Hideo Kojima on ‘Death Stranding,’ a Fractured America, and How Gaming Can Bring Us Back Together

November 9, 2019, 12:21 AM UTC

Before I walk in to speak with game designer Hideo Kojima, I find myself feet away from about 200 of his fans on the sidewalk. It’s a brisk November morning in New York City, and it will still be more than an hour before they see Kojima at an event in the building I was about to enter. The group, many of whom have likely followed the developer since he created the Metal Gear franchise, are here to see his upcoming game Death Stranding.

But Kojima isn’t resting on the success of his Metal Gear franchise, games so influential that they gave way video gaming’s entire stealth genre. In making Death Stranding, an action-adventure game set in a future, dystopian America released on Nov. 8, the high-profile developer collaborated with actors he looked up to in Hollywood and set out to make a game he took pride in that will also challenge gamers. Kojima Productions, his game development studio, partnered with Sony to make the PlayStation 4 exclusive that will retail for $60 at launch and come to PCs next year.

In Death Stranding, Kojima’s America is fractured, a reflection on what the internet has done to society, its creator says. The game’s main character, Sam Porter Bridges, serves as a delivery person tasked with distributing goods and reconnecting the country. It’s a single-player game, but there are remnants of other players littered across the landscape. Though you won’t see another player walking around, others can leave signs in the open world, sometimes with hints or fun messages, and supplies for others to use or pick up. It’s also possible to give other players “likes,” all of which emphasize positive interactions.

“It’s to prove that being connected is a good thing—I hope that’s the received message,” Kojima says. “So, when the user stops playing, I hope they can transfer how they felt during the game into real life.”

Despite Kojima’s hopes, the response to Death Stranding hasn’t been entirely positive. Early reviews praised its narrative but criticized its gameplay, with some even calling it boring at times. When asked if this simply isn’t a game for everyone, Kojima was clear that he does want as many people as possible to play it, but understands that mixed reactions are natural when trying something new.

Death Stranding‘s gameplay involves a lot of walking, and your character is frequently limited, just as a real person would be, unlike how other action-adventure games give its players the fantastic feats of strength and endurance.

But with planned follow-ups to Death Stranding, Kojima should have further opportunities to win over fans. He notes that a Death Stranding sequel is already in his head, possibly as a one-off or as a trilogy.

When discussing the future of a possible franchise or his creative process, Kojima gets very serious. Still, his eyes light up when talking about the inclusion of Monster Energy drinks in the game (an element he says helps connect the fictitious world with the real one), how he tries to straddle the line between film and interactive games, and working with celebrities he idolizes, like Norman Reedus and Lindsay Wagner.

“I have certain actors I love, so I’m trying to work with them,” he says. “By working with these individuals I’m able to not only give 100% but 120% or 150% of my energy. Therefore, I’ve assembled a cast and project that I haven’t been able to create before.”

Regardless of the response so far, Kojima’s pride in his latest work is evident. “This whole project exceeded expectations,” Kojima says, but then he demurs. “I doubt my good luck will continue.”

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