Why Death Stranding Sounds Like Hideo Kojima At His Best
Perhaps one of the biggest stars from Sony's E3 2016 conference was the first game from Kojima Productions, Death Stranding, featuring The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus. In typical fashion for Hideo Kojima, the game's debut trailer raised more questions than it provided answers, but over the past few days he and the rest of the Kojima Productions team have begun to tease new details. Quite frankly, what's emerged so far sounds like another Kojima masterpiece in the making.
Now, to be fair, I understand that Kojima's method of storytelling can often be a "love-it-or-hate-it" proposition, but personally, I've come to love the deep, genuinely complicated plots his games incorporate. Over the past few months, I've finally gotten into playing through the Metal Gear Solid series for myself: at their worst, they're borderline absurd ("nanomachines, son," anyone?), but at their best, I think they're legitimately meaningful and intelligent. For example, consider Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, a game concerned with (among other things) the nature of information and the "truth" in the new digital age. The game was released all the way back in 2001, but it still sounds pretty relevant for our social media world today, doesn't it? What makes the Metal Gear Solid series so compelling is that it blends elements of science fiction and the supernatural with real-world concerns to make a product designed primarily to be enjoyed but also to make the player think, and feel, on their own.
It's encouraging, then, that everything Kojima Productions and Kojima himself have teased about this game follows a similar pattern. For example, on Twitter Kojima's personal assistant helped to shed light on the significance of the beached whales seen in the trailer and what we can learn from them on the title Death Stranding.
1/3— Ayako (Touchy!) (@Kaizerkunkun) June 16, 2016
Q: what's the meaning behind the title?
The phenomenon that groups of Whales/Dolphins being beached is called mass stranding.
2/3— Ayako (Touchy!) (@Kaizerkunkun) June 16, 2016
It says LIVE STRANDING if they are beached alive whereas it calls DEATH STRANDING when they are dead.
3/3— Ayako (Touchy!) (@Kaizerkunkun) June 16, 2016
In this title's case, it means SOMETHING has been stranded from SOME WORLD.
This emphasis on "some world" implies the presence of the unusual, or perhaps the downright supernatural, in Death Stranding. Kojima has also teased that the game will belong in a genre entirely on its own-- still something recognizable to fans of triple-A action games but with its own quirks and nuances.
Most interestingly, a central theme being teased by everyone on the team has to do with how people interact with the world around them. In an interview with Chloi Rad of IGN, Kojima credited a short novella by author Kobo Abe, Rope, as a key inspiration for the larger theme driving Death Stranding:
"In this short story, Abe states that the first tool mankind created was a stick," Kojima tells IGN. "He states that the stick is the first tool mankind created to put distance between himself and bad things--to protect himself. He states that the second tool mankind created is a rope. A rope is a tool used to secure things that are important to you."
And today, the official Kojima Productions Twitter account elaborated on how this notion of both protecting oneself and the things important to us might be implemented in gameplay:
Part 8 of 9, how Kobo Abe's sticks and ropes are keywords. pic.twitter.com/BcLcWUnjRL— Kojima Productions (@KojiPro2015_EN) June 16, 2016
In other words, it sounds as if Death Stranding will ask players to reevaluate their self-preservation instinct (i.e. the "stick") and the things important to them (i.e. the "rope"). Perhaps this means players will have the opportunity to seek a balance between fighting and making connections between what they consider important, if indeed such a balance is possible. Will this struggle exist within a single player experience, or will there be some kind of online component as well? Put quite simply, no one knows yet, and it will probably be some time until we know for sure.
But with all of that said, it's already clear that Kojima's trademark commitment to deep, meaningful storytelling is out in full force in Death Stranding. If the debut trailer is any indication, this newest project will be a game that players can jump in and enjoy, but also one that may just leave them with something to really sit and think about afterward. And that's fantastic news, because I think the industry is at its best when for every pulse-pounding action game like Battlefield 1 there's a thoughtful, story-driven game like Death Stranding. Only time will tell if Hideo Kojima's newest game lives up to the hype, but for right now, the future is bright.