Comforts

I started playing Death Stranding again last night. I wanna Platinum it, that is get all the trophies in the game and really finish it. Also, I was watching The Great British Bake Off with the girlfriend, and the game seemed a nice match.

Which, I realize, sounds kinda odd. Bake Off is a super-chill, slightly-competitive show about baking filled with wonderful people and truly encouraging hosts. Death Stranding is a game about a porter making deliveries across an isolated, post-apocalyptic America ravaged by a rain that speeds up time. Also, you’ve got a fetus in a tank that helps you detect ghostly beings from beyond the realm of the living. Were there a scale of the ordinary, Bake Off would sit comfortably with Norman Rockwell paintings, while Death Stranding would be far, far away.

I have never seen Law & Order, but I’m told it’s quite ordinary.

But both share a similar sense of optimism about the world. Bake Off isn’t nearly as cutthroat as other reality tv shows and there’s a delightful sense of camaraderie between the bakers. Though, as a competition, it is ostensibly about finding the best baker, it’s far more about having fun with the bake and displaying creativity and technical excellence. It’s just really nice. Meanwhile, for all of its horroresque elements, Death Stranding is actually a game about reconnecting. Everyone may be stranded from one another, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create strands between each other (seriously, that’s how the game frames it). Over the course of the narrative, you reconnect lovers, siblings, parents and children, and friends to each other. In a broken world, there is hope, and that hope comes in reaching out to each other.

They’re also really great companions in this seventh month of quarantine. Bake Off has a wonderful warmth to it, where people genuinely like each other; Death Stranding finds solace in solitude, where having only the wilderness (and your fetus buddy) for company is enough. That and getting to go outside.

This pandemic has been stressful. I’ve made a decided choice to maintain operating under quarantine rules — not eating in restaurants, not visiting friends, avoiding social groups — because it’s the best way to keep myself and the people I care about safe. It’s tiring, man. I miss going for walks without a mask on, I miss hanging out in bars, I miss being places that aren’t my apartment. Plus the whole, y’know, existential doom of living in a global pandemic. I’m trying to find ways to help myself chill out, an endeavor that’s not always that easy. I find that there’s something quite comforting in playing Death Stranding, particularly now that I’ve beaten the game. I know how to avoid the antagonistic MULEs and the creepy BTs, plus I’ve built enough infrastructure that making deliveries is a matter of driving along roads and zip-lining across mountains. It’s peaceful, almost meditative, and my deliveries are met with thanks by their recipients. Being aided by other players who’ve left vehicles and ladders behind along the way only makes my life easier — and serves as a reminder that, hey, people are pretty good when given the chance.

I think the relief that comes from games like Death Stranding’s postgameand a show like The Great British Bake Off stems from their inherent senses of hope. The world of Death Stranding may be desolate and empty, but there are still people trying to do their best out there — you’re not really alone. This season of Bake Off takes place during a pandemic, something that even the calm of the Tent can’t quite keep the world at bay, but the show’s still a reminder about the best of people. Ultimately, right now (and honestly, in general), that’s what I wanna enjoy. Stories of hope, ones that eschew that atmosphere of grimdark that’s all too prevalent in reality for something a little nicer.

Also, I can’t bake, so Bake Off is really quite a fantasy world for me.

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