UPDATED: Death Stranding tries (and fails) to shrug off labels

Hideo Kojima has once again taken to Twitter to defend Death Stranding as a new genre of game, impossible to categorize into existing terms. This hasn’t gone very smoothly.

Stumbling outside the box

Over at my WillYouKeepComing blog — where I chronicle some of the Death Stranding news and snippets for future reference — I’ve just barely created a post analyzing the genre crisis of the game. You should check that out before continuing.

I’ve been a huge critic of video game genres in the past, even suggesting my own radical take on how you could label them differently, so I can’t blame Kojima for wanting to escape the terminology. We should have new names for this stuff. But as a businessman in the real world, where investors, retailers, and corporations need to lump things into categories for the purpose of sales and accounting, that’s not quite feasible.

The Snake Soup poked fun at Kojima’s attempt to casually rebrand his project by pointing out how silly it would sound for other games to try the same thing:

The same funny attitude is circulating everywhere, including Twitter and Reddit, where people even started to compile their favorite reactions to the absurd “strand game” marketing concept:

Or how about this short and sweet reply?

The discussion includes other criticisms of the game:

It’s unpopular, but since that trailer dropped last week I’ve been worried about this “game”. Mostly about people’s expectations for what they are getting. The quick development time and the limited gameplay mechanics we’ve seen, it’s hard for me to believe this is a full on game. To me it looks like a movie with sections where you’ll be walking and interacting with environments. Not trying to hate, just my opinion.

Reddit user with emphasis being mine

Red flags or controversial innovation?

The question remains whether Death Stranding is setting people up for disappointment with vague promises and marketing judo, or whether it is truly so innovative and unique that it can’t be labeled. It’s interesting that not even Kojima himself and PlayStation can keep its story straight about the genre of this game.

Normally when we see developers and publishers try to defy the genre of a game, it means they’re desperate not to be compared to other games that are better. Very rarely do game companies avoid comparisons when they have something superior. You like to brag when you’re winning. If you can defeat your competition, you will purposely draw attention to how you surpass them in various ways.

We can hope that Death Stranding is a masterpiece that breaks free from all conventional wisdom. Kojima said himself that people will think the game is “not that outstanding” when it’s first revealed, but promised that it would be interesting when you play. Personally I’m still not convinced.

Update: KojiPro defends their genre naming

The official Kojima Productions Twitter account has come out to defend their idea of Death Stranding defying all genres today, using a bizarre metaphor of primordial organisms that established trails…

Trailblazing organisms

Sounds like Death Stranding is just too deep for people to “get”…

Meanwhile, Hideo Kojima himself made a point about the marketing of Metal Gear Solid. He created a unique genre term for that series as well, and acknowledges that — although it didn’t catch on as the popular genre title — he “just like[s] to name it”…

This is a perfectly valid point, and a very mature response from Kojima. By not trying to act as if the game is truly beyond categorization, or pretending that the creator gets to decide the genre himself, he downgrades the whole thing to a matter of artistic license, rather than a pretentious marketing stunt to escape comparisons. This measured response, combined with the thumbs up emoji at the end feels like a high road maneuver; a way of acknowledging people’s points, but stating that he’s not backing down.

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