At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a difficult and frightening time for many. Many were reliant on parcels, social distancing mandates were put in place, and everyone was told to remain indoors as much as possible.
But isn't it scary how a game about a deliveryman traveling across an apocalyptic, empty world who keeps his distance from other people came out in 2019, right before the disease struck? I thought it was almost too coincidental when I started playing Death Stranding during the first lockdown.
While polarising, Hideo Kojima's unique game is one of the most profound AAA titles I played from the last generation.
Alongside those incredible visuals and a star-studded cast, the production made me reflect on gaming's many aspect and how we stay digitally connected, especially when the world became an eerie and challenging place to live.
Ahead of the Director's Cut launch, I reflected on some revelations made while playing Death Stranding during that initial lockdown, a game which is more than just a UPS delivery simulator.
Innovation Is Evolution
You can't kill anyone in Death Stranding. If you do, you'll cause a gigantic crater in the surrounding area through a voidout, making it one of Death Stranding's many aspects that separate it from other games.
Featuring wild characters - like a man whose heart stops every 8 minutes - to gameplay features like using a peculiar pod baby to navigate around supernatural spirits, Death Stranding is Kojima at his wackiest. But it works.
It's a reminder to everyone about how each videogame is unique. As one example, with just a week between their releases, the time-bending Deathloop is very different from the mystical Kena: Bridge of Spirits.
Videogames can be a playground to explore new ideas and adventures. When that day stops, gaming will too.
Delivery Drivers Don't Get Enough Credit
Death Stranding is literally about a deliveryman. When preparing to shift your next parcel, you have to plan your journey based on weight and devices that can help with your travels. In the game, you witness how important your actions are to other people and the wider connective tissue Sam's trying to rebuild.
During the pandemic, delivery personnel were more important than ever. From distributing food, vaccines, and other items, we can often take these actions for granted. There is an expectation for things to arrive at our doors, but we may not consider how they actually got there in the first place.
The pandemic highlighted how incredibly hard couriers worked. Granted, they probably don't have to fend off supernatural spirits and pirates, but their job remains as difficult as ever.
Humanity Runs On Connections
Death Stranding is about connecting a torn-up, broken world. The purpose of Sam's journey revolves around traveling and connecting these desolate areas. And just like the main premise, everyone in the game is striving to connect with someone or something, even if they don't show it.
During the first lockdown, many were encouraged to reduce physical contact and remain at home. But despite these obstacles, everyone found a way to reach out to friends and family; an ability probably made easier in a digital world.
Just like the game's protagonist, most people seem to be driven by that attraction for a connection; a need that was amplified further during the pandemic. And one way that hole was fulfilled was through, well, gaming.
Gaming Is Important
The pandemic showcased how video games were more vital than ever. In the UK alone, 62% of adults played video games in 2020, the highest in years. Warzone was released at just the right time in March 2020, while EA Sports' titles and Switch games like Animal Crossing were indulged even more.
I truly believe video games are a way of socializing and a form of dealing with mental health illnesses. Gaming during lockdown is a perfect example that showcases how beneficial the medium is in meeting people and combatting these aspects.
Rather, the power of gaming can be best exclaimed by Hideo Kojima himself:
I feel always lonely in society. There are so many people who play games feeling like that, like they don’t belong in this society. They don’t really feel comfortable. What I want to say is that I’m connected to everyone and this connection I don’t want to lose. That’s why I created a knot, so that I will never be parted from you ever.
Thank you so much.