Abzû, released in 2016 by Giant Squid Studios, is an underwater adventure exploration game where the player plays as an unspeaking protagonist, known as the Diver, who communicates only through sonic “pings” as they navigate the unexplored depths of the ocean. In this discussion of the aquatic ecosystem modeling and sound design of Abzû and its relationship to narrative and game mechanics, the author applies approaches from the blue humanities and Stefan Helmreich’s concept of the “alien ocean,” a term he reclaims from the marine biologists who used it to describe the “strangeness” of the creatures they were investigating, to address how players interact with and come to understand in-game deep-sea soundscapes that are beyond human perception and experienced by playing as an AI exploration entity. The article considers how inequities in power and agency are translated into constructions of knowledge and the epistemological framing and scoring the nonhuman “other” (and what that communicates about being human) in environmental art that explores environments uninhabited by human life. In Abzû, the author looks at what the framework of the blue humanities and blue media can shape the discussion of ecological game sound design.

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