In recent days the internet has been flooded with reviews, playthroughs and talk of how much people viciously like or dislike a game. The game in question, Death Stranding. Some people are calling it “a glorified fetch quest” while others are saying it’s, “a work of art”. The truth is, whichever side of the fence you fall on, this game sends a message to established game companies and to the video game industry.
For those that do not know, the brain behind this game is none other than Hideo Kojima. Kojima was the creator and lead developer for the entire Metal Gear Solid series. There is a reason this is relevant. Kojima worked at Konami Japan for 30 years, a relationship that wound up souring and resulted in what some would speculate as, not the fairest of circumstances. Reasons aside, Kojima was ripped apart from a new game engine he was developing and a Silent Hill game. 30 Years. Gone.
Shortly following he moved to America, contacted his friend Guillermo del Toro and began work on Death Stranding from scratch. This brings us to today, and nearly every video game news outlet is publishing opinions, and reviews. From heated comment sections to thousands of streamers having polarized opinions while they are streaming the game, suffice to say, it has caused quite a stir.
It’s incredible to think that one man and a small team can accomplish a game of this size and quality let alone stir up the level of controversy it has. Death Stranding is making waves in the industry like a big studio with a hotly anticipated title, but its not either of those things. This begs the question, if Hideo Kojima can pull this off, what have the larger studios been doing this whole time
It’s no secret, triple-a studios are flopping everywhere. Anthem, Fallout 76, Diablo: Immortal, We Happy Few and more. Even with hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars behind them, larger game studios can’t seem to push anything out that the public sees as worth their dollars, or their time. Why? Bad management? Business Politics? Maybe. Apathy? Absolutely.
With the rise of mobile games, micro-transactions, and ethical D.L.C. , big companies have secured their place in the market and sit on gigantic wads of cash. The greed isn’t the problem (even though it’s a problem), the root problem lies in what happens when you get too comfortable as a gigantic corporate game developer, you forget about the games.
Kojima has said this himself, stating that most of the executives at Konami “don’t even play games anymore”. You can’t expect to know exactly what your audience wants strictly by the measure of how much money a game makes. Studios have gotten so wrapped up in numbers and metrics that they forget about the player and the experience a game can provide them. Death stranding seems to be striking nerves, and you can guarantee that he didn’t do that by playing it safe or adding micro transactions.
Death Stranding is about the experience and being invested in very simple actions, it’s about the relationship that the player forms with the character and their journey, it’s about invoking a sense of responsibility and intention on behalf of the player, and that’s exactly what Kojima wanted. This is a game with a very clear statement about what the developer wanted the player to feel, and it was created without paying mind to the people that wouldn’t like it.