Connect The Dots

Kojima the Deliverer?

I think it’s fair to say that Kojima personally identifies with Sam, which in turn forces me to see the narrative arc of the character as a reflection of how Kojima sees his own path in life. Now of course I don’t know the narrative arc of Sam, but I wrote an article speculating that he’s going to become a reluctant “kingmaker” who has to fight giants, and who passes on messages even after death. Follow me on this Level 9 train of thought.

Kojima has always been up against the biggest companies in the world, and even other franchises within Konami (Contra, Castlevania, Gradius, Silent Hill) and probably felt like he was just one man against them all. We know that he was heavily affected by the quality of the cutscenes in Final Fantasy VII and the 3D graphics of Resident Evil, and directly felt like he had to overcome them somehow. He has had a keen eye on what his competitors are doing, and wants to be at the top of the pile even when he has smaller budgets and less freedom than they do.

As for being a kingmaker, is it a coincidence that Kojima has been trying to include musicians and artists to include in his games that don’t exactly scream “top of the charts” ever since promotional days of Metal Gear Solid V? No offense to Mike Oldfield, but I’d never heard of him before that game’s trailer. As for Garbage, I used to love their songs and I own several of their first albums, but I totally forgot about them until Not Your Kind of People. They’re both very successful and have lasting careers and accolades to their credit, but the fact remains that even artists as big as this can receive a noticeable boost when Kojima uses their tracks and exposes more people to their work. Now what about even less known creators that are going to be referenced?

By making the “connection” between other creators and Kojima’s audience, Kojima can theoretically become a sort of kingmaker. By being PlayStation exclusive (for a few months until it’s out on PC) he can kick Microsoft while its down and give Sony another chance to keep its head up in these troubled economic times. Kojima is flexing his status as much as possible in an effort to show that he is on the same level as Hollywood, and hopefully generate the kind of buzz that says “come and beg me” to increasingly high profile people. Those who mocked him as a nobody game designer 10 years ago will come crawling to be anointed by him in a trailer tomorrow.

Of course, speaking from beyond the grave is pretty self-explanatory. Kojima wants his legacy to endure long after his career is over and his life is extinguished. He wants to have a legacy. He wants to be remembered.

Tomorrow Is In Our Hands

What does “tomorrow is in your hands” really mean? There are several shallow explanations, and then there’s a deeper one that will serve as Level 10.

The most obvious explanation is a platitude about how we should be aware of the influence we have on the course of history. It has always been true that the future is in our hands, universally speaking. Each generation passes on a legacy to those who inherit it. In this interpretation, it’s just a cheap one-liner that shows Death Stranding wants to seem profound. On another level, it’s a comment on how we are literally carrying a baby which represents the future in the fictional world. We are carrying the next generation. That’s pretty easy to notice.

Gameplay wise, I think the endgame of Death Stranding will be about maintaining a balance between chaos and order in the fictional future USA, so this adds another layer. The game takes place in the future and we have a direct, collective impact on what it will look like.

Going even further, however, I might suggest that Kojima is trying to tell us that the future of Death Stranding itself is in our hands. Not just its success and approval, but its actual story and direction. If my theory is correct, Kojima will deliberately force players to interpret the game for him, and then harvest the ideas of players and use them in a sequel if it gets made. If we participate in the mystery of the game and put forward our theories and speculation, he will recognize them by incorporating them into the next. Perhaps he will even use the state of the online game (created via the “strand genre” mechanics he’s so proud of) as the official basis for the next game depending on whether players favor one direction over another. In a sense Kojima has always been doing this, reacting to the reactions, but it was hidden before (in what I call The Kojima Code) and this time with a new intellectual property he can push it way further, or even make it official if he wants to.

Our Personal Connection

Finally, there is the connection we’re supposed to make with Death Stranding personally. Kojima has said that people will start to understand it better when they get older and have more experiences. That is a big hint that Kojima is trying to create an experience with lasting resonance. I think Kojima is going to try to get as much constant participation as possible in order to “connect” with others through its ongoing support and development.

In Level 11 we recognize that Death Stranding itself is a medium to “deliver content” to people and become the delivery mechanism. It is Kojima’s personal platform for creating DLC, downloads, uploads, and connections between himself, his favorite creators, and fans of his. This support network will theoretically become an ongoing service that mimics Sam’s function in the game, a seemingly greedy, mercenary setup with a benevolent core and a serious purpose. The constant traffic of activity will solidify the experience as one of bonding, creativity, sharing, and theoretically, mutual inspiration. The theories and personal connections people bring to the table will reinforce this dynamic in the real world.

If Kojima’s plans work out the way he hopes, I believe he will successfully create a transmission medium to generate all these healthy trends and keep them moving ever upward. It’s a lofty, risky plan, but that’s the whole point of it. It’s still in development; still just a vulnerable hope. Whether or not it ever becomes what he hopes it will be… that’s in our hands.

Closing Thoughts

In the trailers for the game we see Kojima playing fast and loose with the connection concept. Look at the following list of quotes shown in trailers, not to mention the things character keep saying:

“Give me your hand in flesh”
“Give me your hand in spirit”
“A new history begins”
“To reconnect a fractured society”
“Those who resist the future…”
“Those who stay connected to the past”
“Those bound to hades”
“Those who cannot break the connection…”
“Those who struggle to stay connected”

It would be silly to think that Kojima hasn’t thought about the theme of this game to a crazy degree, so it’s only fair to analyze it on a crazy level. For somebody like myself these things are fairly obvious since he has given us so many hints already, but of course I’m hoping fans will keep finding new connections and adding new levels.

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