'Death Stranding' Is a Collective Power Fantasy About Infrastructure and Aid

Death Stranding is a game about unexpected terrain. But no matter how much you plan for every package delivery across an unforgiving, newly primordial American landscape as Sam Porter Bridges in the game's opening hours, nothing prepares you for that moment: suddenly, after hours of navigating the lonely expanse, a section of highway pops into existence and the game changes completely.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/a35md4/death-stranding-is-a-collective-power-fantasy-about-infrastructure-and-aid

I’ve never been able to get into the Souls games (with the exception of the wonderful slight departure from the formula with Sekiro earlier this year), so I’ve never experienced the swelling of the heart which presumably accompanies being summoned into another player’s world to help them defeat a boss. Video games so rarely present opportunities for altruism and fraternization beyond your standard cooperative affairs, which really boil down to players pooling their skills together in order to overcome a common obstacle. If I hop into a cooperative shooter, I’m not explicitly helping another player out, I’m merely adding another gun to the mix and increasing the total dps by x degrees.

As I’m playing through Death Stranding however, I find myself so grateful for the structures that other players have left behind that account for a common problem we face as players. Sure, when I place down a bridge over a ravine, it’s helping me in the short-term, but I’m also placing it down with the understanding that this will improve the lives of all players whose game-state is shared with mine. When I see a particularly helpful generator or timefall shelter, I make sure to pause my journey, and mash away at the touchpad to give virtual validation to whomever left a stepping stone behind for the rest of us. Similarly, I feel positively grand when I get a message on the edge of my screen notifying me that a road I had built was used by another player. They’re small things that add up to a sense of place, but more importantly, a sense of community. Death Stranding may bash you over the head with its story metaphors, but the concept delivered through its mechanics just works. Yes, I’m building bridges to RECONNECT AMERICA, but really, I’m just looking out for my fellow couriers, and trying to leave a helpful mark on the world.