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Under The Waves' submarine 70s grief flat is nicer than my home

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Stan Moray in Under The Waves looks at himself in the mirror and pulls a face
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Quantic Dream

Oft' am I struck by the fact that video game homes belonging to characters in the depths of despair are nicer that all of the homes I've lived in myself. Granted, I'm a thirty-something in a country with a years-long housing crisis, so even the Baker House in Resident Evil 7 is of "I think I could just about afford that one day" status. But it comes to something when a 70s depresso-capsule at the bottom of the sea has more square footage and storage space than I do.

Under The Waves (which got patched today, and not before time because I've had one fatal error crash per play session since it came out last week so far) is about a deep sea diver called Stan, who is living and working at the bottom of a big wet metaphor for grief. You will know this because a) its Steam page says this up front, and b) it's not super subtle (this game is published by Quantic Dream). But, as newsman Edwin pointed out to me today, when was the last time the sea wasn't a metaphor for grief? It's never a metaphor for enjoying a nice raspberry ripple ice cream. And despite Stan making reference to "what [he's] been through" half an hour in, I think it does a great job with its chthonic sadness. You float about in your tiny little sub in a great misty darkness, listen to the extremely melancholy music, and you start thinking about sad stuff in your own life. But you get into Stan's capsule living area and you think "this guy has a carpet and a book nook, what the hell?"

I don't have a book nook! He's got shelving built into the wall, and a desk in there as well, and a window by his futon. His bathroom is three times the size as mine! His kitchen, too! And look at all that storage space. Stan has a TV bed. His massive kitchen has a built-in TV too, and an aquarium. He says the fridge door is iced shut, but mine doesn't close unless you kick it and the thermostat is on the wonk so if you put lettuce too near the top or back of the bastard then said lettuce freezes hard enough to be used as a heavy weapon.

A map of the small underwater flat in Under The Waves
Stan's nice cosy bedroom in Under The Waves
Stan's 70s bathroom in Under The Waves
Stan's capsule sunken kitchen in Under The Waves
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Quantic Dream

Like, sure, it's at the bottom of the sea, but Stan works from home so there's no commute. Plus, if he did get a job on the surface, the commute is about half an hour, based on the intro, and my commute between London and Brighton used to be twice that. It's not great for local amenities and there's no public transport, but there's ample parking for your mini sub. It's also just quite nice, like. The 70s style is, in 2023, retro enough to be cool again, so I like the smooth edges and burnt orange all over the place.

I get a similar kind of Drew-Scanlon-blinking-meme moment whenever someone in a TV show or movie says they have a "crappy apartment" and then opens the door on some kind of luxury Ikea Narnia. And in fairness, though Stan's entire existence is to contemplate tragedy, he is aware that his literal and figurative pressurised environment is pretty nice. He remarks that the TV (which has excellent reception) is bigger than the one at home. Thematically it makes sense as well, because the life pod needs to be a nice home to get back to after spending a day sad-swimming around a big, green-blue void, so the cream and orange is a perfect colour wheel contrast. Stan has horrible nightmares, too, so it's important the living space feels safe. This would then make it even more effective if, say, that safety were in some way breached later on.

So in general I'm very happy for Stan and his lovely underwater flat. I'm just saying. This housing crisis has really come to something, hasn't it?

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