Hey devs, (SPOILER CHARACTER) had kharaa, didn’t she? For ten years? Thoughts on implementing that backstory as someone who suffered a prolonged, severe illness.

Subnautica 6 - Hey devs, (SPOILER CHARACTER) had kharaa, didn't she? For ten years? Thoughts on implementing that backstory as someone who suffered a prolonged, severe illness.

This is HELLA long, but it concerns something dear to me and once I started writing I had to let it all out. I will edit later on my desktop to make skimming easier.

TLDRMarguerit, to my knowledge, was alive and sick on 4546B for ten years. As someone who suffered a severe illness that lasted a few years, this post is how I think she'd have done it – using her prawn as a mobility and assistance device and planning ahead for when she got weaker. I think that UW has a great opportunity to expand on the disability (however temporary) in Marguerit's backstory, and I really hope they consider doing so.

Can I just say how much I love Marguerit's character and how unique she is? Not only is she a middle aged woman, she's a slob and she's Mongolian. That is exceptionally rare in an industry where the women are mostly young hot white things who might use guns, yeah, but are otherwise pretty feminine, and Mongolian men don't exist. Marguerit? Nope she's gonna let those dishes stack up and live in filth with a giant animal. It's gross, and awesome because it's so unique and creative.

Here are questions that popped up while gaming:

  • IIRC, Marguerit had kharaa. How did she manage to survive it for over ten years when Bart died of it? Obviously she would have become inoculated when the peepers released the enzyme, but how did she get to that point alive, let alone healthy enough to tame a goddamn snow stalker, build an underwater base, cultivate a greenhouse and hunt leviathans for the lulz? As someone who had a prolonged illness that wasn't even deadly or did any damage to my organs… I'd have laid down in the snow and died loooong before those ten years were up. Illness is no joke, I already thought it was unrealistic for Riley to have done everything he did while sick. Ten years? Wow.

  • (Also, how does that snow stalker get to and from her base? I don't have any ideas for that one lmao, sorrt!)

Thoughts and feedback, if any devs are still reading, as someone who's been severely ill for years at one point in my life:

  • As much as I'm amused by Marguerit being a slob, it'd also be interesting if she became a slob because she eventually became too sick to actually look after herself. Maybe she never got into the habit of cleaning again after she recovered (I used to be anal retentive about cleanliness before I was sick, now I consider myself disciplined if I take my dishes to the kitchen sink), or her base is actually the cleanest it's been in years now she's better and she's still working through it as she learns to be functional again.

  • Along those lines, maybe her prawn was as much a mobility device as anything else. If you're too sick to walk or swim, you can just sit in the cockpit and poke the joystick. At one point I was too sick to walk up stairs and could barely go to the bathroom. A mini prawn would've been so fucking handy. Marguerit could have fucked around Sector Zero for quite some time into her illness and the hardest part of her day would have been getting in and out of the prawn – walking around her base on foot would've been harder than fucking around underwater.

  • Considering she survived her symptoms for ten years, she could have been ill encough not to be able to swim (takes a lot of energy) but still been able to kill leviathans if she relied solely on the prawn to do it. After a few years, it would have been harder to butcher leviathans by hand, and she might have rigged up the prawn so she could butcher them while piloting it. No heavy lifting, no bending over, there's air supply so the smell doesn't trigger her nausea, which may have grown more sensitive later…

  • Maybe she rigged up the prawn to compress itself to fit through doorways. It might have been an exhausting task, but it would have given her extra time to maintain her plants in the greenhouse. Gardening and maintaining crops is heavy work. If she became too sick to maintain her crops, she would starve – so she'd have had no choice but to plan ahead with that in mind and make plans to maintain her crops for when she's sick.

  • Maybe her snow stalker was sick with kharaa, too. Maybe in the last few months Marguerit grew so weak she couldn't climb into the prawn any more without needing to take an hour to rest inside it afterwards – I've been there, you can get that bad and still be alive. Maybe she could still move the joysticks, but the energy of concentrating enough to manipulate the prawn got too much. I can remember a period of time when I was so sick that I couldn't even roll over in bed. Maybe one day she fell out of the prawn into the water while getting out, almost drowned because she was too tired to swim. She crawled out of the moonpool with her stalker's help, and fell into bed and realised – this is it. She'd given it a good fight and it was time to go. She was going to die eventually, her time had come, and instead of feeling like failure it felt like victory. She fought it for this long, after all, and that's something to be proud of. She just waits for the end, days pass where she doesn't eat and barely drinks…

  • Then one morning, she realises she feels pretty okay after all. Good and bad days coming and going in cycles are normal for prolonged illness, but… this is great for a good day. And is it her imagination, or are her snowstalker's lesions gone?

And later, she learns that the day she fell into the water was the day the enzyme reached Sector Zero. If she didn't get immersed in the water she'd have died.

And now, after years of supporting it, taking care of it as best as she could and keeping it alive, her body has her back again.

I have some thoughts on the snowstalker too:

  • My first thought – service animal? But training service animals that are domestic species is really fucking hard, let alone a wild species, let alone while you're sick. Heck, since snow stalkers are related to the very friendly stalker, maybe they're both domestic (yay, architects). Doesn't matter, what I'm saying is – maybe that's why Marguerit has the snow stalker. Maybe she tried to train it as a service animal once she realised they could be tamed. Maybe she succeeded; realistically, she almost certainly failed. But I can see her getting far enough with it that, presuming the species is a former domestic one, that it sticks around.

  • My dog freaks out if I curl up with cramps – she's not a service dog, but I was in severe pain and she started barking at me and didn't stop until I got back up. It's certainly realistic that even if she failed to train it to the extent she wanted to, a domestic animal could still tell "right" from "not right" and try to fix that – whether that's dragging Marguerit to bed if she collapses on the floor, or pushing her into/out of her prawn when she's really sick because "wait, she usually does that faster, I'll help." It might be shit at doing it on command, but it might be smart enough to register a sense of order and normalcy and try to uphold it. Especially if it gets it fed. There are so many stories of dogs doing things like this, because domestic animals have so much empathy for other creatures and, as social animals, want to help.

Look. I know "representation" is often treated as a dirty word in gaming subs. But I know from this gaming company's actions – Riley, Robin, Sam, the Mongolians – that representation is important to Unknown Worlds.

I'm not saying "make Marguerit disabled/formerly disabled or you're bad." Fuck no. I love this IP and I trust UW to do what they believe is best for the game, and they've been amazing about representation so far, especially women and PoC.

But I am saying – UW has a great opportunity to implement a disabled character here, in backstory if nothing else, and it would mean so much to so many people. And a disabled character that isn't a white kid in a badly designed wheelchair too! (That's important too! But disabled PoC are even rarer, and wheelchairs are far from the only disability out there.)

"Curing" a disability in fiction is often frowned upon by the disabled community, but I don't think that will happen here at all because all disabled players will go in knowing Kharaa was curable – it's not like you're making a blind character see again or making a paraplegic walk and taking away that representation by treating them like something defective to be fixed (I have more thoughts on this as I edit this post, but it's long enough already, so I'll only expand if someone wants me to). We all knew kharaa wasn't permanent.

And because I know UW would depict the recovery from it as the struggle it is (as we can see by Marguerit's cleanliness… or lack thereof), and not an overnight 180 back to status quo, I know this could be done well. Even if Marguerit recovered physically overnight, emotionally, it takes a long, long time to recover from illness like that. My symptoms were 99% gone about eighteen months after I started to recover, but it still affects me to this day. And I was sick a much shorter time than Marguerit.

Surviving on 4546B is intensely difficult even for the able bodied. It's a common thought that disabled people would drop dead faster than anyone else if they faced disaster – but that's true of any human.

All humans need tools; the disabled just happen to need more of them. Riley and Robin survived because they had their PDA, drop pod and a replicator – and, of course, a knife. Marguerit survived because she had her prawn, whatever other tools she retained when she was dragged out to sea, and whatever knowledge she had in her head.

A disabled character with some technical know how and Marguerit's prawn could survive as long as Marguerit did – especially with some preparation. If Marguerit knows she's getting sicker, if she's seen people become disabled and adapt, and has the ingenuity to think, "what can I do today to help my life be as easy as possible when I'm too weak to function?" she will survive. It becomes dangerous when her reflexes and mind dull from fatigue and pain and her body starts giving in, but only at the point she's no longer able to compensate.

Disabled are often killed off in fiction because they're seen as unable to survive when the opposite is true. I'm not saying they don't have shorter lifespans, they do. But they're surviving something that makes other humans look at them and say, "If I were in your shoes, I'd kill myself."

Humans adapt; it's only the able-bodied who've never had to adapt so drastically that think that it's not possible, that it's a fate worse than death. I used to think that way too. Then I became bedridden and yeah, I wanted to die, but also… I couldn't, even when I waited for death. Once I was disabled, it was just normal. Marguerit is absolutely the kind of person I'd see as considering disability a fate worse than death until she actually lives it, and realises, "wait, this isn't so bad, I just need to change how I do a few things now and then to make life easier."

After all – she'll die one day anyway. Sure, it will almost certainly happen sooner than later because she's sick and disabled, there's no illusions about that, but why give up so quickly? Why NOT try to keep going? I think Marguerit would struggle with mourning her health, I think she'd struggle with suicidal feelings.

And I also think that she couldn't bear not giving it all she has, anyway. Maybe she won't see tomorrow. Fine. She can survive today.

And before she knows it, ten years have passed.

I'm not so arrogant as to presume Unknown Worlds will ever implement any of these ideas, or even read this post at all – or even this far. But out of hope for the potential of something like this being expanded on, the company has my express permission to use and modify any and all ideas in this post as they see fit.

I also hope that if they want to know more about adapting to disability and illness they would consider reaching out to me, I'd love the opportunity to talk about my experiences. I've stepped on their toes enough with my ideas in this post, though, so unless I'm explicitly asked I won't suggest any.

I don't think it's likely; the devs and writers are probably far enough in development that they've got everything sketched out. I hope they have room for something like this. I hope.

Still… I saw Marguerit, middle aged and alone and slobby, and remembered my sick self and saw myself in her, being where I thought I'd inevitably be if I lived long enough. Then I thought, "how would I have lived as long as possible in her place?" and I immediately thought of the prawn and…

wait, wasn't she sick? with a deadly disease? For ten years?

Maybe there's more of me in her life and history than I thought.

In my experience there can be backlash (ha) to discussing certain groups of people being present in fiction, especially games. If you have feedback on this post, please be kind, as illness, disability and experiences of it are important to me and many others who might be reading. I respect UW's right to do what they want and they will do so, and I understand that. So please be kind. And if you've read this far – thank you, so much. That means a lot to me by itself.

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