What did we just watch? Seriously.
Sony's E3 conference was an exceptional affair, rife with evocative orchestral music and tons of what everyone wanted to see: video game trailers (that new Spider-Man game, huh?). But for a lot of us the highlight of yesterday evening came when Hideo Kojima was serenaded by the roars of adoring fans as he took to the stage with a hearty, "I'm back."
What followed was a trailer for his new game, currently in development within the office of his newly-formed Kojima Productions; a game called Death Stranded. For the uninitiated:
Our First Look At Death Stranding
There's a lot going on in this trailer and none of it really makes sense. Or does it?
We felt it'd be beneficial and entertaining to engage the gaming community in a discussion around the symbolism and cryptic messages Kojima packed into these 3 and a half minutes -- surprisingly short for a Kojima trailer, huh? So without further ado, let's get our analytic caps on and dive in.
Kojima loves to include quotes and poetry in his video games. The latest example comes from William Blake, a poet now considered a seminal figure in the history of the art form (he was largely unnoticed during his life, sadly). Kojima has taken the first 4 lines from his poem "Auguries of Innocence" (an augury is a sign of what will happen in the future; an omen). The poem contains a series of paradoxes which speak of innocence juxtaposed with evil and corruption. We'll see a lot of that in the trailer.
Dead Crabs Galore
We open on a grimy beach as the camera tracks across a mass of dead crabs; they're everywhere. The sand is blackened and we have this heavy drone sound playing over these really disturbing images. Then we see this:
Handprints In The Sand
Appropriately, the singer chimes in with "Faintly" as a handprint faintly appears in the sand; the print then fills with what appears to be oil. Something is crawling across the beach.
We can't help but think of pollution, mankind's carbon footprint (in this case a hand) and the devastation of nature. Kojima has approached these topics before; Metal Gear Solid continuously reflects on mankind's greed and power to devastate the world it inhabits. [Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain](tag:2683985) lengthily discusses the use of nuclear weapons and how they continue to threaten the safety of all of earth's creatures. Perhaps the devastation of sea-life and pollution will be themes in Kojima's Death Stranding.
The camera glides over a naked body to reveal a man lying on the blackened sand in handcuffs. They're futuristic handcuffs though. The inside of them glow blue and luckily this guy is free of one of them.
Tied To One Another
The camera pulls back further and we see the man is lying next to a very young baby. The two appear connected by a black umbilical cord and the man's body is covered in hand prints. These images evoke a sense of loss. Nakedness is often portrayed as the ultimate form of innocence. We've no protection from that which would harm us and the man seems just as helpless as the new born baby. They're surrounded by ominous black sand.
The man turns out to be Norman Reedus and he takes the babe in his arms. He's visibly distraught and sobs as he holds onto the child, who doesn't seem to be moving anymore. Was the baby physically attached to him with the cord?
Suddenly the child disappears and Reedus' hands become covered in a thick, black, oily substance. He stares in disbelief. Oil is everywhere in this trailer, which further supports the idea that Kojima is keen to tackle climate change and the pollution of the oceans with his new game. This oil has taken his innocent child from him.
Suddenly, black handprints of what appear to be a child's begin to form on Reedus' leg. They leave behind white markings which can be seen all over his body. The handprints continue onto the black sand and Reedus' gaze follows them to reveal a school of dead fish lying motionless on the beach. Just like the crabs we saw earlier, they're everywhere.
As the character stands up, we notice his stomach is heavily scarred. Seeing as we saw a child on the beach attached to an umbilical cord, we could assume that it was attached to Reedus in some way. Perhaps this image alludes to how the child was ripped from him; after all, the scars are not dissimilar from those that women may have following a c-section.
Now, we don't mean to suggest that Reedus was actually pregnant, but this image seems to denote a form of loss. Metaphorically, this man had something ripped from him and Kojima used the image of the innocent child to convey this loss to us in an impactful manner. Perhaps this man has indeed lost his child or perhaps it's all a metaphor for something else.
A Devastated Beach
We then get a good look at where we are. This beach is horrifying. Beached whales lie everywhere, Reedus is surrounded by dead fish and in the sky we see five beings floating in perfect alignment. What on earth has happened here?
While this image appears extraordinary and hard to comprehend, there's actually a real-world phenomenon that sees whales strand themselves in this manner: it's called cetacean stranding. But if you look off in the distance you can see very small polar ice caps. Perhaps everything around here has melted and the water has evaporated leaving all of these creatures here to drown. Do these beings in the sky have something to do with this? Or was it Reedus? Perhaps this is why he was in handcuffs?
We've no clue, but the game has already established some very interesting and resonant themes. We seem to have a man who's undergone a traumatic loss, symbolized by the innocent child, the overwhelming presence of black oil and the scarring on his stomach. We're also seeing Kojima explore the devastating effects of oil on sea-life, the murderous handprints of man and the polluting of the environment, perhaps even global warming.
What a remarkably bold way to start work in a new studio and leave behind all that happened with Konami. Nice one, Kojima.
What do you see in Kojima's new trailer?
Do you think all of this is an allegory for Kojima's departure from Konami and how Metal Gear Solid was ripped from him? Or do you see a game director tackling climate change and how people impact nature? Let us know in the comments below!