Pop culture always has a tendency to repeat itself. We've seen dozens of iterations of super heroes, pocket monsters are everywhere, and first-person shooters have covered every war real and imaginary. It doesn't leave much for originality in many cases, but that's where the weird comes in. When there's not much left that could be considered original, the original has to become even more far-fetched. This is where creators like Yoko Taro and Hideo Kojima come in.
The latter is known for the Metal Gear franchise, and is working on the upcoming Death Stranding video game that has everyone reeling. The former, Yoko Taro has created the Drakengard and NieR series. Both creators have always had a culture of confusion about them. It's not uncommon for people to say, “Things are a bit confusing, but with Yoko Taro it's okay.” Or similarly, “I have no idea what's going on, but it's Kojima, so it doesn't matter.”
There is a very seriously fine line between something being a tad confusing and something making absolutely no sense. With Yoko Taro's most recent game, NieR: Automata, fans of the original game have a better idea of what is going on than new fans. There are those I know however who did play the original and still had some sense of confusion while playing NieR: Automata. This seems to walk closely on the side of “this is fine.” While you might not know the reason behind every little minute thing, you can still enjoy the game and feel like you're a part of a world that you didn't know about before.
We know next to nothing about Hideo Kojima's most recent creation, and yet it already seems to be heading into the deep end of, “We may have lost the plot here.” Even Mads Mikkelsen (one of the actors in Death Stranding) admitted he had some difficulty wrapping his brain around the game. This says something that even a person directly involved in the project is confused. What could that mean for us in the general public when Death Stranding releases?
There are plenty of games that I've played over the years where I felt like I didn't entirely know what was going on, but I still enjoyed it. An even better example I can give is the television show Doctor Who. I started watching it during the recent reboot and didn't originally watch it from the beginning. And yet, even still I found myself quoting the lore when talking to friends about it. I have still not watched the classic episodes of Doctor Who, there are still some parts of the plot that I don't always get. Still, I feel like I understand enough about Doctor Who to talk about it confidently.
This can happen with many unique video games. While we might not know exactly everything happening in NieR: Automata, it still makes sense on a practical level. You play as an android who is attempting to rid the world of robots so that what's left of humanity can return to Earth from their refuge on the moon. While there's definitely more going on here than that, we only really need to know that to get by. Sure, knowing more of the lore and understanding it better would be great but not entirely necessary.
When it comes to something like Death Stranding however, it already feels like we're going to need to delve really deep to understand. And that understanding might be crucial to enjoying the game. I'm already imagining Death Stranding as one of those games where I play through the first section/chapter/checkpoint and then end up over-analyzing everything. “So that black stuff in the sand, that's clearly indicative of the afterbirth our mothers force out of their womb. This ties in with the loss of innocence as represented in the child who disappears from Norman Reedus' arms.” And so on and so forth.
If Death Stranding ends up being anywhere near as confusing as Mads Mikkelsen thought it was, we'll probably find ourselves thinking, “Okay, this isn't fun anymore guys! What is happening in this game?!” Of course there's always a chance that things will mellow out closer to release, loose ends will begin to be tied up, and visual metaphors will become more solid. At the moment however we're looking at another, “Kojima's a strange dude, but you know what? That's okay.” kind of title.
How do you feel about confusing plots in video games? Personally I'm a fan of the way Kojima's mind works, but I also don't like being super confused about what's going on in my video games. It's sort of a catch-22 in the face of Death Stranding for me personally. But I'd love to hear what you think! Let me know in the comments.