Borrowing and lending
In the big picture of Death Stranding’s epic allegory, I get the sense that Kojima especially wants players to share a sense of being misunderstood peers in a harsh world, who have the opportunity to do something great with their collective creative potential. Throughout all the difficulties and struggles, Kojima’s entire career has truly been fueled by other artists, writers, and creators who came before him. Unlike all those personal “bonds” that restrict him and create obligations, these works of art are pure “gifts” that simply give inspiration and ask for nothing in return. It’s impersonal, but yet somehow the most treasured. One person creates something and shares it, and everyone has the chance to benefit. A single person can make a contribution that changes the world for the better.
In this Level 7 analysis, Kojima wants all the chaos and struggle of Death Stranding to end up sending a simple message of appreciating the playful creators of the world — the Homo Ludens — who sympathize with and interact with the world through the play of communication, sharing, and inspiration.
The Meta Game
This brings us to Level 8, which is the game of figuring out Death Stranding itself. The point of Death Stranding being so obtuse and wacky is not to sell copies and hype up the plot, but to awaken a curiosity in players that get them talking to each other. The “game” is you reading this article and telling your friends about it; the game is me reading your ideas online and reacting to them; the game is all of us finding new references, parallels, and meanings in the game. I think Kojima wants people from many different backgrounds, nationalities, and walks of life to have some insight that others won’t notice, so that the “answers” must be crowdsourced.
What this means is a lot of loose ends, unsolved mysteries, and plot holes, probably. But they will be very deliberate. Kojima doesn’t want this to be a tightly written plot, he wants it to be a playground of speculation and head-canon. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a surface-level explanation for just about everything, but the point will be (as has been since MGS2) to test the players’ willingness to think outside the box and engage with the story on new levels.
It’s worth noting that conspicuous lack of detail is a major deliberate choice of ancient religious writing, especially in the Bible. It seems to me that Kojima is borrowing heavily from the Bible in some ways, and so it wouldn’t surprise me if he used the most studied, analyzed, translated, interpreted, and fought-over document in existence as an inspiration. We must not forget the MGSV quote he put on screen from Nietzsche about facts not existing, only interpretations. Kojima is sort of obsessed with trying to get players to interpret, in case you haven’t noticed.
According to scholars and experts familiar with ancient writing styles, the logic of leaving details out of an important story is that it forces readers to invest their own personal sensibilities if they want satisfaction. The story of Cain and Abel, for example, is only a few sentences long, with extremely few details, but this makes the weird details that are mentioned even more bewildering and intriguing. Hundreds of thousands of sermons and articles have been written trying to understand why it was relevant to mention that Cain was a crop-grower and Abel was a shepherd, for instance. We’re never told why that mattered, or why God rejected the crops of Cain and approved of the meat offering of Abel. If the story had just told you exactly what it all means, we’d stop talking about it. Kojima wants us to “connect the dots” and use our collective imagination to find all the connections.
In the next page we’ll talk about Kojima’s strategic endgame with Death Stranding