And What Of Those Immaterial Death Strandings?

Curator's Note

With only three viewers in their audience, one player, Soapy Warpig, quietly discovers P.T. is Silent Hills, the next game from Hideo Kojima, opening a vacuum in imaginary space buttressed by an atmosphere of mystery and anticipation for the future. If this is just a playable teaser—Warpig’s discovery urged everyone to wonder—then just imagine how the real game will be.

Soon thereafter, Silent Hills was cancelled and P.T. made unavailable, Metal Gear Solid V was released with significant cut content, then Kojima departed from Konami after a rumored falling out. But a sensation of all that never was yet could have been still radiates from that 2014 live stream like a dull pain along a phantom nerve. Individuals and online communities have since harnessed a conspiratorial drive to speculate and analyze every detail surrounding Kojima’s post-Konami work, to occupy that never-filled space with imagined versions of Silent Hills which don’t exist and can never be played. Immaterial, but of a real matter to some. 

Games scholar Olli Leino theorizes that digital games are unique because they possess a tangible materiality based in code and procedure, unalterable in the ways traditional games like Monopoly can be reinterpreted when subject to house rules. Digital materiality helps to draw interpretations of games based on the immutable elements that comprise them apart from subjective interpretations that hinge on player psychology, distinguishing the material game from an immaterial one. Yet one is no less real than the other, and games researchers must be willing to apprehend both. The positivity of digital materiality should not be overvalued when it is in immaterial and subjective qualities that the phenomenology of games as experienced emanates. 

For the millions who never played P.T. directly, theirs is primarily an immaterial experience formed within a whirling spectacle of press materials, leaks, critical commentary and fan-made video content. Amid a confluence of paratexts wholly separate from a game’s materiality the construction of our immaterial games often begins, founded on sparkling impressions of the material just out of reach. The cancellation of Silent Hills contributes to the spectacle surrounding, and partly created by Hideo Kojima in the lead up to his next game, Death Stranding; a new game of a new type, a strand game, he calls it, something never seen or played before. All our immaterial games are ur-strand games.

This November, when the world’s first strand game is made material and the vacuum of possibility around it collapses, some may be compelled to say 'I know a strand game when I see one, Kojima, and this is no strand game.' These immaterial games have sheltered the imaginations of people for years and cannot be easily abandoned; they contain lived in phenomenological experience more precious, perhaps, than anything the material Death Stranding could offer. How can Hideo Kojima, players, researchers, historians and critics reconcile the material Death Stranding with all those immaterial strand games?


Works Cited:
Leino, Olli Tapio. “Death Loop as a Feature.” Gamestudies, vol. 12, no. 2, Dec. 2012,


Hi Braden!

Important question right at the end of your piece -- one procedural in character, in search of some type of methodology, and so also... big. But I would argue that there is another question hidden in it, and that might possibly even come before yours: should we all actually look forward to this reconciliation? Or, in the more specific case of Death Stranding: to what degree is fair to this game that we expect it to do so, or that we expect Kojima (or others) to take this issue at heart?

I am asking this as someone that (1) has experienced P.T. in an immaterial way, via some hyper-mediated mirroring of the experiences of others, and (2) is exictingly waiting for Death Stranding (hoping for a Xbox version), and by excitingly I mean that I am not shy to overcharge my expectations toward it (and if I will be disappointed... so be it).

So I am asking this as someone that missed out on P.T. in its phenomenological materiality, and that has therefore built immaterial experiences of it, projecting them (it doesn't matter whether on purpose or not) on the long-awaited Death Stranding.

But if I understand your points correctly (which I share 100%), then it seems that there is a basically unbridgeable distance between material and immaterial games, regardless of what our desires/imagination/conspiracy theories suggest us. So it would be amazing if this reconciliation could happen, and it is almost equally enthralling to entertain the possibility that this might be the case...

...but to answer your rhetorical closing question with another question (and yes, I know it is impolite to do so): is it fair that we cultivate this expectation?


Regardless, I am looking forward so much to the material limitations of Death Stranding, which I already know will still feel more unlimited than those of other games, and going through all these greats contributions from this Kojima-based week only increased my trepidation -- I hope it has been the same for everyone else laugh


P.S. -- a last minute, very condensed (but I hope still understandable) provocation: I was thinking back to my immaterial experiences of P.T.... I think that in a way they are still bounded by the materiality that affected the recorded performances, but even game trailes, and so on. If this is true, then the question would be: are there really immaterial games? Or would such an object transcend the category of game itself, becoming somehting else, something more akin to a product of our powers of imagination?

Spot on questions, Gianni. Despite my provocating in my post, I am essentially in the same spot as you are. I doubt that the distance between immaterial and material games can be closed, and I am not so sure that it would necessarily be more interesting if they were bridged. Nonetheless, I think there will be efforts that attempt to do just that in some ways. Maybe such efforts are already exemplified by projects like P.T. remakes, conspiracy videos and completely fabricated lies made to tease people's hearts on the internet (look up this thing about MGSV's DEMON EDITION that's circling right now). The gap can't be closed, but maybe there is substance worth studying in the symbolism around these efforts. 

...and maybe Kojima has a really grand gesture planned inside the material Death Stranding, I can only hope surprise

And yes, I think the idea of an immaterial game is probably something more imaginary, non-real than textual like a game is. The study of such a thing is likely a phenomenological task, perhaps to be undertook by game researchers and gamer hippies interested in fan studies, cultural criticism, etc. 

Thanks for this great reply, my friend. It was a total joy to read this and your contribution this week! 



This makes me think about the Jorge Luis Borge's essay "Kafka and His Precursors" where Borges considers that "Kafkaesque" can apply tho things that predate Kafka and the odd situation that places us in. Essentially, what we correlate as "Kafka-esque" can only exist after exposure to the initial "Kafka" and the correlation would not exist otherwise.

It makes me think that "Strand Games," whatever they wind up being, will be a genre that, like Kafkaesque, correlates for us an extant, but unseen, gaming genre.

"It is a laborious madness and an impoverishing one, the madness of composing vast books - setting out in five hundred pages an idea that can be perfectly related orally in five minutes. The better way to go about it is to pretend that those books already exist, and offer a summary, a commentary on them."

[change books with games... speaking about immateriality!}

Nice find! I really need to read some Borges ASAP. I recently read Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo and The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares, his protege, as I understand it,  and both experiences have me massively interested in Latin American magical realism. Borges seems on another level, however haha. 

I think that comparison is apt, Ashely. For example, I think you could maybe follow this logic to the point where you could call things like Half-Life 2 - Episode 3, Spore (?), Duke Nukem Forever, and the promise of Star Citizen immaterial/strand games. When I was writing this I was already thinking of precursors, looking ahead to the future where calling something a strand game could actually communicate a useful reference.

Thanks for the comment, Ashley. It's been a fun week made possible by your writing, and I appreciate it very much :) 

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