth it. Despite spending the last two weeks heavily medicated for pain (pain control meds + terrifying megafauna chasing you = intense experiences) and largely stuck in bed writhing from pain or in my reclining chair propped up with pillows I have had a lot of fun. No seriously, I’ve logged about 50 hours in my watery playground and during a chunk of that time I was moderately to largely distracted from my pain. Sometimes my concentration level has been limited to finding rocks to break and harvesting minerals but that is still a welcome distraction.

All that being said, you should check out Subnautica if you’re looking for: a beautiful game, distraction from life/pain/problems, experience fulfillment, or really any rationalization/excuse 😊.