The Deep

Sarah Steenhuis
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The Deep

By Sarah Steenhuis

The Deep is a game about the confrontation with fear, based on my own experience. Take a dive into the depths of the subconscious, but be careful, because you never know what hides in the Shadows.

There's something in the water.

You can see it staring back at you as your gaze scans the waves. You used to find peace staring like this, but you can't help but wonder why this creature is so focused on you. Something tells you that you won't be able to enjoy the comfort of living above the surface as long as you don't go looking for answers. You take a deep breath and dive in.

By the time you're so deep that the light of the surface is a mere glow, an eerie feeling falls over you. In the dark, it's hard to see what's happening around you. The only indication you have that you are not alone, is the gentle but unnatural tugging at the streams.

That, and a deep, gurgling growl that sends your stomach spinning. 

The creature is violent. It doesn't hesitate before attacking, and you can barely escape it's sharp teeth as you manouver deeper past the rocks. Thankfully the rocks grant cover, and for a brief moment, there is room to think. 

Why is the creature so upset? And why does it seem to be blaming you?

Where did it come from?

The Deep borrows a lot of inspiration from Jungian Psychology and the idea that the mind can be divided in different sections. In this case, the main character of the game is the Persona, also known as the Conscious Self, while the monster represents the Shadow: everything that we refuse to acknowledge about ourselves, but still resides in our subconscious.

As the game is about facing this shadow, it only made sense to me to set it in an underwater environment. Nothing quite represents the subconscious as well as water does.

We don’t like to see our Shadow. Most people refuse to face and acknowledge the lesser parts of themselves, and instead lash out when they recognize their own shortcomings in others. In the worst case, people let the anger of their Shadow take them over, and they become bitter and blinded. The only way to avoid this, is by making peace with your Shadow Self, and allowing it to be a part of you.

I wanted to represent this in the game by dividing it into phases. In the first phase, you meet the Shadow; you can no longer deny its existence. The Shadow leads you to the second phase, where you will face a few blockages that you have to solve. The Shadow is quiet during this time until you reach the third phase, where you have to avoid the aggressive Shadow while still solving blockages. This represents how this deeper healing is never easy. As you learn about yourself, you might trigger the negative sides of your Shadow, and you have to learn to work together in order to reach a new light. That is the last phase: a moment of peace where you and your Shadow can finally truly help each other be one.

I thought my anxiety was what I repressed, but in the period of working on this game, I learned that I am afraid of my own vulnerability. I'm repressing my own imperfect little self, and my fear is merely my Shadow lashing out. It will keep attacking me until I accept my sensitivity as a whole, and not just the better parts. My imperfect self is represented in the form of the Shadow, with its five legs and doglike shape despite living underwater.

Curious to find what's in The Deep?

Download the demo on itch.io.

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Sarah Steenhuis Feel free to drop questions or comments (in English or Dutch) in this chatbox, I'll regularly check to respond :)