Alex Birlo on September 20, 2019
In a recent interview with GameSpot Kojima talked about his ambition and what he wants to achieve whit the new IP that “Death Stranding” is.
Apparently he is out to create a new genre, again – seeing as his “Metal Gear” became the father of all action stealth games – and introduce certain fundamentals that will stand out as a type of a game on their own.
From what we know so far the genre will be based around two main ideas, these being: Interconnectivity and the concept of “omoiyari”. Both those things also raise concerns, but let us go through everything in order.
The concept of interconnectivity manifests itself in the approach Kojima takes to the core gameplay mechanics and probably the whole “gameplay loop” so to say.
We have been told already long ago, that the goal of the game is to travel through the United States and connect East to West. In the recent gameplay reveal, at the Tokyo Game Show, we saw more of how that happens and how the game plays.
The game has an interesting multiplayer component that reminds of the way multiplayer works in “FromSoftware” games, but has its own unique twist.
As you travel through the open world, you will utilize various gadgets and pieces of equipment to traverse the environment. Extendible ladders, climbing ropes, bridges and the awesome motorcycle we saw in the trailers are all among them.
The twist is that all structures you create can be seen and used by other players in their worlds and vice versa. So if you say build a bridge over a river, then another player can see that bridge in his or her game world, but only after “connecting” that area of the world.
The connection apparently happens through nodes that you have to visit. You enter a building, if the inhabitants agree they allow Sam to place his peculiar dog-tags into the node, gravity goes off for a second and comes back again.
As suggested in a paper by Kazuya Hara from Meikai University in Japan, Omoiyari can be translated from Japanese as the concept of “Altruistic Sensitivity”. The author goes on to elaborate that “omoiyari is an individual’s sensitivity to imagine another’s feelings and personal affairs, including his or her circumstances”.
It means that one of the concepts of the “Strand” genre is about compassion and empathy and taking responsibility for others in a social sense. But all that happening inside the game’s world. It probably has to do something with creating an actual “non-toxic” community in a Dark Souls-esk multiplayer format. Where people actually help each other and influence each other while not interacting directly.
As an example, another instance of this multiplayer kicks in when you fight a boss. You can call out and if anyone hears and answers back then, in the area where you fight the boss, you can see a white featureless person, representing the player that answered your call. That person then can proceed to through you packages with ammo and other helpful things from his or her world into yours, thus aiding you in your fight against the boss.
Perhaps the most obvious and integral part of your journey – which represents the importance of omoiyari in the game – is the BB. It is the baby that we always see Sam carrying around in this “artificial womb” container on his chest.
As we already know in the world of Death Stranding there is some sort of connection between the world of the living and the “Beach” – the other world where the BTs exist (the floating scary silhouettes). And the BBs are a sort of equipment that allows the carrier to connect with that other world.
We still do not know a lot about the lore surrounding the Beach, the BBs, and BTs, but we know for sure that the BB is an integral part of your gameplay.
Because as you travel, besides taking care of Sam’s needs (sism-style), like giving him res, letting him urinate or take a bath and wash, you will also have to manage the mood and state of your BB. You will sing to it, you will lull and cradle the child to manage its stability and overall state. Plus you will have to go into a base every now and then to recalibrate the pressure and temperature inside the container so it will continue to function properly.
So basically throughout your journey, you will not only take care of your own character, but also the baby in the artificial womb you carry with you like part of your equipment.
A concern that comes to mind – in regards to the idea that Kojima is hoping to popularize with this game – is that we should not forget about how video games are becoming more and more accessible. Thus bringing multiplayer trolling and misbehavior into games in greater numbers. And how parents who do not understand these “computer games children play” do not see and understand the behavior of their children online.
Compile that with many other trends in our culture, and you will see the increasingly toxic and mostly unfriendly online communities we have today in video games.
This should make us concerned about the release of Death Stranding. Because we already know it is not going to be a game for everyone and now we also find out that “omoiyari” – a concept we not only lack in our everyday lives in society but even more so in video games – is the basis of the multiplayer component of the game.
It makes me wonder – Will it work? Will people be nice enough to each other to actually enjoy this sort of multiplayer?
Death Stranding is a very interesting project and now I am even more excited to finally play it when it comes out on November 8-th. But the game raises questions and will test the limits of cooperation and how “omoiyari”, so to say, can gamers actually be.
We can only hope that it will work, that it will click together and the game will receive the recognition it deserves for the themes it brings to its gameplay.
Interview with Hideo Kijima by: GameSpot
A paper called “The Concept of Omoiyari (Altruistic Sensitivity) in Japanese Relational Communication” by Kazuya Hara, Meikai University, Japan.