WIRED: I’ve watched the trailer for Death Stranding and I’m still confused. What the heck is this?
> KOJIMA: It’s a teaser, so the only thing I can say is, watch it. You can see the crabs, the whales, all things, they all have these umbilical cables. Norman, as he stands up. It’s a very important part, this connection. That’s the keyword. What people are playing today in open-world action games, or linear action games, it will compare naturally to them. It will feel familiar. But after an hour or two of playing, you will start to feel something different, something new that you haven’t played. The story is about connections, what you call “strands” in psychology—how people are connected.
How does that affect gameplay?
There’s an author that I’m a huge fan of named Kōbō Abe. Among his work is a novel called The Rope. He mentions that the first tool that humanity invented was the stick, to keep away bad things. Right now, looking at today’s online games, you see a lot of sticks—pistols, weapons, things that are the equivalent of the first tool. Abe, in his novel, mentions that after the stick, mankind invented something that keeps things that are important close to you—the rope.
In Death Stranding, there will be the equivalent of sticks. But also, I want to tie people together with the equivalent of ropes.
So it’s a multiplayer game?
It’s not so simple. It’s a new system. It’s not as if today you have online gameplay where you fight with guns, and I’m swapping them for ropes.
When I hear “stranding” I think of being alone on an island. But you mean it in the sense of strands connecting people.
I’m using both meanings. Connecting people through gameplay is the basis of the game. Trying to connect one character to another, or to connect life and death.
You’ve selected very specific words for this title. Why “death”? Action games all have death in them. Why is it so important here?
In arcade games, you have this notion of dying, putting another quarter in, and coming back. That hasn’t changed in the 35 years that I’ve been making games. In this game, life and death will be part of that, but I want to give a different twist to that notion.
Your history stretches back to designing 8-bit games. How does that inform your design of a big-budget game for PlayStation 4?
Back when I started making games, technology was very limited, so I couldn’t show players what was in my head. There were specific rules we had to follow, and that was game design. It was like the game of chess, where you have a piece that represents a knight and he’s limited to a specific movement. Today, we could render an actual horse with all the freedom a real horse would allow. Game design has changed a lot. With current technology, we don’t need to be limited. Marketing-wise, you have to set a genre for your game, because people will ask if it’s horror or sci-fi, action or RPG. You need to put a tag on it. But it isn’t that limited anymore.
You were going to work with Norman Reedus at Konami, and you’re working with him now. What’s that relationship like?
I’ve never gone through an agency, or through casting, to find actors, or authors, or musicians. There are some actors I have in mind and I talk directly with them, and figure out if we’re going to be able to have a successful relationship. With Norman Reedus, we had an unfortunate situation where the project we were going to work with him on didn’t happen, and many things happened to me. He was worried about me, and afterward when we met again, he was such a nice guy. When I started to work on my first project here with my new company, I wanted to make sure that I worked with someone I was comfortable with.
Is it liberating being separated from Metal Gear, not having to make another one? Or are you sad you can’t make another?
At Konami, I had ideas for other games, but Metal Gear was the priority. Being able to work on something new is a nice feeling.
Anyone would have published your game. Why Sony?
We’re an independent developer, and we can work with anyone. I was fortunate to have many offers from different places. But for our first title, as I’m trying to set up a company, and get people to work with me, and trying to create a new IP—doing all of this in such a short time is very difficult. With all these concerns, you can lose your concentration. Working with Sony, I have a long history with them, a relationship of trust. They’ve allowed me a lot of freedom and been very supportive of the things I wanted to do.