All three of us on Kotaku Splitscreen have begun to play Death Stranding, but only one of us did so with a newborn baby in the mix. Jason explained to me and Kirk this week that it’s just not cool to put your baby down for a nap and then get prompted to rock your PS4 controller back and forth while it emits crying noises.
First, we talked about the news from BlizzCon last weekend, as well as the other games we’re playing, such as Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Disco Elysium. After a break, we dove deep into Death Stranding (25:40), which Kirk and I have played enough to realise we enjoy. We close out with off-topic discussion (58:09) about Gardner Minshew, Jia Tolentino’s book Trick Mirror, the Jordan Peele movie Us, and Kirk’s music pick.
Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt below.
Jason: Death Stranding, I do not love. But I’m glad it exists, because I’m glad that a big, giant, multi-million dollar production is able to be so weird and experimental and do so many strange things. I’m glad that Hideo Kojima is making games, and I’m glad that Sony is funding weird artistic projects. That said, I played the first two hours of Death Stranding, and they can accurately be described as a delivery simulator slash cutscene viewer.
I found myself pretty bored. I found myself actively frustrated with the fact that all you’re doing is walking around and trying not to fall over and damage the packages that are on your back. I was intrigued by the story, but not intrigued enough to want to keep watching. I found it—what’s the best way to describe Kojima’s style of writing, other than blatant and in-your-face and blunt? All the subtlety of a hammer, is the best way to put it.
I wanted to keep playing it, both because I wanted to keep giving it a chance and I wanted to talk about it with you guys on the podcast. I was texting with some other reviewers; [Giant Bomb’s] Dan Ryckert was like, “I can’t believe Kojima made a boring game. I hate this fucking thing.” But I was texting with some other people who were like, “Oh, it gets good after a few more hours, after ten hours.” That’s what people would say. Which already is a red flag for me.
So anyway, at one point, I picked it up and gave it another chance. Those of you listening to the show probably know that I just had a new baby. She is now six weeks old. This was about the three-week mark; I had just put her down to sleep. I was like, ok, great, she’s sleeping, I’m going to play some of Death Stranding, give it another chance. And as part of the plot for Death Stranding, you get a baby who attaches to you. And it turns out that once you get this baby, called a BB, if you fall over while walking—which is very common—the baby starts crying.
Maddy: [laughs] Is it [common], though?
Kirk: Hang on—really quick, before you continue—I have never fallen down in this game. Ever. So, it is not very common. Maybe you’re just bad. But anyways.
Jason: I guess I’m just bad.
Maddy: We can give you some tips in a second.
Jason: Did you never have to soothe the baby?
Kirk: I have soothed the baby once, yes.
Maddy: I have soothed the baby. Usually if ghosts are involved—they’re called BTs in this game—but there are other circumstances...
Kirk: I want you to finish your thought. Maddy and I have played significantly more and we’ll share our thoughts in a moment. Continue!
Jason: So at this point, all I’ve done is walked, tried to place a ladder but found the interface really finicky and so I didn’t know where I could place it. I wasn’t really super clear on that. Walked to a bunch of different places. Fell over. The baby started crying. My PS4 controller started crying, and I just got this jolt of, “Oh my god, I cannot play a game right now where a baby is crying and I have to soothe the baby. This is my life. I cannot play a game in which I have to do this.”
Maddy: [laughs] I get that.
Jason: As a way of therapy for myself, I just immediately turned it off, switched to Bloodborne, and went and killed Vicar Amelia in my New Game Plus.
Maddy: Just to feel powerful for a second, have some control over your life.
Jason: Just to escape from it!
Kirk: It’s funny, because in Bloodborne there’s that whole part where the baby is crying.
Jason: But it’s not the baby crying that gets to me. It’s the fact that I, in a game, would have to soothe a baby.
Maddy: And you do. That is a part of it, some of the time.
Jason: And the fact that, at this point in my life, my video game time has gotten a lot more limited for obvious reasons, and I just don’t have the time or tolerance or patience for a game where people are like, “Oh yeah, it gets really good 10 hours in, or 15 hours in.” Especially when it’s not portable. If it were on Switch, I could maybe do it.
Maddy: I’m not even sure of the idea that it gets good 10 hours in. I get why that’s how you’re interpreting the way that people have been describing the game, but I also think that the game is making it pretty clear to you what it’s going to be, even within the first two hours, in ways that Kirk and I can explain. But it is a game that is frustrating, and that’s part of it, and I know it’s a kind of game that you’ve played, Jason. Because you now enjoy Bloodborne a lot, and that is a game that is frustrating for a while until you get the hang of it and figure out how it works.
This game is very much, I would say, another one of those kinds of games. It’s different in terms of what you’re doing and what you’re figuring out, but it’s still a game where you have to spend some time in its systems, figuring out how to not fall down, figuring out how to traverse the landscape.