“The era of today is about individualism. We may be connected through the internet more than ever, but what’s happening is that people are attacking each other because we’re so connected.
“President Trump right now is building a wall. Then you have Brexit, where the UK is trying to leave the EU, and it feels like there are lots of walls and people thinking only about themselves in the world. In Death Stranding we’re using bridges to represent connection — there are options to use them or break them. It’s about making people think about the meaning of connection.”
— Hideo Kojima, BBC Radio 1 News, November 4, 2019
The Hideo Kojima “Death Stranding” interview
In February 2017, nearly three years before “Death Stranding” was released, Adam Renardson of PlayStation Australia posted an interview with the legendary game designer on PlayStation.Blog. Following are excerpts from their conversation.
Has the idea for Death Stranding always been there, or is it something that has blossomed very quickly and developed based on the new collaboration with Sony Interactive Entertainment?
Hideo Kojima: When we started our new studio [in 2015], I came up with several ideas, but we chose to do Death Stranding because it answered the questions – What game do I need to make now? What type of game does the market want now? What kind of game can we make? We really wanted to make something that was different. That was out-of-the-box, and Death Stranding was the answer to this.
Sometimes people have an idea from when they were a child, and they’ll turn that into a game when they’re an adult, but I don’t think that’s the way to approach the subject because every day our lives change. Society changes every day, and we need to make something that is topical and something that is in-line with the world that we live in now.
Can you tell us more about the gameplay?
Kojima: It’s an action game – an open-world game, with a lot of freedom. You have a lot of freedom of choice to do what you want to do and you can get in vehicles and so on. If you are a fighter, there’s plenty of opportunity for that. If you’re not that type of player, there are other ways to play this game. I can’t really say much more, but it’s an open-world, action game that’s very intuitive to play. Once you get into the world and start to explore more, we’re hoping there’s something there you’ve never seen before.
During your studio tour with [technical producer and lead designer of the PlayStation 4] Mark Cerny, did you have a vision of what you were looking for in a game engine already?
Kojima: We visited 15 studios around the world with Mark Cerny, and after this we spent another six months visiting other studios of people that I know. . . . Guerrilla Games in Amsterdam: their technology was just a league ahead of everywhere else.
Usually when you go to use, buy or borrow an engine, someone will say, “Lend us your name,” or of course ask for payment. We had no contract with Guerrilla Games, but when we met them they suddenly gave us a box, a very pretty box. When we opened the box, there was a USB dongle inside that had the source code for the engine.
Keep in mind we had no contract or anything at this stage, yet still they handed over what was basically the crystallisation of their efforts over many years. They simply said, “Mr. Kojima please use this engine,” and we thought these people are incredible.
There was one condition though, that Kojima Productions doesn’t just use the engine, but that we develop the engine together with Guerrilla Games, that it should be a collaborative effort. So we were really blown away by their stance on this and being so open with the engine and we thought “Wow, these are the people we have to work with.”
Norman Reedus [The Walking Dead] and Mads Mikkelsen [Casino Royale, Hannibal, Rogue One] are working on this project, so can we expect more Hollywood stars to be revealed on the project in the future?
Kojima: Unfortunately, we can’t really say anything with regards to Death Stranding at the moment, but I feel like this type of method in games is going to become the norm in the future. Creating movies and creating games like this, the process is very similar.
“Indeed, ‘Death Stranding’s biggest theme is connection, and Kojima sees a world in disarray. The election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote in the U.K. directly inspired the game. Video game creators are often reluctant to talk politics, but Kojima doesn’t mince words. According to him, all art, games including, is inherently political — our connections make it so. ‘We are living in the world,’ he says. ‘Politics is always involved.’”
“When I originally played the game, this element seemed so foreign. Why would people isolate themselves? Why don’t they go out and meet Sam? But now due to coronavirus covid-19, some people do not want to go outside and interact with anyone, whether that’s co-workers, friends, or delivery people. That’s why in Japan, Domino’s now has ‘zero-contact’ delivery, allowing people to leave their money and get their pizza without being close to the delivery person.”