Imagine the biggest single thing on earth. I bet you imagined a mountain. But a sea can swallow a mountain. In fact, it already has; a sea contains many mountains. There is nothing on earth vaster than a sea. The defining characteristic of the sea is its size. We’ve known this from the very first moments we’ve seen seas. Among the earliest folly and greatest ambition of humanity is the act of setting out for the horizon of a sea, the hubris of thinking you can get to the other side of something so vast. This is the legacy of the Phoenicians, the Vikings, the Portuguese, the Spanish. For every Magellan, there were thousands of doomed mad men who we remember in enduring myths like the book of Jonah, The Odyssey, Moby Dick, and Jaws, stories that remind us that seas are hungry and ultimately far worse than malevolent: they are indifferent.
In science fiction, space stands in for what seas once were. We intuitively understand space, not because we can understand space, which is far too vast for us to understand. Instead, we understand space because we know the sea and we remember what it meant before we conquered it with ships and submarines and transcontinental flights.
After the jump, how can we know the sea in videogames? Continue reading →