Games

A Spoiler-Filled Discussion of the Gendered Baggage of 'Death Stranding'

The thin line between an emotional weight and an Acme anvil.
December 24, 2019, 3:00pm
My Mother the President
'Death Stranding' screenshot courtesy of Sony

If Hideo Kojima needed two hours at the end of Death Stranding to explain the game through cutscenes, what chance do poor old Rob and Heather Alexandra, visiting from Kotaku, have to unpack the game's layers of strange brilliance, tacky sensibilities, and clunky self-importance? No chance at all, but that doesn't stop them from trying to work through their reactions to the game and many of the moments they were keeping under wraps to avoid spoilers. Now, in this spoiler cast, they are ready to run amok like a Beached Thing emerging from the Chiral ooze.

Rob: Yeah, it definitely for me it was more than the clash, like I was still learning the systems and I got distracted. And I ran out of stamina in the middle of a deep river—

Heather: Congrats!

Rob: —and I fell over, The president, my mother busted loose—

Heather: Did she, oh boy.

Rob: —and was swept away by the current. And I'm trying to chase this fucking body bag full of my mother, the president, down this river but I keep running out of stamina because I'm running in the river. And so Sam keeps, like, splashing toward the body bag and falling over and getting more tired of doing some more likely to fall over and every moment this is happening. That body just keeps getting swept further down river until eventually she slams hard into some shoals and you see that body just like it's very it's very much like she just, like, a ship running aground basically.

Heather: They didn't, they didn't play any like sweeping ambient Low Roar soundtrack, it's just "Yackity Sax"

Rob: That's—Low Roar did fire at some point once I collected my mother, the president of the united states—

Heather: Again, yeah, the President of the United States

Rob: —and put her slightly damaged corpse back on I mean she was still good.

Heather: She didn't care.

Rob: Yeah she was ...yeah. So I was like we can still do this, like less than 25% damage I think, I think we can still burn this body folks!

Heather: Oh my god

Rob: But it is very much like it's very it was this solemn moment I was like all right taking taking this character this deep like this the last journey, last connection with this character, the last like responsibilities as a son and then it's just this other like, "Yakity Sax" comedy bit.

Heather: It sounds funny for me to say it. But I almost commend the game for allowing that to happen. Right? I think, a lot of ways if this game was more curated than I don't think a lot of it would work, even in the serious moments. I mean, clearly there are vistas it wants you to hit or kind of a pace that you want to go in certain areas. But the notion of Yeah, whatever difficulties you encounter along the way are things that are just going to happen no matter how extreme or absurd or anything else. I think that speaks to the quality at least of the gameplay. Right of, Yeah, okay. You have to transfer a body or transfer, Lord forbid, a nuke. And yeah, don't worry, maybe you'll just fall down a cliff while you do it.

Cado: Aren't those the same thing in this game?

Heather: Uh, in theory. Yes.

Rob: In terms of effect, absolutely.

Heather: Yeah.

Rob: Yeah, it's, I ended up really appreciating that aspect, Cuz later there's another point we have to carry. There's a few points where you have to carry.

Heather: I can think of at least two.

Rob: Yeah, well, sometimes they're alive though.

Heather: Well, yeah, Chiral Chiral artists and then, Chiral artists subquest and then Mama, or was it? Was it the sister?

Rob: It was Mama.

Heather: Okay, yeah.

Rob: Cado, in this world when a woman needs to go somewhere— living or dead—she gets into a little sous vide bag, and you just sort of carry her around the world.

Heather: Yeah, sometimes when a guy wants to reunite with his girlfriend and maybe get married in an awkward side quest, you just deliver his wife to him in a way that's not creepy and not problematic at all.

Cado: [long groan]. Only women?

Heather: Yeah, actually looking looking at it in our brain, you know? But you know what? You know. I mean, it would just be too much work to create a man corpse body model.

Rob: It's a small sample size. We're working with Cado, there's like right six important characters in this game. Yeah. And two of them get carried around. And they're both women.

Heather: Yeah and like three of them are ghost. Yeah, like corpses and ghosts.

Rob: The ghost person. Like I think it's ambiguous how many characters are ghosts in this game?

Heather: Yeah, I mean, yeah, just a handful that are maybe ghost.


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