The existential dread of horror game Soma has been manifested in a plushie

The sinking terror that comes of having no fixed identity and being trapped alone thousands of metres beneath the ocean has been compacted into the soft, comforting (?) form of a plushie. Frictional Games, the creators of first-person horror game Soma, launched the soft toy depiction of the game’s protagonist Simon on Makeship, aka Kickstarter for plushies. Normally, we don’t report on merch – why would we? – but there is something deeply and darkly funny about making a fleece-coated fuzzy huggy wuggy about the psychologically harrowing experience of being forgotten under the sea. Then again, Frictional Games are not the first to do this sort of thing.

The statue of limitations for spoilers on Soma is long gone (and the appearance of the plushie constitutes a spoiler in itself), so let’s remind ourselves why Soma is such a disturbing, philosophical horror.

For much of the game you believe you’re a human surrounded by robotic lifeforms. But your character, turns out, is a robot himself. You trundle through the sparking ruins of the leaky subaquatic base transferring your consciousness from one robo-body to another in a creepy copy-and-paste ceremony that lets you reach new areas. But in doing this, you leave a previous copy of yourself stuck. Ah.

Stranded, alone, and terrified, you have to listen to their (your?) horrified screams and pleas as you leave them (you?) behind. At the end of the game, you perform one final transference of consciousness to escape the dying facility. A paradise-like storage space for AI awaits, safety from all the grime and rust and fear you’ve gone through. Sanctuary, comfort, companionship. The transfer works!

But this time, you’re the one left behind.

In this light, I could see why someone might want to cuddle Simon. Not for their own sake, but for his. Soma is a game about abandonment, identity, and what it means to have a body (also, one of our best horror games). I definitely didn’t play it and think: “Cute!” But at the time of writing over 500 people are willing to pay for an adorable totem of existential isolation, yet more proof that the ambivalent appeal of the cute-horror fusion is real. I can respect that.

Like I say, Frictional Games aren’t the first to farm fuzz from phobia. Edwin points out there is a plushie of Pyramid Head from Silent Hill 2, for example. You can also get the cursed monkey paw from torch-lit terrorizer Phasmophobia, the goblin guys from Dread Delusion, and of course the many freaky friends from Five Nights At Freddy’s – a horror series ripe for plushification. What makes me marvel at Soma’s plushie is that, while these others represent something unabashedly harmful – monsters, curses, enemies out to get you – poor little Simon is a soft symbol of a conceptual horror. You can’t defeat or outrun or even hug away the horror of Soma. It makes this little robot fleeceboi all the more unsettling. It is a toy that makes me laugh, nervously.

By admin

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