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Game of the Year 2019 #2: Death Stranding

i don’t know why i’m trying to curry favor with the elder anyway, him and his 24-individually-packaged-sleeping-pills shenanigans. but, as i drove my truck up the mountain, a carved out pass of rock grew up around me. A narrowing funnel of phantom feet that beat the rock into a subdued delta of mud. And how the rock must’ve fought back, in some distant computer calculation somewhere, ceding less ground, until the path funnels into a flanking canyon of rock that cracks its stubborn way out of the ground, its dimensions exactly wide enough to permit my truck, made so by every other truck that made this trek? i hope so. even though i know it’s nowhere near that complex, that whatever terrain deformation is probably done automatically and the heat map of other player’s feet only moves a few pebbles here and there, i can will myself to believe.

because everywhere you go, the stunning rock and moss is gradually ground down. first into clean, dry desire trails, and then–with the introduction of vehicles–ugly muddy hashmarks for meters and meters outside any shipping outpost. the majestic landscape is spoiled by ugly biotechnical gunmetal gray babble crisscrossing it everywhere for the sake of convenience. the map muddled by a sensory overload of other people’s billboards. in real time, me and a million other people turned this beautiful place ugly, all so one old guy could live alone in a crap bunker on a shit hill. what kind of society isolates its people and only lets them interact at the gunpoint of grueling labor?

anyway haha i’m writing this on december 31st 2020. 🙂

not that i think the statement is all the way there, kojima games never are. but like…. what a weird cool world, shame it’s populated by late-stage kojima actor-character/aspirational-movie-biz-friends and the like requisite horrendous writing that induces, apparently? like otherwise why did this shit get so much worse once keifer sutherland showed up?

but the time rain is cool and the part where every dead body is a potential WMD so nobody dare kill each other is rad, right? finally, we get a reason for a non-lethal game not rooted in some weird altruism. then it becomes kind of adorable to watch the delivery addicts menace you with shock sticks instead of “real” guns. they are playing at fighting. so are you. just like you’re playing at being a johnny appleseed—a solitary man supported by no infrastructure. just like YOU are PLAYING the GAME!!!!!!

and what a game, as far as really game-y games go. the squeeze and release on the Gamer Treat nozzle really only could’ve been guided by the jerk-off who got fired for taking to long to make a game where keifer sutherland tells a horse to shit on his face. just when hiking starts to feel nice in this game, they make you climb. when you’ve had a couple hours of carefree cargo hauling with the truck, terrain starts getting too rocky to drive. then you start building out highways and truck comes back, but the roads become so winding in the mountain that taking trucks through there is incredibly time inefficient compared to the zipline network you’ve been constructing bit by bit in the spare time of your runs, filling in the gaps on the map you perceive in the overlay of all those rogue ziplines that could’ve been placed by anyone you’ve touched online?

as with the terrain deformation i really don’t know how much of that is real and how much of it is video game prestidigitation, but i don’t really care. i’m a mark for that shit. just like i was a mark when you could shoot the individual ice cubes in the metal gear solid 2 demo. just like i’m a mark for having a whole button on the controller that doesn’t do anything but say hi to a couple other people online. usually, they shout hi back.

the best games in the world are ones that make you feel like a creepy crawly little grub. known dumbshit cliffobiffo said something like “in video games you touch things with your guns blah blah blah bioshock art more like bioshock fart.” but how about video games that actually let you  touch things with your hands? like how everyone went apeshit when nathan drake started contextually leaning against walls in uncharted 3. if you played shadow of the colossus or dragon’s dogma you know what i mean. and yea it’s a size thing which means yea it’s probably a trans thing but probably not exclusively so?  some of the most exciting, engaging games are ones where you’re a grubby little worm with tentacle arms you can’t quite control. there’s nothing to get you thinking about your body (a beloved pastime of trans people the world over) like struggling to control a virtual one. it’s just usually those games are like the Octopus Dad, a goofy laugh game, or Gang Beasts (a simple party experience), or the guy-in-a-pot mountain climbing one whose name i can’t remember, which seems very hard?).

death stranding controls like the hellish version of metal gear solid 2 i remember in my head, but it’s not hard. nothing happens when you die, you can fuck up deliveries as many times as you want, i think there’s even one part where you have to disarm a bomb you delivered and if you fuck up Skull Hardman calls you on the radio like “huenhhh…. well Sam…. i guess we’ll have to try that one again…. in the morning…” so like what fucking ever

if you have a, shall we say, overabundance of what-fucking-ever energy (perhaps doctors describe this as “Attention Deficit Disorder”) then this is the game for you because you can build the intricate zipline network and go from coast to mountaintop without ever touching your boots to the ground or you can be the asshole that stubbornly trudges their way up the whole slope. game doesn’t care, and it won’t fight you. and that made sense to me because i looked at the prospect of not only having to set up one zipline but two just to get somewhere i’d already been to set up the first zip line sounded like a real suckers gig. like what am i some kind of planner. absolutely not. i will walk. i will walk everywhere.

but damn…. y’know? if that shit don’t…

in my brain i have a lot to say about like the feelings of resignation, like with Outer Wilds before, and letting go. but those feelings are mildly embarrassing, and lightly conflict with how funny i’ll always find it to watch a video game character just fucking biff it. look at this motherfucker just on his tippy-tip-tippy-toes.

the best parts of death stranding are when you’re mindlessly following a path laid out by past yous. you of twenty minutes ago, who plotted out a string of 5 or 6 deliveries with a just exquisite waypoint system, so you could clear your mind and focus on the path. or the you of 20 hours ago, who placed a bridge in that spot, or who finished someone else’s. either way your grubby little fingerprints are all over this world map, which you have made ugly, because fuck America and fuck a johnny appleseed, but oh well, i’ll Pause-Skip a couple cutscenes in exchange for AAA gaming’s best shot at a Contemplation Sim.

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