I like having goals in my video games, something to work towards. Something that once I’m done, I’m done. Once upon a time that was catching all 150 Pokémon, every now and then it’s a matter of reaching that sweet sweet 100% completion. More recently, it’s taken the shape of getting that elusive Platinum Trophy.
Trophies, like the Xbox and Steam’s Achievements, are basically little notifications you get for accomplishing something. It can be from finishing the main story, or for pulling off some impressive tasks. The Platinum is the one awarded for getting every trophy in the game. For some games, it’s a big ask (I’m not playing Spec Ops: The Line on the hardest difficulty, nor am I speedrunning the Uncharted Collection). But for a lot of games, it’s doable, and a nice way to cap off a game.
So I’m currently working on platinum-ing Death Stranding, usually while watching Great British Bake Off on Fridays. I’m down to one last trophy, but to get it I need something else to pop, something that I can’t seem to induce except by doing deliveries and hoping for it to happen.
Ordinarily, this reliance on chance is enough for me to give up, but I do like playing Death Stranding, and its endgame is one I’ve found particularly meditative, so I am looking forwards to just doing the thing without any real goal beyond waiting for the prompt to get the last Memory Chip and platinum the game. Like I said, meditative.
Which is pretty unique as far as games go. Because there’s, say Tetris, but aside from that, there’s not much else. Oh, sure, Avengers and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey are games that I can play without having to pay too much attention to what I’m doing, but I’d hardly describe them as meditative. They’re the sort of game that Simone de Rochefort described in a Polygon article as a smooth-brain game. Avengers and Odyssey are games that I’ve found that I can put on a podcast or some stand-up and just not think too much about the game. Chaining combos in a Hive or clearing out a Grecian camp are things I can do without having to think too much, letting me focus more on whatever else I’m doing while still being able to do a thing. You don’t have to think too much, y’know, can kinda just zone out and play.
Compare this to, say, The Last of Us or Star Wars: Squadrons, both games I find far more intense. They’re ones that I have to commit all of myself too, if only because they require that much concentration and investment (and The Last of Us has a whole degree of emotional strain too). It’s nice to be able to just turn off your brain and listen to a silly podcast (or counter program watching a stressful presidential debate).
Death Stranding, owing to its incredible sense of mood, is the sort that draws you in but, once you have your roads and ziplines in place, it’s very much a matter of using those and making your deliveries. But there’s within it, possibly due to world-building, or maybe the sheer atmosphere and beauty of the world, something that draws me in and commands my attention. But it’s the sort of game where I don’t have to think too much, or react too much, or even fight that much, just one where I can be present in the walking, in the riding, in the journey.
That’s not easy for me. I like having a goal (level up Iron Man, complete this week’s bounties in Destiny, platinum Assassin’s Creed) that I can work towards. With Death Stranding as it is now, I don’t know when that goal will come, and there’s little I can do to induce it. So all that’s left is to be in the moment, make those deliveries, and keep on keeping on.
I think I’m okay with that.