Death Stranding what did it mean?
Been waiting for the PC release and after about 80 hours I am done with the game. I think this was one of the smartest games Kojima has made. Let’s break down why and spoilers ahead.
The Sisyphus Myth:
We can’t begin without the comparison to Sisyphus. Sam Bridges’s boulder is his endless packages he has to deliver to “save America”. The packages are generic and are a stand in for the blanket objectives in many other games. With of course the exception for important plot pieces throughout the game. Sam and the player make meaning for the deliveries. And just like Sisyphus Sam can’t die either.
While each package is blank and generic it’s in the journey in getting that package to it’s destination that’s the story. Getting from point A to point B is a huge task especially in the beginning where you barely have resources.
And like Sisyphus you are never done. That’s the point there will always be a new objectives as long as people have needs. It’s not the point of checking the box but of making sure the deliveries are always made.
In true existentialist fashion it’s what the player gets out of the task. To them life is meaningless and it’s up to us to create meaning for ourselves. Sam having seen death or a version of death not really sure decides to help his sister restore America.
Kojima has always kind of made fatherhood a forefront to his Metal Gear games and this one takes it in a great twist. Of course the other characters you meet along the way deal with this in other ways. Clifford the character Mads Mikkelsen portrays turns out to be Sam’s father. Sam was actually the first Bridge Baby and Clifford was trying to escape with him before being killed. We the player were shown flashbacks to this and were told that it was the BB we were carrying. And the boss fights with Clifford were him trying to find Sam but couldn’t recognize him since he’s all grown up.
It’s hinted that Sam grew up without a father figure. I don’t think Kojima is assigning positive or negative in absent fathers but it does shape Sam in his decisions to take care of his BB.
Souls are real in this game world. They manifest into beaches which is a kind of limbo. Sam’s soul was brought back when he died when he was a baby by Bridget. Thus allowing him to come back to life. Other characters stories revolve around this phenomenon like Mama and her sister Lockne. When Mama dies her soul literally and figuratively joins with Lockne. All her data gets transferred to Lockne and her literal soul joins with Lockne. We know since Mama’s body doesn’t decay which signals that her body and soul separated.
We also have Bridget and Amelie who are the same person but we find out that she separated her body and soul. And this is the first of doubles in Death Stranding. Mama and Lockne represents harmony since them coming together moves the plot along. While Bridget and Amelie represent discord. Amelie literally will destroy all life on earth. And when Bridget died there wasn’t a correction but more decay. Also we had to burn her body while Mama’s body didn’t create a void out.
The biggest theme and what Kojima is trying to get across. From the red rope made with Sam’s blood to the cords around Clifford and the umbilical cord attached to the BTs. Kojima wants you to think about connections. The biggest part and the whole point of this game is to foster connections between the people you deliver for. And giving everyone the internet.
I think Kojima is interested in the human connection. The whole reason Sam agrees to help is to see his sister again. Lockne only helps Sam and the gang after Sam brings Mama to her. Sam was only able to come back to the world of the living at the end thanks to the connections he fostered in the main cast in caring about him. No man is an island. Life’s a beach. Etc.
So I guess the biggest thing that kind of threw me for a loop was the ending. Sam gives up his connections to the network and his friends to raise BB i.e. Louise. While in the story it makes sense, but the overall thematic it contradicts what Kojima was trying to say. We spent all this time connecting america, people, and making friends along the way to give everything up.
But maybe that was the point. It ties together with all of the other themes Kojima put. Sam is finally able to free himself from the work. Sam understands to importance of giving someone a second chance the same way his dad did for him. Sam has to go off grid since in the eyes of the new government his BB isn’t allowed.
Sam’s connections will still be there. It doesn’t matter that he leaves. I think he knows that they will always be there for him. He doesn’t need to be connected to the network. The world keeps spinning even without Sam. The online part of Death Stranding stands to be a metaphor for real life. While you may finish up the game, it’s up the next player to take up where you left off.
This game is the ultimate argument for it’s the journey not the destination. The world is pretty much destroyed where even death has deadly consequences. In the end Sam solves the death stranding or maybe parts of it. It looks like he stopped the murder rain. The game ends with Sam doing what he does best and starts another journey. He left america in the right hands and needs to do right by BB who protected and guided him to get there.