Games World
Filed under: Death Stranding

How I introduced my mom to Death Stranding (and changed my appreciation for the game in the process)

I’m not new to Kojima’s oeuvre. I’ve played Metal Gear: Solid Snake, Snake Eater, and Phantom Pain — I’ve also watched dozens of hours of analysis of the MGS games I didn’t play. I knew Death Stranding would be a ride, but what I didn’t know was that I would do something wild this time: experience it with my mom.

A little background on mom: she’s not a gamer, far from it. Despite having two sons who grew up playing games, she never really paid it much attention. She’s an avid consumer of audiovisual media, though. For years she spent hours upon hours watching and rewatching her favorite movies, her DVD collection was epic. Recently, though, she stopped watching movies and started getting into series. Only when it was already too late I realized it was because her memory was failing — she couldn’t retain info from 120min of plot, so 30min bites (in which plot points are repeated over and over in each episode) worked better for her.

Well, last Saturday I decided to spend the afternoon with her. I grabbed some snacks and went to my brother’s house, where she lives ‘cause she can’t manage it on her own anymore. I took Death Stranding for my brother, so he could play it while I fuel my addiction to The Sims 4 unravel the mysteries in CONTROL, and I don’t know how or why, but the box art caught her attention.

“What’s that?”, she asked.

“It’s a game for ”, I replied. Then this crazy idea occurred to me: I knew there were “movie” edits of Death Stranding on YouTube, even some dubbed in our native language (we are from Brazil and mom doesn’t vibe with subtitles). “Do you wanna watch it together? It’s like a movie, we could just watch for the plot. It’s quite good.”

She agreed, so we got our snacks and off we went to binge on over 7hrs of pure Kojima weirdness.

Which wasn’t all that weird, when I look back on it. Is Death Stranding a crazy ride? No doubt about it! But as mom kept asking me the same questions every 15min, my replies turned out to be quite… accessible, I guess?

“What’s with the baby? Why is this guy carrying them?”, she asked, to which I replied, “It’s a bridge baby, he was taken alive out of the womb of his dead mother, so he has a direct connection with the other side.”

“What are those black handprints?”, she asked, to which I replied, “Those are beached things, they are the spirits of the dead who couldn’t go fully into the sea of death, so they crave for the living, like phantoms.”

“What’s up with the beaches?”, she asked, to which I replied, “Beaches are transient ecosystems, the edge between land and sea. If you imagine life is land, and death is the sea, the beach is the place where you must cross.”

“Why is covered in bruises?”, she asked, to which I replied, “His body is allergic to touch, so every time someone touches him, it leaves a mark.”

That went on and on for hours, the same questions coming again and again, and every time I replied, it was slightly different, but it helped me have much more appreciation for the plot in Death Stranding.

It is weird, true, but it speaks truths that are spiritual and deep, something we rarely see in any media, and it is specially rare in games.

Mom ended up falling asleep just before one of the endings. As Sam and Amélie discussed the final decision he had to make on her beach, mom dozed off and slept soundly. She had enjoyed the trip along Kojima’s surreal world of BT’s, BB’s, connection and death. She doesn’t remember much of it, but I’m up for watching it all again with her, if she so desires.

But now… Now Death Stranding speaks to me on another level. The songs, which were already good, now speak to me on a personal level. The conflict and reconnection between Sam and Amélie/Bridget, the relationship between mother and son, has another meaning to me. It saddens me to no end, though, so I can’t think too much about Death Stranding without getting misty eyed. I feel a bit like Heartman, scared that our beaches will isolate us from each other forever.

This game, this story, will always be something I shared with the most important person in my life. She taught me a lot, and it’s because she compelled me to use an English-Portuguese dictionary to better understand the games on my Mega Drive (Sega Genesis) when I was 7 that I can share this story with you folks.

So… on a final note, hear me out: try to connect with someone you love before it’s too late. We’ll be alone in our beaches when our time comes, and no one knows what waits for us in the sea, but right now we are on land, walking uncertain steps towards who-knows-what. Let’s not waste time with silly quarrels and pettiness.

More ropes and less sticks.

Thanks for listening, HAL out.

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