Solitary Sailing and Isolation in Sea of Thieves

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Sea of Thieves isn’t a great game, or even one that I plan on playing for much longer, but I have absolutely loved my time with it over the past few days. It’s an experience built with companionship in mind, largely based around the concept of four friends voyaging together on a massive galleon ship. This opens the door to role playing, goofing around, and simply hanging out in a simulated world. Playing with a crew is a lot of fun, particularly when everybody is well-coordinated and willing to work together as a team, but I’ve found an appreciation for sailing the high seas alone. I get a feeling of loneliness and isolation when sailing my personal sloop, which is meditative and rewarding in its own right.

There’s a stigmatism built around being alone. A visual representation of happiness is most prominently associated with friendship and spending time with a loved one. These things are very important to me, but I don’t value them any more or less than my solitude. It’s important that I am reliant on myself for stability, and that translates to my time spent with video games as well. This is one of my most prominent hobbies that has been a consistent rock throughout positive and negative periods of my life. Solo sailing in Sea of Thieves, the most recent game I have been playing, has a particularly soothing quality that has been useful for self-reflection.

What’s really driving me to stick with Sea of Thieves are the game mechanics. Waves flow in realistic ways, causing my lonely ship to rock back and forth, which never ceases to satisfy me. Successfully “filling” the sail with wind by rotating it in the proper direction accelerates my craft, and suddenly I’m full speed ahead to my next destination. Seeing that island in the distance gradually get larger as I make my approach never seems to get old, even though I know I won’t be surprised by what I find there. I can’t help but smile and pat myself on the back for my ever-improving docking maneuvers, when I drop the anchor at that exact right moment. Navigation is done completely by reading maps and compasses, a welcome relief from traditional video game waypoints. There is no pressure from the game to complete any real objectives, which means I get to spend my time how I want. Every destination I set for myself just translates to more sailing, which is plenty enough to satisfy me.

The day-to-day tasks of the game aren’t very interesting to begin with, and after you’ve dug up treasure for the third time and defeated your second skeleton captain, you’ll know what to expect for the rest of the game in its current vanilla state. That is certainly a huge flaw, and players are going to drop off rapidly after their two-week free trial for Xbox Game Pass is up. I can’t say that I will stick around long after that either, but the days I’ve spent thus far with Sea of Thieves have been monumental in restoring my excitement for video games, which has been dwindling since 2018 began. For the first time in a long time, I’m enthusiastic about simply playing a game, rather than seeking a reward for the time I devote. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I probably won’t save enough gold to decorate the hull of my ship or buy a fancy pirate hat, but it’s still nice to have a goal.

My solitary journey is often accompanied by music or podcasts, which I usually have to make time to listen to these days. Sea of Thieves doesn’t require much in the way of game volume, so I’ve been using it as an excuse to catch up on my listening habits, or sometimes talking with friends on the phone or in party chat. My job here at Gamer Professionals requires me to stay up to date on all the big video game releases. I spend so much time playing video games just to complete them that I sometimes forget that they can be relaxing. Sea of Thieves is my escape game, for when I just want to do my own thing and be alone with my thoughts. When I do encounter other crews, I try my best to avoid them, but it’s nice knowing I’m not the only one out there.

My time with Sea of Thieves is likely coming to an end within the next week or so when I inevitably move onto other games, but I am fulfilled knowing I have experienced something that is a potential coping mechanism or a solitary escape from the normal pressure of video games and the real world alike. So often we get swallowed by deadlines we set for ourselves in terms of completing games that we forget that video games are about self-enjoyment. This is the first time in a while that I have felt content by the mechanics a game has to offer. I love sailing in this game, and I’m not looking for any reward for it. Sea of Thieves has helped me rediscover my passion for spending time alone in a video game.