Every time Hideo Kojima takes a moment to describe Death Stranding, the theme of connection comes into play. After watching a pair of gameplay demos at Tokyo Game Show last week, the mechanics involved seems fairly straightforward: you can leave items behind for other weary players to pick up, and build structures to make their journey a little less arduous. These concepts seem easy enough to understand, but it’s not the sort of stuff that feels as impactful as Kojima makes Death Stranding out to be. Is there more to it?
Chatting to Kojima last week, we got the sense that, more than the specific mechanics at play, the sentiment behind them is what he believes will resonate with players and inspire them to pay favors forward. Kojima’s insight came after we asked for his opinion of the current state of interactions online. “I don’t think it’s real communication,” he told us. Platforms like Twitter allow people to be simultaneously cruel and anonymous, and he wants to combat that by injecting Death Stranding with the spirit of “omoiyari,” a Japanese word that loosely aligns with the concept of empathy.
Looking back a century, Kojima pointed to letters sent from soldiers during wartime to help illustrate the concept. “There’s a soldier in the war field back then who writes a letter to his wife. So he gives it to the military, it’s sent by ship, it takes like four months, and then his wife opens the letter. This is what was written four months ago and maybe he’s dead on the other side of the world [by then]. It’s not real time, there’s such a big lapse. The wife has to think about what the husband was thinking about four months ago, in this situation, and this is the omoiyari feeling–caring about others.”
Employing acts of generosity is one thing, but to truly understand what Kojima is aiming for, you’ll also have to consider what it’s like to receive acts of kindness as well. In a more direct nod to what you’ll experience in Death Stranding, he points to Mt. Fuji–more specifically, a location that is purpose-built to provide assistance to weary travelers. “If you climb mount Fuji,” he says “it’s really rough. There’s a cabin in between when you’re climbing. Of course it’s very easy if there’s a path, but sometimes there’s no path. And I always feel very thankful for the path and the cabin. I’m always grateful to the first person who makes it, and if I can drink coffee in that log cabin I am so happy about it. So I think if someone feels that way, they can then give that to other people as well. That’s my hope for the game. It’s not the main theme, but that’s the hope.”
I don’t know how there’s a little wine bar on this mountain trail but there is and hikers are drinking! 🍷 The owner looks like this. I told him I like his roof plants. 🌱 pic.twitter.com/uKdJ0fPkSL
— Dale North in 東京 (@DaleNorth) September 14, 2019
The cabin pictured above isn’t the one Kojima is specifically referring to, but it certainly gives off the same energy he’s describing.
Knowing that not everyone has the best intentions online, we asked Kojima if we suspects some players will try to hinder, rather than help, other players. In his experience, this is unlikely: “I pretty much feel that there won’t be much intentional evil.”
“We do a lot of playtests in the office. So sometimes there’s a bridge that crosses a deep river, and people feel grateful, but it only goes to the middle of the river. Of course you don’t give that bridge a thumbs up, but it probably wasn’t intentional. I pretty much feel that there won’t be much intentional evil. I want people to think about that as well if they fall [off that bridge]…’I won’t do that to someone.'”
If Death Stranding can bring a renewed sense of community to the gaming space, we’re all for it. Kojima’s optimism is definitely infectious in person, but the history of multiplayer griefing–both in game and in the real world–is too consistent to ignore. Time will tell; everyone will get to put his new Social Strand System to the test when Death Stranding releases in just a few weeks, on Nov. 8.
Source: Game Spot Mashup