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Social Distancing and Death Stranding

Everyone changed.

My mom is so on edge that she panics going out for groceries, even with a mask and an arsenal of sanitizing stuff. Several friends are understandably moody since their jobs are on hold, while others are emotionally distraught just thinking over the impact of the coronavirus on countless aspects of life. I see strangers on social media confessing their mental health is tanking with quarantining.

But I didn’t change.

I’m more careful when I go out for necessities and a little stressed over the laxity with which some family members are treating this pandemic; nevertheless, my usual routines and social life online haven’t just been preserved but improved. In this context, the coronavirus has been a blessing in disguise because I lived and loved social distancing before it was mandatory. I’m a full-blooded introvert, much like Sam Porter Bridges in Death Stranding.

After work or church, INFJs like myself want to be alone for the rest of the day. I could stay cooped up for months and never be at a loss for things to do with all the games, books, and writing at my disposal, especially with less social disruptions. Peace and quiet are how I recharge after being drained from long discussions or being around people too much, whether in-person or online. I vastly prefer chatting with people over text versus any other method, too. I have to be strongly convinced to play party games since there’s much social pressure to perform. After all, I’m incredibly self-conscious and easily flustered.

Sam makes it clear he’s not a fan of people, but it’s unquestionable that he loves them. He puts his life on the line for friends and strangers alike by delivering everything from life-saving medicine to collectible figurines.

My introverted tendencies have confused many people, and the same goes for Sam. Like me, he relishes in most communication being asynchronous or through mediums like holograms and voice. These are necessities in his world since it’s filled with inclement weather and monsters that are all deadly. He’s an essential worker braving the dangers outside with many depending on him to reconnect the world. He doesn’t really care either way because he’s fine on his own.

The game design and experience itself reflect Sam’s personality. You roam a largely peaceful, picturesque landscape where people and animals are nonexistent. Playing Death Stranding felt like rest—that peace and quiet I so often long for. Even the multiplayer caters to introverts with “social stranding” since players leave hints, items, and structures to aid you in your travels without ever speaking to or seeing them. You’re alone together.

Sam makes it clear he’s not a fan of people, but it’s unquestionable that he loves them. He puts his life on the line for friends and strangers alike by delivering everything from life-saving medicine to collectible figurines. He steps in and speaks up when people need help. He overcomes his haphephobia (fear of touching or being touched) when someone needs a hug. These are his eccentric ways of expressing that he needs people, too, but he often denies this need and lashes out when people violate his space or challenge his ways of socializing.

Like Sam, I’m prone to these proclivities that drive me into myself (though in a less extreme manner), but I remember rare moments in Death Stranding where a person would come out from behind the hologram, even physically interacting with Sam. The same goes for other deliverers out in the world, who made me smile and say hello whenever they came into view.

Introverts like me need to strive for that balance of being apart from and a part of community; in light of Death Stranding and the coronavirus, the importance of both has been made more evident than ever.

I’ve made so many friends online and have yet to meet half of them. For those I have met, that human factor of tangibility is unforgettable, reminding me that life isn’t meant to be lived wholly apart. Death Stranding illustrates the importance in and beauty of being alone and alone together, but the game also demonstrates the positive impact of physically being with people. Fellowship builds empathy and understanding between people with the surprises and nuances of personality that can only be experienced in person (Heb. 10:24-25). It’s why friends and lovers long to see each other incarnated in this digital age, even when they have every which way to see and speak to one another online.

Introverts like me need to strive for that balance of being apart from and a part of community; in light of Death Stranding and the coronavirus, the importance of both has been made more evident than ever.





Associate Editor
Joey Thurmond has two degrees in communication and English, and teaches on both for a living. He's actually a dragon in disguise who loves quiet, rainy days with a cup of hot tea. Videogames of the first-person shooter and survival-horror variant are his favorite, and he's a living repository of Star Wars and Bionicle lore. He also has bylines at Game Informer, Push Square, and Tech Raptor, but currently maintains his own content at saveasdoc.com.

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