Iron Lung game sales skyrocket due to missing Titanic sub, and its dev is feeling conflicted

Iron Lung
(Image credit: David Szymanski)

What you need to know

  • Earlier this week, an OceanGate submersible with five people aboard went missing after it failed to surface following a tourist dive of the wreck of the Titanic.
  • Since then, rescue teams have been working around-the-clock to locate and recover the craft and everyone aboard. At the time of writing, it hasn't yet been found.
  • On social media, many have compared the situation to the 2022 indie horror game Iron Lung, in which players control a lone submariner who has to navigate an alien ocean and photograph key locations before the craft succumbs to pressure or its oxygen runs out. 
  • Sales of the game have skyrocketed, and many users have made dark jokes about how eerily similar it is to the ongoing real-world situation.
  • Iron Lung's creator, David Szymanski, has commented that the sales uptick "feels so wrong," and that while he can "definitely see the dark humor in this whole Titanic sub thing," it's ultimately horrific "knowing real people are in that situation right now."

If you've kept up with global news or browsed social media feeds during the last few days, you've likely caught wind of the ongoing missing Titanic submersible situation. Since Sunday, June 18, five people aboard the OceanGate sub Titan have gone missing after the vessel didn't return to the surface after a tourist dive to the wreckage of the Titanic. Rescue teams have been working around-the-clock to locate and retrieve the Titan before its oxygen levels run out, with major news organizations reporting live updates about the situation as they come. At the time of writing, the Titan still hasn't been found.

As the world watches and waits with bated breath, many social media users have compared the incident to a popular 2022 indie horror game on PC that has a premise eerily similar to the current situation: Iron Lung. In the game, you helm a cramped submersible deep in a sea of alien blood, navigating it in an effort to photograph key locations before the craft's oxygen supply is lost, it succumbs to pressure, or is attacked by whatever lurks in the depths. The game received high scores and positive reviews for its terrifying atmosphere, with players praising how effectively the sub's claustrophobic interior and limited equipment built up a gnawing feeling of dread.

People have been discussing the game so much that it started trending on Twitter recently, and sales of the game are skyrocketing. Many are simply amazed by how remarkably similar the real-life situation is to the one presented in Iron Lung, blood ocean and alien moon aside. Some have made some pretty dark and morbid jokes. "Those silly folks paid 250k to play iron lung that's so silly its $6 on steam," wrote one user. Others are laughing about how Iron Lung got an update that added controller support in March, as the real-life Titan is supposedly controlled with an old Logitech gamepad.

Unsurprisingly, Iron Lung's developer David Szymanski has been privy to everything going on, and clearly feels pretty conflicted about it. "This feels so wrong," Szymanski wrote on Wednesday on Twitter, with a graph showing the game's uptick in sales attached. When asked how he felt about his "art becoming reality," he simply responded: "Bad."

"I definitely see the dark humor in this whole Titanic sub thing, it's just... like, I made Iron Lung the most nightmarish thing I could think of, and knowing real people are in that situation right now is pretty horrific, even if it was their own bad decisions," Szymanski continued in another post. "Like all the jokes I've been seeing are hilarious but also good lord nobody should have to die like that."

Szymanski has yet to check Iron Lung's Steam forums, which — along with its reviews section — have been flooded with black humor since people began linking his game to the missing Titan sub earlier this week. "I haven't checked the Steam forums yet. I'm scared," he wrote.

It's completely understandable that folks are comparing what's going on to Iron Lung, as it's one of the only pieces of media in the world that attempts to put you in the shoes of someone in the middle of this horrifying experience. Like Szymanski, though, I can't help but feel a little weird about the memes people are making. It reminds me of how I felt watching the internet endlessly joke about the pandemic throughout 2020-21.

Iron Lung is available on Steam now for $6, with the Deluxe Edition of the game that includes its soundtrack discounted to just $6.38. Earlier this year, gaming YouTuber Markiplier announced that he's making a film adaptation of the game in collaboration with David Szymanski.

The rescue search for the missing Titanic submersible is still underway. You can follow The New York Times' live coverage of the search effort for the latest updates.


Steam Gift Card | Starting at $20

A Steam Gift Card allows the recipient to purchase games — including Iron Lung — from a massive storefront library. Games can be redeemed on PC, Mac, or Linux. There are different amounts available such as $20, $30, and $50 gift cards.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.