Hideo Kojima is a man who will defy your expectations, which is why when you click on a link saying 'Death Stranding teaser trailer' and expect, what, 90 seconds if that, you receive instead a cinematic which is more than eight entire minutes long.
I am fascinated by Death Stranding – or, to be more specific, by the reaction Death Stranding gets, because what else is there to be fascinated by yet?
Auteur genius Kojima himself, aside from bikini sniper justifications, seems like quite a sweet oddball. On Twitter he posts lots of pictures of food and travel photos from cities he's in. He retweets the creative efforts of and praise for the members of his Death Stranding Best Friends Squad, Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen and Guillermo del Toro. He shares fan art and joke gifs about the increasingly strange trailers for Death Stranding. I liked his birthday cake. I love Guillermo del Toro talking about how they sang anime themes at karaoke together but in different languages, and Kojima doing an impression of Nicolas Winding Refn going 'Hai! Hai!' a lot when visiting Japan.
Generally speaking I have no dog in the Death Stranding fight, but I am very interested by how many people do, and they're all wearing little dog t-shirts with the Ludens mascot on. I was never a fan of Metal Gear. I don't hate it, I just never got into it at all (although one time I was pretty annoyed at it because when 4 came out my boyfriend at the time immediately got it and I sat and watched him
play it watch a cutscene for about an hour with him saying it was almost finished approximately every five minutes). It's been a tremendously important series to people I know, and in that sense I'm very glad it exists and has been that for them, but my relative indifference to Metal Gear means that e.g. I think it's a bit OTT that there's a clothing range for Kojima's new studio before said studio has put a single game out.
Basically I think that if Peter Molyneux did a trailer where a baby inside Norman Reedus' throat gives a thumbs up, he would have caught a lot more shit for it than Kojima has. I understand that Kojima has a track record that doesn't include a giant cube made of cubes and so on, but for me this does not change the first principle that a Reedus throat baby thumbs up is a ridiculous thing.
Death Stranding was first announced in 2016 and currently has no scheduled release date. After 18 months, three trailers, a bunch of interviews, and del Toro tweeting all-caps profanity, we still know next to rack all about what the game actually is. I am of course interested in Death Stranding, both out of professional necessity and because basically everyone, when they don't know the answer to something, wants to figure it out, but I have trouble understanding the YAS KOJIMA JUST FUCK ME UP response.
When people ask 'Are you excited for Death Stranding?' I say, 'Excited for what, though?'
So I asked people who are excited for Death Stranding to tell me why, because I want to get a better understanding of their point of view. Think of me as a robot, turning to its creator with a single tear of oil falling from its optical sensor, and asking, 'Father… what is love?'
Responses fell into a few categories.
1. Kojima has never steered me wrong before
Leaving out that there seems to be debate even amongst diehard Koj fans as to whether MGS2 is pure genius or pure garbage, the point is that if e.g. my favourite band or director announced a new album or film I would be excited. I understand being a fan of someone and looking forward to their work but are there really no caveats attached? On a happily related note, I love del Toro's films and I'm going to go and see The Shape of Water next year immediately on its release – but a film doesn't have all the same variables as a game and I already had a good idea of what it was from even the first trailer (dark fairy tale where woman working in secret government lab fucks fish monster). I am excited when a band I like announces a new album, but often at least one track will be released around the same time so I know what the sound will be like. Likewise, I like the games of BioWare but if Casey Hudson announced he was leaving to start his own studio I would have some questions before I slammed any pre-order money down.
If you arrived at your partner's house for date night and it turned out they'd suddenly invested in a load of bondage gear and latex body suits when hitherto they'd been pretty vanilla, you'd be like 'I know you'd kind of talked about being into this, but I need some details. For a start, what role exactly will I be in here?'
I assume, anyway. I don't know what your hypothetical relationship is like.
2. Kojima is finally being allowed to go full Kojima
I am in fact a huge fan of big companies getting fucking rawed by ex-employees. The whole thing where Konami kind of tried to screw Kojima by saying he was on holiday even though basically everyone knew that wasn't the case, and then another publisher turning around and almost immediately giving Kojima what we can only imagine is a disgusting amount of money to do whatever is genuinely hilarious. Kojima makes weird shit, and you want to see what he'll do freed of the need to make a game for anyone other than himself – thus making you want to play it. Bravo, Kojima.
But this is both the first game from Kojima Productions and a brand new IP rather than Metal Gear. These feel like untested waters, and possibly the kind Tarantino was drinking after he was allowed to do whatever he wanted with virtually no oversight, resulting in extremely obnoxious title card placement and movies so long that they got an interval and a voiceover recorded by Tarantino himself to explain what was happening in the second half, i.e. there is a not-discountable probability that unchained Kojima will produce a load of completely self-indulgent balls. This seems to be a risk you're all aware of and are willing to take, though, so fair play.
3. I don't care how weird it is, I'm just glad it's weird
High budget development these days is in a weird place. A lot of publishers want to be seen as taking creative risks or tackling big subjects but also don't want to alienate any potential customers whatsoever, which is kind of a zero sum position to be in. At the same time we're seeing big companies moving closer to the games-as-a-service model, and trying to beef up their revenue sources with lootcrates. AAA is starting to get a bit predictable, and in this context seeing a game with a huge budget yet having no earthly idea what it is before it comes out is refreshing. I'm not denying that the Death Stranding footage delivers some striking imagery, because it does, and people are enjoying puzzling it out before release (silly monkey brains love a mystery), as well as hoping that it won't be entirely explained post release so the puzzling can continue. It's also true that many games are weird at a base level anyway, so why not run with it?
This is coupled with the argument that Kojima being batshit 'is more of a meme than actual fact', a point I hadn't seriously examined before. Like, obviously he can't be actually off his rocker or nobody would have employed him in the first place. Probably. In theory I'm happy to see a weird folly built in the landscaped garden of current AAA development.
4. This is all just an elaborate piece of conceptual art because life has already become a Kojimaian text
On closer examination this point may be extremely specific to just my strange friend Darragh, but in the year of our lord 2017 it's the one that is easiest to accept at face value, to be honest.