The Why Of Indie Games: Journey


There is a natural barrier in the video game world. We are limited in our control, the gamepad and keyboard only allow us to do so much. Much the same is true for life. Only so much of what we do is in our control. To survive we need to work and eat. We need to take care of our shelter and pay bills. We control only so much about our lives. Video game developers have a unique role in the creation of video games in which they choose what the player controls.

Journey utilizes this notion of minor control. You see, Journey is linear. You cannot vary from the path at hand. You are travelling for the light at the top of the mountain. You are not sure why but you know you must reach that destination. The player can do nothing but move, jump, and sing. Journey leaves the player as a robed figure who has the chance of finding another robed figure to assist each other on the adventure.

Those players have no means of communication beyond a singing voice which acts in tune with the background music. The musical notes are the light form of a gesture. The gesture is unfamiliar, allowing two players to communicate in a way unfamiliar to the both of them. It can be likened to having to communicate with someone who speaks an unfamiliar language. All we have to communicate with are broadly interpretable gestures. The control of communication is stripped from us, and we are put behind a screen, unable to see the person who will assist us.

Truly, Journey is as close to real life as a video game can be. Okay, stick with me. Journey is an explanation, in an hour or two, of our lives. One aspect of Journey, which truly captures a portion of the human experience are the other players one meets online. They are temporary and fleeting. A player may lose their partner and never know who, how old, what race, or what gender that player truly was. But perhaps that player helped us in our goal of reaching the light. In the same vein our connections with many people are small but purposeful. They come along and we form bonds, though often short-lived, which allow us to have a better understanding of people and the world. They may not be a lasting memory but they were important in the big picture. They help us toward our end.

The end is what Journey may capture best. The light is this mysterious end. Be it to you what it may. Regardless if your ultimate end is simply heaven or death, Journey reminds us that we have no reason to work towards that beyond that it is the only end we know. It is our forced destination and is somewhat out of our control. Not only do we not know the purpose of our destination, other than that the mysterious place is where we will end up, but we try to rationalize why we must get there. Even though we do not and cannot truly know. We can only postulate.

So why is Journey important? I only ask myself because I believe you should ponder the question for yourself. Journey is an expose of small life lessons. Perhaps they are assumed by the player, but regardless they are important for reflective pontification. I am not here to tell you what I said is true. I am not here to teach you about life. But I believe Journey is purposeful and valuable to reflection. I know I found myself asking the following questions: “Why do I work toward the light? Why do I care about this person who is only a temporary fixture in my life? Why do I continue my journey, unknowing of the end?” The answers to each are so very personal. But Journey is incredible because it makes the experience similar to each player, no matter what your answers to those questions are.

Check out Journey on PSN, on Journey’s official website, or on Facebook. Also, check out developers thatgamecompany at their official website.

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