Soma made me question my practice of inhabiting other people’s bodies. I love shoving my consciousness into digital humans through immersive video games, but Soma makes me wonder if I lose some sense of my own identity when I transfer myself into a body that’s not my own.
When I step into Simon’s body in the first moments of Soma, I feel comfortable. I peruse through his apartment like it’s always been mine, even though it’s all new to me. When I get to the doctor’s office and sit down in his brain-scanning chair, I don’t question the idea of having my mind (Simon’s mind) scanned and digitized. And when I wake up in a strange underwater facility dozens of years later, I don’t bat an eyelash. Worse, when I hear a loud clank and something massive step near me, I don’t feel terrified. I feel like I’m at home.
I’ve done this hundreds of times before. When the horrifying thing comes after me, I have an idea of what to do. It’s not scary to me, because I’m the guy that steps into the bodies of others and deals with their horrifying situations. It’s who I am. And I might be more comfortable in that space than I am in my own skin.
I think Soma’s developers made this game specifically for me to grasp with this issue, but forgive me. To make this point, I need to talk about a major mid-game spoiler…
As I progress through Pathos-II, I learn that even though I think I’m Simon or in Simon’s body, I’ve only been deluding myself into thinking that’s true. This is not his body. Simon grew so accustomed to his assumptions of selfhood that it took half of the game for him to realize he’s no longer his true self. He didn’t realize he was deluding himself into believing he was whole and healthy. I have to take this moment to acknowledge that I might also be so self-deluded that I probably wouldn’t notice if I was having an identity crisis.
This is Soma’s true horror: the subtle realization that I am most-likely deluding myself into thinking I’m normal, healthy, and self-aware. In reality I’m most comfortable outside of my own skin.
Many critics have pointed out that Soma’s creepy monster segments aren’t all that scary. That might be the point. We’re so used to being in the shaking boots of somebody like Simon that we’re too comfortable there. I’d rather be in Simon’s confused broken reality than this real broken reality.
The real horror is how desperately I want to commit my consciousness to Simon’s world. I feel more at home there.