Yes, I Actually Pre-Ordered Death Stranding



While I’ve been playing video games for as far back as my memory can strain, back to the days when my uncle Miguel gave us an old Atari 2600 and my baffled family was unable to figure out what about its simplistic graphics and borderline nonsensical controls was supposed to be so fun, I’ve never been the guy who pre-orders games. This, at least according to what the industry wants us to believe, seems to put me in the vast minority of players. Video games run on day one sales the same way films run on opening weekend box office gross and books run on… hmm… well whatever it is books care about, which judging by my publisher seems to be magical thinking. Anyhow, given that games are adjacent to both the tech industry and the arts, it’s no surprise that the cult of the new runs stronger in it than practically any other medium. Pre-orders are video games’ lifeblood, and if you order now you can get a free tote bag and a gold coin with a picture of your next waifu and within the game you’ll get exclusive access to a gun that makes you shoot razorblades out of your nose, so don’t wait!

You wanted what’s in the photo? Here’s a knapsack from pick-n-save, enjoy!

My reticence towards purchasing new works the day they’re released has two main reasons. The more obvious of these is that I simply didn’t grow up getting games the day they were released, or anything else for that matter. Like most kids, I didn’t get to purchase things myself, instead I had to wait for my birthday or Christmas, and since those are only roughly a month a part this meant that anything released during the rest of the year would have to wait. On the plus side, this gave hype plenty of time to wear off, so I avoided a lot of the flashier-yet-disappointing titles that made their way to wealthier kids’ houses, but this also meant never being on the cutting edge. I saw movies, if I ever did, at the dollar theater, and I listened to albums after burning a copy off of friends. I wasn’t thrilled about this, but at the same time it wasn’t really a big deal. Being trendy, for some reason, rarely concerned me.


Years of being behind-the-times gave me a certain cynicism towards the cult of the new, and I suppose hyped art in general. For my “career” as an author, there’s an assumption that I should be keeping up with the latest trends and reading the hot new books. Really, though, every year I’ve been alive it’s become clearer and clearer to me how little I know of past works, that there are unknown authors to discover from 50 years ago if only I’m smart enough to seek them out. For the same reason I couldn’t get new games, growing up I got books from the library or a used bookstore, and these habits have become so ingrained in me that I generally find hardback copies off-putting in comparison with my collection of thousands of trade paperbacks. Finding an obscure love from the back catalogue always feels more fulfilling than simply purchasing whatever has the most expensive marketing campaign at the moment, and this sense of discovery is something I’ve kept pursuing regardless of where my interests have taken me.

Games, books, albums, and other forms of artistic expression don’t become less exciting as time passes, unless they were never really that exciting to begin with. Waiting offers a level of detachment that, to me at least, allows for taking something in on a more honest level. One of the hobby horses of old Cracked Podcast was the idea of giving out Oscars or other major awards five years later, and while the reasons for why this is impossible are obvious (awards are simply another form of marketing), the logic is sound. Perspective and thoughtfulness are difficult to come by when you’re adrenalized by the knowledge you’re witnessing the Next Big Thing.

Now please keep in mind that I’m a weirdo. I read books without having any idea as to the plot or even concept before cracking their spine, and I watch movies with no more knowledge about them than their title or director. These behaviors drive my wife, at times, nuts, and I’m happy to acknowledge that they’re far from normal. But I enjoy this because it allows me to take works in on their own terms. While it’s impossible not to have some preconceptions, being as far from marketing and publicity and the general capitalistic machinery that thrusts these things into our eyes is, I contend, a good thing, at least if your relationship with stories is similar to my own. 

So then why, given everything I just said, did I pre-order Death Stranding?

Back to my home life, my wife likes to watch things as they’re unfolding, to be part of the zeitgeist, to read pieces about her favorite tv shows and listen to podcasts about them the day after they air. And part of my desire, I should admit, comes from this. I’m certain Death Stranding will be dominating game culture’s dialogue for some time, if not culture at large to at least some extent. This doesn’t mean I don’t skip similar works constantly and read about them years later, dipping through, for instance, old Kotaku articles on the Mass Effect Trilogy while I was working through that. But it can be nice to discover aspects of things along with the culture at large, especially when the work is itself cryptic and gnomic. To be part of the group discovering the mystery rather than having everything already unearthed when you come to it years later.


Relatedly, while I have an almost superhuman ability to avoid spoilers, when something becomes so all-encompassing, as a new Kojima game can be, they quickly become impossible to avoid. I knew that Bruce Willis was dead more than a decade before seeing The Sixth Sense, and while that wouldn’t have suddenly transformed it into a good movie, it certainly would’ve changed the experience of watching it. More unfortunately, as I noted in a Codec Log, I’m still sad I could never experience Psycho Mantis the way he was intended (in this way, his name’s homage to Hitchcock’s Psycho, while likely unintentional, seems fitting). Does this make Metal Gear Solid any worse? No, of course not—if surprise is the only thing a work has going for it, then it’s fundamentally uninteresting. But at the same time, being surprised does change your experience, and particularly for games, which are the most experiential medium yet devised, this does really matter. I could probably go a week without being too spoiled, but I doubt I could make it to the end of the year, and I would like to experience Death Stranding the “way it was meant to,” as vague as that phrase may be.

He is reading my mind!

More important than either of these reasons, though, is likely the one that’s driving all of the more sane individuals out there to pre-ordering this game: because they can. I live in a weird, somewhat monastic fashion, rarely purchasing things immediately due to the above-stated reasons, my anti-capitalistic tendencies, at times crippling self-esteem issues resulting from depression, and probably other subconscious reasons I’m not even aware of. But every now and then I become so interested in a work that I will order it regardless of the strange, vaguely Catholic guilt I get at purchasing a title at first release because I can never escape the idea that anything I only want, rather than absolutely need, is pure luxury. That title, right now, is Death Stranding


The odd thing is that five years ago I only would’ve had passing interest in the title. I hadn’t played anything from Kojima, and while I knew the reverence some held him in, my sense was that given the militaristic trappings of his games and his reportedly sophomoric humor, Kojima’s works wouldn’t be for me. But since then I’ve played P.T., then the first four games in the Metal Gear series, and through all of these I’ve sunk hundreds of hours into thinking about his games. And ultimately, if there were a way to magically get paid to write (and have Blake write) about the rest of the Metal Gear series I would’ve happily spent hundreds more hours on the rest already, as at this point I’m well aware that they are my type of games even when I don’t like them, which I swear makes sense when you think about it. Few people make works as idiosyncratic as he does, refusing closure a while embracing nuance, complexity, and a complete commitment to his muse regardless of how off-putting it may be.


I may not like Death Stranding, but that’s not really what ordering a new work from an artist you love is about. I order new Mountain Goats albums even though I could just listen to the tracks on Spotify, but I legitimately want to support the artist and send them a message that what they’re doing is appreciated. Kojima doesn’t need my money, neither does John Darnielle, or Martin Scorsese, or Jennifer Egan, or any other famous artist who’s doing well, but I still like to send them that vote of confidence in the hope that they get to keep making more works for me, and all of us, to enjoy. And while this gesture is almost invisible, at the same time something tells me that these creators, the ones willing to spend their lives putting out singular and at times nearly indescribable works of art, still do appreciate it. 

See what Blake had to say:

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