Death Stranding and the Industry, Thank Goodness There’s Kojima Trying Again


Revolutionary Death Stranding? Perhaps not, but at least Kojima still tries to propose an imaginary that is not full of clichés and convenient solutions.

Apparently, Hideo Kojima still wants to try it with Death Stranding

My generation owes a lot to the cinema. So much of what we have seen unconsciously affects what we do today. I like to call it our “cinematic DNA”. (chuckles) Having grown up watching movies, it doesn’t matter what I do, because that DNA will influence me and give my works a ‘cinematic’ form, just as the art of those who grew up in the ‘manga generation’ will always show manga traces. One of the things that scare me most today is that young video game writers have only grown up with video games and I don’t know if they had the time and the way to absorb the influence of other arts and other media.

In my case when I create I do not consciously aim to get something cinematic, but it is more the result of having grown up with cinema that makes everything look like a movie. It’s what I absorbed in the unconscious: the sense of what is ‘cool’, of the beautiful shots, of the photographic style … everything influences me in one way or another. A single work is the fruit of many unconscious ties. 

from Yasumi Matsuno x Hideo Kojima – 1999 GSLA interview archive

The writer is not a huge fan of Hideo Kojima, despite having played most of the titles that bear his signature, including those of the pre-Metal Gear Solid era. Do not worry, because we are not looking for medals of value by making the alternatives, but we want to clear the field of the shadow of possible misunderstandings for what you will read. 

We come to Death Stranding. After the fragmented materials are shown at Gamescom 2019, many are raising doubts about the game that is more than legitimate: what will it be like? Will it apply as promised? Will it invent a genre? Will it make us all more fertile? Difficult to say with what we’ve seen so far and frankly it’s not even an interesting topic as some would like it to be. These are doubts of a potential buyer, that is, of a subspecies of a human being that relates to the medium only in terms of giving / receiving. Many gamers seem more like accountants (told by an accountant) to the perennial quest to get back to double-entry accounts, than enthusiasts curious to see how far the videogame medium can go. Obviously, the economic discourse is very important at the individual level (everyone knows its availability), but reduce the whole debate on video games in terms of ‘I spend the sum X to have game time Y with a prospect of increasing it by +/- Z’ is disarming sterility. And yet in the last few years the whole triple-A industry seems to revolve around the need to occupy the gamers’ time as much as possible to make them feel satisfied with the money spent and to sell virtual junk in the extra time they dedicate to the game, so much so that the anal concept has become increasingly important in psychoanalytic terms, of ‘endgame’, where the perceived value is greater the more the game will hold me, occupying my time with additional activities often of a disarming experiential poverty.

The new economic models around which modern triple-A video games are conceived have produced an impressive, almost frightening conformism. The experimentation has been definitively ghettoised and is now found almost exclusively in the independent scene (and in some double-A production), a scene from which the major productions steal with both hands when they smell the possibility of making money (the most recent case is that of cars battler, but also think about the battle royale and the MoBA). This situation is also heavily reflected in the collective imagination of the medium, never so flat and static. Just think of how many iconic characters were born from video games in the late 70s and half of the last generation (Xbox 360 / PS3) and compare the number obtained with that of the characters born with the last generation. The truth is that in the PS4 / Xbox One era the triple-A industry has invested heavily in quality standards, even more so on wild monetization, but has done very little to broaden the medium’s imagery which, with few exceptions, appears to stand still last decade. Indeed it is substantially regressed.

Death Stranding

In such a distressing picture Death Stranding is, regardless of its revolutionary mechanics, good news and it is because at least it seems to want to try to propose something different. The trailers seen so far may not even have said much about the game itself, but they still told us something important, namely that Kojima and his people worked to create completely new imagery, which transcends textbook concepts of creative writing that are now applied with bored professionalism to every single video game. In short, beyond everything, it is a work that is worth waiting for because it offers itself as an artifact to be deciphered and which aims to involve us in its otherness, instead of being content to let us spend some time. It is not little.