Death Stranding is a beautiful piece of pop art, a meditation on what we lose when the connections between us are severed. It’s one of those strange games that strains against the limitations of the art form, due to the uncompromising vision and authorial power of creator Hideo Kojima. But that’s not all it is.
The act of defecation plays a large part in the story, and I’m still recovering from how it’s portrayed in the game. For every person who argues that this is what gaming can be, or maybe what it should be, I have to say the following thing: “OK, but also you make grenades by taking a dump behind an advertisement for a Norman Reedus show on AMC.”
Before I continue, I want you to witness the act itself. I’m also going to bring up the fact that sometimes when you poop the controller seems to rumble in a way that indicates the character is gassy.
Whether this is a thing that actually happens is a popular topic of debate in our offices, which is another surreal detail that makes me feel more hunted and alone than the game itself. Am I the only one who feels the controller farts? How do I know what is real, and what is illusion? Am I truly alone when I poop, or are there cameras in the bathroom that superimpose a Polygon pop-up ad over my body while I’m doing my business?
I don’t want to think about any of this, but here we are. So take a quick look and we’ll jump back into things.
The fact that this is included at all is baffling, and it’s made even weirder that pooping is given so much mechanical justification. This is how you make grenades! If you don’t poop, you won’t have grenades! You can pee in the wild, but you certainly can’t poop anywhere but this room.
I would have loved to have been in the room when this whole thing was pitched to the team or, more likely, explained to them. “You see,” I imagine Kojima saying, choosing his words carefully, “we all poop. Everyone poops. And everyone watches Ride on AMC. This is the most relatable aspect of the entire game. It’s like fighting over who pays the check when you take Geoff Keighley out for sushi; it’s something we have all struggled with in our time.”
And then everyone nods.
Did AMC reach out to Sony about the ad, or is this Sony asked AMC about? Did anyone have the heart to explain why it’s rare to have immersion-shattering ads for shows that shouldn’t exist in the game’s world due to the inclusion of the actor playing the lead role in both the game and the show, or did Kojima just rubber-stamp the entire thing so quickly no one could raise an objection? I looked up the show itself, then watched a trailer for the episode with Marilyn Manson, and it only raised further questions.
I can’t even talk to anyone outside of the world of gaming about the existential dread this whole situation makes me feel, but it’s too hard to explain. “True gamers love meaning and art, and this is the most meaningful, artistic game ever, which is why you poop behind an ad for your own show about motorcycles,” one might say to a dinner guest who would be right to get up and leave.
It’s assumed that Kojima is in almost complete control of his games, and this focus on defecation is definitely part of a larger theme. Who could forget Johnny Sasaki’s bowel problems in Metal Gear Solid? Or D-Horse’s tactical poop in Metal Gear Solid 5? Whatever Kojima is trying to say about the importance of poo, he’s been trying to say it for quite some time.
Death Stranding, like Mr. Porter’s latest grenade, is out now.
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