SOMA Asks Uncomfortable Questions About the Connection of Body & Personality

SOMA is a scary sci-fi game about staying away from creepy underwater monsters. While these unsettling mixtures of humanity, machine, and sea life make your adventure fairly frightening, the game’s implications about humanity and consciousness are what make for enduring unease and terror. Sure, it’s pretty scary to run from some robot sea monster. It’s a whole lot scarier to contemplate the death of your consciousness and what that might mean to you.


Simon, our main character, goes in for an experimental test. You had a car accident and you need to get a brain scan to survey the damage. That’s not exactly what happens. At least, not from your perspective. You find yourself in some creepy undersea labyrinth the moment you open your eyes. Your memories and consciousness are now inside some other body. I am not sure how this process will help you with your brain damage. Are chases with killer robots that shine with dizzying lights therapeutic? At any rate, you find yourself here and now have to stay alive.

How’d you get here? Well, that procedure made a copy of your entire personality and consciousness. This puts your mind under the care of an AI called WAU (Warden Unit) throughout SOMA. Thankfully, the AI wants to keep all of those stored personalities safe and preserve humanity after a disaster decimates the planet. This somehow leads to underwater facilities and spooky barnacle-covered machines. It ALSO leads to situations where you can do some morally questionable things. Messing with a robot’s power supply is a bit more unsettling when you realize that there’s a living personality inside of it.

The game is at its most disturbing during two segments in the game. There are two moments when you will need to take your personality and move it into another body. At one point, you can’t reach a vital location in this underwater facility in your current frame. So, you take your personality out of one body and plop it down into another one that can handle the trip. The second time is at the end when you’re able to transfer your personality into a black box called the ARK. The ARK is due to head out into space soon, and all while holding those copies of human personalities. In doing this, some of humanity can be preserved despite the disaster that put the world in its current damp state.

The first time you switch your body in SOMA, you find yourself looking back at your old one. Makes sense since you just jumped ship on your old frame. You can leave it or put it down. But who cares, right? You’ve hopped into the new body and left the old one empty. Things go differently when you drop your personality into the ARK later on, though. This time, you find yourself watching the ARK escaping the world from your old body. Your only companion short circuits beside you, leaving you all alone. You’re left puzzled and horrified as you plan completely falls apart.

So, what happened? Over the course of the game, it asks you to question what consciousness and personality mean to you. Do you feel that your mind has a connection to your body? Plenty of spiritual people seem to think otherwise. Once the old meat suit breaks down, everything about you floats off to the afterlife. And if you don’t buy into that line of thinking, there’s a sci-fi equivalent. What are your thoughts on teleporting? Hopping on a little platform and beaming off to some distant land or planet? It’s an idea that used to excite me that now terrifies me after playing this game.

In SOMA, Simon is simply a copy of the real person. It’s not that you’ve pulled the original Simon from their body and put them into the new one. You didn’t move anything. You just created a second one. When you discover this, that initial body swap suddenly becomes so much more horrifying. Whether you killed your old body or left it to die, you’ve still left an entire sentient version of yourself behind. There’s a version of you still sitting in that body. A version of yourself woke up in the new body, but there’s still one you left in that decaying facility.

In the second swap, YOU are the person left behind. When your companion shuts down and you realize that you’re all alone, the implications hit like a truck. It’s chilling to know that you’re going to die despite your efforts to leave this place. It’s more chilling to think about the version of yourself you previously doomed a few hours ago during your first body swap. The most unsettling thing is the implications for spirituality and sci-fi that used to seem really fun and exciting, though.

If you believe in an afterlife, do you believe that you will fully move on? That your personality will exist in this new world? Even if it does, SOMA asks you to consider the idea that you might get left behind with your corpse. What if it’s only a copy of yourself that moves to the afterlife? If you’re leaning more towards the idea of teleportation in sci-fi stories, what happens when your body gets taken apart and reconstituted on the other side? Isn’t it just destroying the original and making a copy of you in some other place? Are you completely sure that this version of “you” will be what wakes up on the other end?

This got me thinking about the connection between the body and the personality. Can we pull everything that makes us exist out of one body and put it in another? If we do that, is it the same person who will awaken there? Will it just be a version of ourselves that shifts to that new body? One that carries our memories and feelings, but isn’t the real version? That it won’t be “me” who moves onto the afterlife or across the stars? Will I be left behind or destroyed as another “me” gets to continue?

SOMA leaves one Simon to corrode and die as another takes to space in a joyful simulation. In doing so, it made me ask many unsettling questions of myself. While I’m not terribly spiritual and don’t see myself teleporting any time soon, the game still makes me ask some uncomfortable questions about the nature of the self and how it’s tied to my body. What do I think will move on if there’s a world beyond? What will it feel like to know a part of me escaped death, only to be trapped in a dying body left behind?

Those questions have left me chilled ever since playing the game, and continue to make it one of the most existentially frightening games ever made.



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