Death Stranding: As it Stands

So we’ve got more Death Stranding information huh! I guess we better analyze it and see what it all means…

Here’s what I’ve already hypothesized about Death Stranding from its earliest trailers and Kojima’s comments:

  • That the baby represents Hideo Kojima’s creative “brainchild” (whether a generic one or Death Stranding itself)
  • That the “strands” connecting you with allies represents Kojima’s collaborations with other artists (such as Del Toro, Mads, and Reedus) who all work together to protect the same brainchild from being destroyed before it can be “born” into the world
  • That the threat against them is largely representative of Konami and the struggles Kojima has faced over the years, despite Kojima outright denying it
  • That the ability for the enemies to suck the life out of people and then possess them is an analogy to how corporations drain creative energy out of employees to the point where they can manipulate and use them as zombies, without a will of their own
  • The ocean metaphor represents the eternal struggle to create (life), but also to swallow up and destroy, like waves that never stop (just as Kojima never stops creating)
  • That the pseudo-scientific mysteries don’t matter except insofar as they reflect technology, and how it can be used by creators or executives to fight, survive, foster life, and overcome competition, etc.

I consider this all to be rather straightforward meta-narrative. Judging by the newest trailer we can elaborate a little bit on this.


Giving Birth

Here’s a post I made in my Death Stranding blog where Kojima says that creation is “lonely” and that it takes “enormous energy” to “give birth” to projects…

Now look at the subsequent tweets more closely. He explains that although it’s lonely, there are a few who will support something before it’s complete or even understandable. This is exactly how his current partnerships sit. Norman Reedus says at the end of the VGA trailer premiere that he has no idea what the game is about, and both Mads and Del Toro have said the same thing at different times. They’re all clueless, and yet they’re helping Kojima support his brainchild. Obviously Sony is the same way, helping to partner with Kojima to produce a game they don’t understand. This is reflected in the game with characters who will help support the life of the baby despite not knowing what it will become in the future, or maybe even who it belongs to.

Don’t be surprised if the umbilical cords you connect to the baby literally drain your energy and feed it. This is perhaps why you need to make friendships with other people, because you don’t have enough energy on your own and you need to switch occasionally, or at least receive energy from others.


Invisible Goop Monsters

Let’s skip the literal explanations for the invisible monsters, black oil, and supernatural entities we see. From an artistic view, it’s pretty clear that these all represent threats to the creative process. Without assigning a specific meaning to anything just yet, we can still imagine the threats include corporate executives, stockholders, online reactions, market trends, and so on. The fact that the invisible monster is apparently blind but not deaf (since they have to shut up and cover their mouths to prevent being caught) is interesting. Seems like it represents self-censoring, perhaps to avoid getting fired/ostracized/criticized.

When the monster hears you, it simply invites the giant to come and turn your world upside down?

The fact that your own partners try to commit suicide to avoid being caught by the monster (and converted to the side of evil in the process?) could reflect the way partners in a project sometimes quit or abandon the whole thing out of fear of controversy. They don’t want to have to attack their former friend and jeopardize the brainchild. Although in the trailer, we see that the partner simply throws the baby away and tells him to run — a clear indication that he doesn’t care about the project, although Reedus’ character obviously does.

On a technical level it’s brilliant of Kojima to utilize the “blinking intelligent lamp attachment” to your power suit, while leaving the enemy invisible. Not only does this amp up the psychological fear of the unknown during gameplay, but it avoids the expensive production costs of designing and animating a unique high-definition monster. The meaning of the monster is supposed to be open to interpretation, so making it literal would be counter-productive anyway.


The Five

It’s tempting to say that the five mysterious figures in the sky represent the main Metal Gear installments, and that each one of them will force the players to “live through” the emotional experience Kojima had during that time.

In fact, if we remember our history, the real origin of the first Metal Gear came about when a doomed project at Konami forced them to assign Kojima to it. He had to take over when the previous team were ready to abandon it. Sound familiar? The guy Reedus’ character is with throws the baby away, but he picks it up instead. Metal Gear was nameless and hopeless when Kojima took it over, just a generic war game, but he turned it around and made it his own — adopting it, in a sense. He then internalized it as his own (keeping the baby within himself) and continued to foster and develop the Metal Gear series for a very long time.

Each of the Five could represent the challenges that faced Kojima at the time of development. Or, if the current baby is supposed to represent Death Stranding, they could represent the current lingering impact of the Metal Gear titles, which threaten to overshadow and destroy his new project by their powerful legacies. After all, it will be hard for Kojima to step out of the shadow of his own creations and start a new creative life. People will always be comparing his new work with Metal Gear, which were bigger, more well-funded, and more famous. This could be Kojima’s way of fighting back against his own legacy in order to give his new project a chance.



For the purpose of analysis I’m not too interested in the gameplay details, lore explanations, or specifics of Death Stranding yet. The important thing is that you get the metaphor correct, so that everything else in the future has the correct interpretive context.

Below is a simple post from my collecting some new information about “timefall”, the chronology of the latest trailer, and the death/rebirth mechanic.

By the way, I’m creating a newsletter that you can sign up for: click here to join. We’ve got a fast-growing list of people who are jumping in, and I’m looking forward to having a better way to communicate using it. Hope to see you there!

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