This morning, tens of thousands of people tuned into Twitch to watch new footage from Death Stranding, the inaugural title from legendary video game director Hideo Kojima’s new Kojima Productions studio. As the auteur behind the Metal Gear series who has managed to push the medium forward basically every time he’s released an iteration of the franchise, people are very excited for his new venture out of the Metal Gear world and into the world of… being stranded and surrounded by death?
Sure, yeah, maybe, probably. It was hard to actually tell what was going on in the Twitch stream, due to the fact that Kojima’s team covered the screen with big gobs of black goo, which were slowly wiped away by handprints which, as more people tuned in, revealed more and more of what was actually going on in the game. Eventually, the goo went away, fully revealing what turned out to be a full-length trailer, featuring both gameplay and introductions to the game’s central characters. Around noon, a blog post went live on the official PlayStation site in which David Bull, Sony Entertainment Interactive America’s Global Brand Manager, wrote, “It fills me with joy to announce that Death Stranding... will be available on November 8.”
Today’s event is just the latest in a series of teasers Kojima has dropped over the past couple years, all building up to the game’s November 8 release date. The Sony blog post includes a statement from Kojima, who writes:
People have created “Walls” and become accustomed to living in isolation.
Death Stranding is a completely new type of action game, where the goal of the player is to reconnect isolated cities and a fragmented society. It is created so that all elements, including the story and gameplay, are bound together by the theme of the “Strand” or connection. As Sam Porter Bridges, you will attempt to bridge the divides in society, and in doing create new bonds or “Strands” with other players around the globe. Through your experience playing the game, I hope you’ll come to understand the true importance of forging connections with others.
However, when it comes to Hideo Kojima, nothing is as it seems. His games are so steeped in unexpected twists, their promotional campaigns full of metanarrative misdirection, that it’s basically impossible to actually know what you’re getting until you’ve got it. In a valiant attempt to parse what the fuck is actually going on with Death Stranding, our Editor-in Chief Joshua Topolsky and Contributing Editor Drew Millard put their heads together to ask the big questions, and maybe even answer a few of them.
Drew: So, Josh, as we both wait for more people to tune into the Death Stranding Twitch stream that all those hands get filled in and we can actually get a peek at the game, why don’t you explain why there’s such a cult of personality behind Hideo Kojima, and why people are so hype for him releasing this?
Josh: Okay so there are really only a few people in gaming that have real-world name recognition. Hideo is one of those dudes because he is basically responsible for some of the biggest and most memorable games throughout the history of gaming. Not just one or two titles for one or two systems, but multiple games across several decades. If you’ve ever played Metal Gear for the NES (which you definitely did), you know his work well.
And that work has continued into the age of the PS4, which is kind of nuts. His games are wildly creative and he always comes up with all kinds of insane new ways of thinking about what video games can do. Perhaps you remember playing Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation? There’s a scene where a character in the game asks you to put your controller on a table, and then that character uses telekinesis to “move” the controller (it’s the PS1’s vibration function). It was insane. He’s a master of weird little stuff like that that endears you to his creative vision.
I would like to add here that there’s a game Hideo made that I love that really isn’t talked about too much called Snatcher, which is a cyberpunk murder mystery from the ’80s full of blood and guts and nudity and crazy robots (and a lot of stuff ripped off from Blade Runner). And it’s so awesome. It’s probably my favorite game of his and in my top ten of all time.
There was no road or footprints. I myself stepped the ground, kept walking everyday to try to leave the path to the young people. But I almost lost my direction.— HIDEO_KOJIMA (@HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN) May 29, 2019
Watch Fellini’s LA STRADA to calm myself. pic.twitter.com/lWrxiYBzHT
Drew: I am sad to say that I literally have never played a Hideo Kojima game. Or wait, I played a few hours of Metal Gear Solid on PlayStation when I was 11 or so, but then my mom saw that the game was rated M and concluded that I was not mature enough to play more of it. I got in some good sneaking around before she confiscated it, though. I just got a PS4 and, given that it gets unbearably hot where I live in North Carolina, have decided to dedicate my summer to gaming. So while I wait for this game to come out, what should I expect from the Kojima games I’m about to go nuts on?
Josh: Worth noting that a particular quality of his later Metal Gear games was that you didn’t have to kill everyone in them. A lot of the gameplay was about sneaking around and knocking people out. You could play them in a relatively non-violent way, which was quite revolutionary at the time (and maybe still is).
Drew: Given Kojima’s track record, what could a person reasonably expect Death Stranding to involve, in terms of both gameplay and story? It seems from the Twitch stream, the game will involve sneaking around while wearing a large pack that contains at least one ladder, hanging out with people in Hazmat suits, some guy who is wearing sunglasses and is therefore obviously bad, and probably a plague or something?
Josh: So Death Stranding has become a whole thing. I mean, there are a ton of celebrities involved in it (it stars Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead, and scary ass Mads Mikkelsen, and Léa Seydoux). Guillermo del Toro is in it. There was a crazy trailer released a few years ago with a fetus in a test tube… so you know, just normal stuff. Now there’s a whole community of people trying to figure out what the game is about — and Hideo has been dropping all kinds of weird clues on social media. He seems to be going to great lengths to tease out what the game is really about… which could mean it’s something totally amazing that no one is expecting, or it’s going to be the biggest disappointment of all time. I do enjoy reading the Reddit theories about the title. One of them is really good, but requires a bit of backstory.
Drew: Let’s hear it.
Josh: There’s this famous survival horror game series called Silent Hill (later adapted into a bad movie). It’s one of the greatest PlayStation titles ever. In 2012 it was announced that Hideo was going to make a new version of the game, which would be a big departure for him since he doesn’t really do survival horror. Guillermo del Toro was co-directing it with him as well. So in 2014 they released a “demo” of the game called P.T. — and apparently even the demo is one of the most incredible survival horror games ever. It won awards. It’s been talked about for years. It was a huge milestone.
But anyway, they abruptly cancelled the game, and they pulled the demo from the PlayStation store. People now literally sell PlayStation 4 consoles with the game downloaded on it for big money on eBay because you simply can’t get it anywhere unless you downloaded it in this small window of time. It has a fervent following.
So the Reddit theory is this: All of the stuff we’re seeing about Death Stranding is basically an elaborate ruse and the game they’re releasing is actually this Silent Hill game… and somehow all the gameplay and trailers and everything is meant to steer us off the idea. Which would be totally fucking nuts. For the record, several  versions of this  theory  exist.
Drew: Most of the time, when some really celebrated person is like, “Hey y’all, I’m working on a new thing!” and it ends up being a thing they’d already been working on and then never finished, people are kinda nonplussed. But what I’m hearing from you is that if people found out that Hideo had actually finished this “lost” Silent Hill game, they would be super amped? Also, what clues do this Death Stranding shirt that says, “United Cities of America” on it offer, if any? Is the game going to take place in a world not unlike our own except way more fucked? Am I correctly catching the Hideo vibe by trying to extrapolate broad conclusions from this little bit of ephemera?
Josh: Yes people would be amped. If that happened, it would seem like this was all planned??? I don’t know but it would be crazy, right? Yes you are catching his vibe if you’re trying to make sense out of shit that definitely doesn’t make any sense at all (and by the way that’s true in his games as well).
Drew: So it seems like the Twitch stream itself has been something of a weird red herring as well. A few days ago it was announced that something would be happening today, and now you and I have both just watched a loop of footage featuring ominous ambient music and expressionistic shots of incredibly realistic computer-animated people doing computer-animated things (plus the aforementioned fetus!), except we haven’t really watched it because the Twitch stream itself is not super viewable. There are a bunch of hand shapes on the screen, and the stuff that isn’t covered by a hand shape cannot be seen. WHAT’S WITH THE HANDS, JOSH???
Josh: Okay so this seems like a gameplay reveal where if enough people watch these annoying hands covering the video will go away. At least that’s my guess. But we’re also coming up on E3, so this is more like a teaser to a reveal of some type? It all fits with Kojima’s love of theatrics and weird teases. Which are sometimes very effective and sometimes not… you sort of have to follow along closely to care. At the end of the day, this will be a video game that anyone can buy with their hard-earned dollars.
Drew: Now that the trailer has been revealed, what do you think? I, personally, am having trouble articulating my thoughts beyond, “Holy shit this looks so fucking cool.” I am ready to fight people with a suitcase, run away from scary people, feel what will presumably be a deep sense of loss, and also come to understand the true importance of forging connections with others. The trailer begins from the perspective of a baby, includes Norman Reedus’s character saying some extremely tough and cool stuff, and will involve both rock climbing and fighting a “militant separatist group” who may be actual literal demons. To which I respond: Hell yeah, run me over with a bulldozer and erect a luxury casino on top of me, Hideo.
Josh: There’s a lot going on. It’s more political than I thought it would be. I mean, at the very least Norman Reedus says “America is finished” and tells the President that she rules “jack shit,” so that’s cool. The gameplay looks really good and fluid. I have no clue what the actual plot is — it might end up being really incoherent. My fear with a game this big in scope and with this much hype is that it kind of collapses on itself trying to pull off too many tricks. But Kojima does know how to deliver. I don’t think it’s a secret Silent Hill game though, unfortunately.
Drew: Well, Reddit’s always 50-50 on this stuff, and crazy theories are really fun even when they’re wrong. So as we were waiting for the trailer to fully load, a different highly anticipated livestream started, uh, streaming live: Robert Mueller’s first public statement following the publication of The Mueller Report. Did Hideo have a hand in that, too?
Josh: I don’t think we can’t completely write off the idea that we’re all actually playing a part in the tease to the biggest Hideo Kojima game ever. Trump? Mueller? Sure we could be alive in the time of a reality TV president and a big Manchurian Candidate investigation. Or maybe there’s another answer. There is ample evidence to suggest that all of what we commonly know as “base reality” is, in fact, an elaborate marketing campaign dreamed up by the director of the Metal Gear series of games as a lead-up to the most exciting title he’s worked on yet: Death Stranding starring Norman Reedus.