The Inner Connection
There’s another analogous connection being made, and that is with the “Bridge Baby”. This one is fairly obvious on the surface, but I think it will end up being one of the deepest by the end. Let’s call it Level 5.
I believe that for Kojima, the “bridge baby” serves multiple allegorical purposes. The most obvious is the idea of an unfinished, still-in-development video game he’s designing. This is the “brainchild” metaphor, which is a common expression meaning the product of one’s creativity. Every game Kojima has poured himself into has been a brainchild of his, with different potential, hopes, and purposes. Obviously he got attached to them, and couldn’t see them as simply being a means to an end, despite what others would have advised. For Kojima, creation is deeply symbiotic and personal. You’re supposed to begin Death Stranding with no feeling of love or connection to your own undeveloped child, and simply see it as a tool, as the character Deadman suggests.
In the trailers we see a baby doll that looks battered and neglected. It floats down the stream towards Cliff, but it also appears inside Sam in one of the trailers, where previously we had seen a real living baby. This isn’t random hijinks. The message is that a Bridge Baby — or a thing you’re making — can also be seen as a mere commercial product, requiring no love or personal attachment. To treat your own creative projects this way would be like having a lifeless, ugly doll that might be able to move and make sounds, but is only a cheap imitation of the real, beautiful, needy, temperamental thing that you foster and protect.
Yet the metaphor gets deeper when we consider the functionality. The Bridge Baby is what gives Sam insight into the unseen realm. In early trailers people pointed out that when the baby blinks, the camera we’re looking through seems to blink, suggesting that we might be seeing the whole world through the baby’s eyes, not Sam’s. Who knows what twists there will be regarding that. The point is, Kojima seems to already be telling us that this bond is unlike all the others: this one is almost magical. There’s something about having this bond with our “inner child”–or our creative muse–that opens our eyes to dangers we would be blind to otherwise.
As you can already see, I believe there are plenty levels to what Kojima is trying to say with Death Stranding’s imagery and choices. You don’t have to choose between them. They are not only worth considering on their own, separately, or in totality together, but also as contrasts to one another. That becomes Level 6.
It’s pretty obvious that Kojima has become increasingly self-aware of the difference between pleasing fans, staying true to his inner muse, and being a pragmatic business man. Signing contracts with business partners or employees is different than creating a trailer that excites your hardcore fans, but both are their own binding honor system. Both have the opportunity for disaster and backlash. Both are responsibilities. Reaching out to new people, signing up product placements with other brands, and collaborating with celebrities are different yet. All these connections and obligations we become enmeshed with end up having their own risks, rhythms and payoffs, and I believe Kojima wants us to feel the constant tug-of-war between them. The character of Sam Porter Bridges is in the middle of a web in more ways than one. Although he’s totally alone for the most part — for all the hard stuff, anyway! — he’s got so many connections we’re probably going to end up sick of them. Taking care of everyone’s demands and needs while being misunderstood as either a lowly delivery boy or a messiah figure is a weird place to be. Only fellow “deliverers” would understand.
Ideally, I think Kojima would put players in a position where they both love and hate the connections they make. Sometimes they are blessings that give us exactly what we need, and other times they are needy problems we just have to deal with. As players, these connections serve as something to keep us busy, entertain us, point us in a direction, give us priorities, and structure our daily tasks (especially if Sony ends up implementing daily challenges of some kind), and perhaps most importantly, break up the monotony of the “mission” we’re on. What mission? Connecting people and creatively serving their needs to help fix the world, of course!
Next page we’ll focus in on what the lessons are in this context