For Ryan Karazija (1982 – 2022)

At some point in the summer this year, I stumbled upon Gene Park’s article on Hideo Kojima, creator of Metal Gear Solid. It brought his game Death Stranding to my attention, which I started playing soon after. What I thought would be another cool and entertaining game turned out to be something else entirely: an aid, a journey, and a balm. Ryan Karazija’s music was – and will remain – central to it all. Ryan has passed away at the age of 40 according to his project Low Roar’s social media (see this video posted on Low Roar’s YouTube channel).

The game has been crucial in helping me process the grief of my brother’s disappearance and death. I have written already about my mental health journey. I am finding that grief is a continuous process which so far has not left me. As Mario Andretti has said, “there is no setback with the magnitude of a fatality.” (Will Buxton’s My Greatest Defeat p. 244) The game presented itself as an instrument to access feelings of loss which had begun to fall beneath the surface of my emotional life.

The beginning of the game, in which Sam Porter Bridges undertakes the first of many journeys to fulfil an order, makes such stunning and moving use of Ryan’s music (see the link to the track Bones below) that it had me hooked to the game as well as the music. The music combined with the vast, sweeping landscapes offered moments of beauty and refuge throughout the story. Moments of understanding and empathy. Of comfort, and a sense of movement rather than of dead ends.

The game’s philosophical bent and its Lovercraftian horror elements would also have endeared it to my brother, who was a student of philosophy. I desperately wish to share it with him every day, along with Low Roar’s music. For me, the game is very much a reminder about the importance of connection, helping strangers, accepting mortality as well as help. A reminder that even when the world seems to have fallen apart, as mine did with my brother’s death, we can put one foot in front of the other and “keep on keepin’ on”.

Rest easy, Ryan Karazija. I hope you run into my brother somewhere, wherever you two might be.