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A real-time simulation of the Titanic sinking is slow, beautiful, and unsettling

A real-time simulation of the Titanic sinking is slow, beautiful, and unsettling

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Is a video game recreation of the sinking of the Titanic — which killed more than 1,500 passengers and crew a little over 100 years ago — educational or tasteless? The questions through the two and a half hours of footage (above) from Titanic: Honor and Glory, a "fully interactive recreation of the most famous ship in history."

After the 1997 film Titanic surged interest in the tragedy, dozens if not hundreds of entrepreneurs tried to capitalize. Traveling museum tours, home shopping memorabilia, and even high school productions of "Titanic: The Musical" made the words Titanic sound like the educational version of watching NASCAR for the car wrecks. Almost two decades later, a cynicism pervades entertainment built around the ship.

The silence is unnerving

Titanic: Honor and Glory appears to be smarter, or at the very least more sincere, than its contemporaries. Longer than the average movie, this simulation from the game is downright plodding. Almost 45 minutes pass without a hint that the boat is sinking, barring very sparse dialogue from unseen people aboard the ship, and a handful of captions explaining what's happening aboard the vessel. The most unsettling choice is the gradual silencing of the ambient sound. The wind of the night disappears, so that as the ship submerges, the only audio comes from the occasional explosion, crack of wood, or groan of bending metal. The empty ship is almost serene, until your brain imagines thousands of people trying to escape aboard the feeble lifeboats.

The full game will allow players to not only explore the ship before and during its sinking, but investigate a recreation of the streets of Southampton before boarding for their ill-fated journey. The ambition is so comically grand that I assume the developers must truly believe in its pursuit — otherwise why invest resources into an almost tedious degree of detail. Take for example this breakdown of which parts of the ship have been modeled, are in-progress, or haven't been started.

As tempting as it may be to skip right to the end of the video, a number of interesting bits are interspersed throughout, like water flooding the meticulously crafted interiors. I recommend muting the video, and leaving it open in a tab, checking in now and then. Having the ship's sinking actually play it in real time is more affecting than any other film I've seen on the Titanic, even that one from 1997 that launched (and sunk) a thousand ships.