Death Stranding has been a recurring theme for me. A positive theme I might add, and I love writing about it. But the symbolism of Death Stranding seems like a culmination of all my writing effort. I’m not complaining though. This is my way of celebrating the official release (on PC) from just a few days ago. I can’t wait to play Death Stranding indeed. So, I figured what better way to prep for that special moment than with an exploration of the Symbolism of Death Stranding.
However, as I previously mentioned, I haven’t really played the game. I’m yet to do that. So, everything that I put in this post is based solely on research. It’s not a subjective analysis based on previous experience. Quite the contrary. It’s a highly objective (and admittedly not as extensive as I’d prefer) analysis of the symbolism of Death Stranding. The themes, the characters and so much more. In short, everything that interest me about the game. So, take it with a grain of salt. And of course, expect some spoilers.
Given the time and space of this post, I won’t be able to cover them all. And I’m sure that you will probably have different interpretations as well. So, I’m always eager to know your opinion on this. As always please share your thoughts in the comment section. I’d love to know them, and your thoughts on the symbolism of Death Stranding. Let’s begin, shall we?
The symbolism of Death Stranding and Hideo Kojima’s road to the finish line
As previously mentioned, the road to Death Stranding was not an easy one for Hideo Kojima. Immediately after the split from Konami, he began the search for funding, office space and of course the team that would help him get back on track. And not surprisingly, all of the help was provided by his most hardcore fans. But even with all the help in the world, he had to do most of the work in a company that now bares his name. And after years spent in development Death Stranding arrived. For a more detailed opinion of the game, you should check out my colleague’s review. It’s awesome, I promise. But for something different, please scroll down.
What’s Death Stranding all about?
Developed and directed by Kojima, Death Stranding takes place in the United States. The USA in a very distant future and in the aftermath of the eponymous Death Stranding. A catastrophic event event that caused destructive creatures from a realm between life and death to begin their annihilation. You get to play Death Stranding as Sam Porter Bridges (played Norman Reedus). He’s a courier with a specialty in delivering supplies to the isolated colonies and cities (also known as KNOTS) that remain after the Death Stranding. You are also responsible for reconnecting the colonies via a wireless communications network. Sounds so simple, but underneath the basic premise, the game is filled with plenty of secret meanings. Also, it’s filled with awesome characters and of course, lots of symbolism.
As the director and writer Hideo Kojima said before the launch, “it’s about making people think about the meaning of connection.” So, it’s safe to assume the connection is a key theme here. In an era in which the US seems more divided than ever, it’s a nice theme to explore. A connection through such a post-apocalyptic setting. But as the VICE writer, Cameron Kuzelman pointed out in his post, Sam is more of a side character. Not a main character, as popular culture would have you believe. Even the game suggests that he’s the lead, and we experience the different situations the viewpoint of Sam. However, these scenes are rarely about him. The supporting characters are showing you the world in this post-apocalyptic setting. Not Sam. He’s just a projectionist of that dark, gloomy world. And I think it’s an interesting view, not gonna lie.
The Symbolism of Death Stranding And 2 Of Kojima’s Favorite Directors
And speaking of the characters, two of them are played by the directors that Kojima apparently admires. I’m talking about Deadman and Heartman of course. Guillermo Del Toro and Nicolas Winding Refn occupy these roles, and the meaning behind their names is fascinating. Heartman’s named after his peculiar heart condition. Every 21 minutes his heart stops. And with the short pause, he gets three minutes to find his dead wife and child so that they can be together again.
Deadman on the other hand (played by Del Toro) is born thanks to the organs of dead people. Cool right? But there are plenty of fascinating characters with even more fascinating symbolism in their names. For instance, Clifford Hunger is named after a cliff. A simple cliff that would also suggest dead-end. End of the road if you will. But his name also means Cliffhanger as he is the final twist in the story. Finally, Bridget Strand’s name on the other hand comes from the words „bridge“ and „strand“ as she wants to re-connect America once again. Which is nice. I really love these interpretations.
What is aphenphosmphobia?
Yes, you’ve read that right. Guillermo del Toro’s character, Deadman, mentions this particular condition that affects the Sam character. We’re informed that Norman Reedus’ character is affected by something called aphenphosmphobia, but what is it? Is it a real or a made-up condition?
No, it’s not a fictional condition. It’s in fact, a very much real condition. Aphenphosmphobia is the fear of being touched in both the physical and the emotional sense. It makes sense actually. Hence the hand-print scars that are all over his body. And to be honest… If you’re living in such a world, where danger looms practically from every corner, you’ll have that fear too. Everything around you could potentially kill you, so it’s better that nothing touches your skin.
Lou is the name of the baby (she goes by BB and Louise) but it’s a weird addition nonetheless. You’ve probably noticed the baby even from the first trailer, and you probably thought… What’s with the baby? Well, Sam carries that baby in an tiny bottle throughout the game. But what’s the baby for actually? One interpretation is that a baby is a tool that aids Sam in his quest.
The baby (or Bridge Baby) provides power to Sam’s sensors. And it does help him to detect supernatural creatures on his long (over 50 hours long) mission. Lou is actually one such a Bridge baby, and you get to spend a lot of time with Lou in this game. Furthermore, it’s an unborn fetus that has been taken from a still-mother. Why? They’re part of the carrier’s equipment of course. Bridge Babies are kept in portable pods that simulate the conditions of a still mother’s womb. They’re safe there as well in those pods. Not to mention that they’re easily portable and compact. It’s a bit weird but if you think about it, again it makes perfect sense. I get the practical aspect of their nature, and they’re kinda cute in a bizarre way.
And Beach Things
But what about the Beach things? What’s so special about them? Well, they’re the true villains of the game indeed. Furthermore, they’re the most horrific element of the game. They’re near-invisible enemies who emerge out of the rain and tar. And you have to be very careful when they’re around. Ultimately, they originated as manifestations of the dead’s spirits, and the scary part comes from exactly that sentiment. Not to mention that they’re somewhere between the living and the dead, and during the Death Stranding, they were given access to the human world. Which in retrospect started the whole ordeal. Furthermore, they’re brought into the world when a human dies. And when their body isn’t properly incinerated and discarded. So, because of that unfortunate situation, human bodies go through a process called necrotization. So, they can ensure that the reincarnation of the BT’s doesn’t happen.
The symbolism of Death Stranding: Everything Is Going To Be OK?
MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD. And ultimately, as one YouTuber pointed out in his video about Death Stranding, (especially the ending) is all about Hideo Kojima. It’s a metaphor about his career and the eventual revival. At the end of the game the baby is dead Sam tries to incinerate it. But right after that, Lou is revived, and the BT’s are back to their beaches. Maybe even moved on. The sun begins to peak after the rain, and it signals the new chapter. Kinda like Death Stranding is the new chapter for Kojima. The sun came out after the rain, and Death Stranding is that new chapter.
But you must remember that much like Sam, Kojima is now in this state of being. It took him a lot to get to that place. And he faced a lot of monsters as well. That was the world outside Konami. A scary world of uncertainty and danger. After all the stress, disappointment and anger in Konami, he’s finally calling the shots. Not to mention he finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel. I think Death Stranding is his light, his rebirth, his saving and his future.
What do you think?