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Special Issue Articles

Vol. 4 No. 2 (2023): Digital America

Working-Class Labor in Postapocalyptic America: Affect, Politics, and the 'Forgotten Man' in Death Stranding

July 22, 2022


This article examines Hideo Kojima's 2019 Death Stranding as a postapocalyptic video game intent on evoking a particular kind of "Americanness." I analyze the game for its textual and cultural politics, arguing that it reconstructs a vision of the United States that is not just built on older myths like that of westward expansion and rugged individualism but that also evokes a more contemporary trope of the "forgotten man." In my reading, Death Stranding champions not just any person as the potential savior of America but it specifically marks its protagonist as a white working-class male, suggesting that this is the kind of person—and the kind of labor that he allegedly performs best—needed to bring the US back together. I trace this argument by examining how the game's visuals, narrative, and gameplay intersect in depicting a postapocalyptic America that evokes the western genre, in affectively guiding its players to feel for the game's protagonist as a "forgotten man," and in how the gameplay's embrace of working-class labor leads to a ludo-affective dissonance that complicates Death Stranding's political project.


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