Even Dying Isn’t Normal In Death Stranding

Death Stranding‘s seemingly annual trailer reveal has provided more clues to its gameplay than critics have supposedly taken it for. Hideo Kojima recently let the world in on the meaning behind the underwater sequence that graced our screens at The Game Awards.

Death Stranding The Game Awards trailer underwater scene

Kojima recently completed an interview with IGN, in which he explained the bizarre, and frankly terrifying, reveal. His words reveal a genre-bending mechanic that proves just why we’ve been heralding him as a video game God all this time.

“One of the themes of this game is life and death… So I want people to realize that when they die in the game, that isn’t the end.”

Intriguing words. However, there’s more intrigue to be had…

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Kojima goes on to explain that while other games simply treat death as a failure and reboot their levels, Death Stranding uses the opportunity for some intense exploration of some heavy themes. Obviously. Instead of seeing a grisly end screen, players enter an underwater world in which they roam seeking hidden items and other secrets as an ethereal being. The liminality between video game life and death epitomised by the “Continue?” screen has been shattered, and it seems that Death Stranding will be all the more coherent for it. Yeah, I just said Death Stranding and coherent in the same sentence…

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Kojima assures us that, while his ideas may seem a little out of our reach at the moment, the game will come together. Personally, this small tidbit is enough to restore my faith in mainstream gaming’s ability to push boundaries of medium and evolve past coin sucking machines (here’s looking at you EA).

Death pulls a player from even the most engrossing of play experiences. It reinstates the screen wall that the rest of the game works so hard to destroy and ultimately breaks diegetic linearity. The only reason the mechanic has become such a mainstay in video games is its ability to enthuse a sense of competition, difficulty, and for more coins to be entered into a 1980s machine. Our industry has evolved, however, to the point where not all games require this competition and to enforce such narrative breaking mechanics detracts significantly from the diegesis of the experience. Death Stranding proves it’s not so difficult to introduce mainstream gaming audiences to new ideas… even if it does take an eccentric God-like developer to do so.

What do you think about the death and restart mechanic? It’s obviously got a lot of place in a number of games, but does it have to be a rule that governs a medium? Let’s chat!

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