Subnautica: A Horror Game In Disguise?

The amazing game of Subnautica is marketed as an underwater survival/adventure game. However, there is another aspect within the game that is not listed: Horror. Horror is an essential component of making Subnautica what it is.

Now, Subnautica does not use jumpscares, or blood and guts like you would expect in any other horror game. Instead, Subnautica uses a few aspects that i will talk and elaborate on.

The first aspect i would like to talk about is the fear of the unknown. The game just dumps you straight into a alien planet you are unfamiliar with right from the beginning. Phychological research has proven that humans have a strong tendency to repel things that they are not familiar with, and sticks with the things they are. This unknown planet aspect causes the player to have thoughts about dangerous creatures they don’t know about that wants to kill them.

The second aspect would be progression. In the game, you have to visit specific points on the map in order to progress further into the game. When you go to the locations, you will already be overwhelmed by the fear of the unknown, but to add to that fear, the developers of the game decides to put the most dangerous creatures in the entire game patrolling the places that you are forced to go to in order to progress further into the story. This will give you a feeling that there is always something big and dangerous chasing you, no matter where you go.

The third aspect is thalassophobia. If you don’t know what that is, it is the intense fear of large, and deep oceans. This aspect kind of overlaps with the fear of the unknown, but it also has some characteristics of its own. For example, if you’re swimming in an ocean on Earth, you can say that there may be a few fishes underneath you, or maybe a few sharks (no biggie right?), but you can be pretty sure there WILL NOT be a giant 100 meter long leviathan swimming in the same waters as you. But on an alien planet? Who knows what will be in the water?

The fourth and last aspect i will elaborate on is ambeince and sound design. It is common knowledge that the deeper you go in the water, the less light there will be, and in Subnautica, you are required to go deeper in order to progress. Now imagine this: You are 900 meters below the surface, your oxygen is running low and you are trapped in an seemingly endless void of dark waters, trying to find your orientation and your submarine. You hear a roar in the distance. You look around, attempting to find the source or the roar, but only to find nothing but pitch blackness. Words cannot describe the amount of fear and panic you would be in. Adding to that scenario, a creepy soundtrack of ambience voices, and faint clicks starts playing. Subnautica has tons of different soundtracks, and theyu are unique to every biome, reflecting the amount of threat the biome posseses. For example, in a safer area, the music would be light, peaceful, and happy. But when ytou start to go into a more dangeorus area, the music wil change into a creepy, and mysterious white background noise.

Obviously, these four aspects i have listed are not the only ones. There are many more that are designed to play with your mind, and to bring fear into you. A beginner player may be absolutely overwhelmed by fear, and may be tempted to delete the game, or try to forget about the game (that’s what i almost did haha), but if you keep playing, you will soon learn to overcome and look past the fear. Once you do that, you will see the true beauties this mysterious planet has to offer.

-Torres H.

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