I’ve spent 50 hours over the past few weeks playing Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding on PlayStation4. I hesitate to describe this game because I know I could never do it justice. I could explain the storyline, but it’s something you have to experience to understand.
Isn’t that so true in life? No matter the advice our parents or peers have for us, there are times we must experience for ourselves in order to truly soak up the meaning of a situation. It is something expressed often across both Eastern and Western philosophy, religion, and art.
We see this phenomenon pointedly in the death of a loved one; someone who has been through it can provide advice, but you still have to make your own, personal journey through the grief.
Such is the case with Death Stranding: it requires your time and awareness to fully soak up its beauty, its depth, and its meaning. Death Stranding can’t be called merely a “video game.” It is a hybrid of forging your own destiny and bearing witness to your story as it unfolds. You are the creator, and the created.
The Death Stranding Story
This is not a Fortnite-esque, pay-to-play, point-and-shoot video game. Set in what could be described as a “post-apocalyptic” time when America has been all but destroyed, we assume the role of Sam Porter Bridges, played by Norman Reedus (of The Walking Dead).
Familial ties cause the otherwise-less-inclined Sam to help in rebuilding. The work is grueling, as is usually the work of pioneers. While tech-advanced, the world is faced with unique challenges. There is a small percentage of weapon-based encounters, but the majority of the game is devoted to transporting materials to rebuild our country.
Throughout our journey as Sam, we deliver and we reconnect. We bring people together to share information and find solutions. We establish new roads and benefit from the charity of strangers.
I celebrated. I cried. And though the journey was difficult, I marveled at how the universe always found a way to provide for me.
What I can tell you about Death Stranding is this: I thought nearly every character was the “villain” at some point in the story. Our dualistic, black-and-white, hero-and-villain thinking is invasively persistent in our media and culture. Yet, when we observe from the human level, where you and I live every day, we know things are not that simple. In my own life, I have been the hero, and I have been the villain, too.
Death Stranding captures all the complexity and confusion of life. It’s the twists and turns that, while sometimes painful, often lead to the most beautiful places. It’s hope in each other. It’s community. It’s humanity.
At the end of this masterpiece, I was left feeling hopeful, understanding, and forgiving… Isn’t that something our world needs more of right now? The world may still feel like it’s on fire. I still may not know if my sacrifices truly make a difference. Change may not come in the way that I want.
But all of that is okay. Because in the end, I don’t feel like I “won a game”.