Saturday, 3 January 2015

I Made the Journey and Transcended

I’m just beginning to wonder where I seem to be heading or being carried along to, when the world starts speeding up and the music gets more light and airy. I seem to be hitching a ride with some kind of paper dragon down some ancient, ruined corridor… then another… then I float downwards and start surfing along this incredible golden sand. A great vista has opened up, filled with dazzling golden light coming from... the mountain... which is now… closer. My excitement rises as I’m still so curious about reaching it and getting up to the summit.

Journey is an interactive parable, an anonymous online adventure to experience a person’s life passage and their intersections with other’s. You wake alone and surrounded by miles of burning, sprawling desert, and soon discover the looming mountaintop which is your goal.Faced with rolling sand dunes, age-old ruins, caves and howling winds, your passage will not be an easy one. The goal is to get to the mountaintop, but the experience is discovering who you are, what this place is, and what is your purpose.Travel and explore this ancient, mysterious world alone, or with a stranger you meet along the way. Soar above ruins and glide across sands as you discover the secrets of a forgotten civilization. Featuring stunning visuals, haunting music, and unique online gameplay, Journey delivers an experience like no other.

I can’t add a lot more to the above, from thatgamecompany’s site, the text to accompany a project that went so over-budget the company run aground. Wikipedia provides more detail.

Let me just say it’s a game that needs to be experienced, unlike a book or film… although there is a story there and it’s an ancient, moving, collaborative one. It’s an extraordinary achievement: original, intuitive, spiritual and absorbing. You are not alone either. Someone else goes with you.

It was one of the first games I remember playing that was completely linked cooperatively. Once you started playing, there would be another avatar playing alongside you. If they disconnected, there would be another who would appear. Somehow the game ensured you had a human partner sharing the gamespace throughout from somewhere else on the planet.

It was a simple, atmospheric and cheap game I remember downloading from the PSN store for about £8. It involves simple interaction with the differing environments of each level - and there are only about six or seven. It’s about atmosphere. There are no words spoken at any time.

What we see in this game is how the control over an on-screen avatar can be made to feel fluid, spiritual and organic. Your robed character emits musical sounds and wears a scarf that glows with power. It glows with proximity with items in the world and with your companion. This means co-operating shares power and enables an easier journey.

The use of space and simplicity in the design makes you feel like you’re in a Buddhist animation from the Far East. It’s not for everyone; for the gun-toting or the restless gamer. It wants to make you play a game that leaves you with a different kind of resonance. After half an hour or more the controls become familiar and then it’s just about progression, about finding the best or obvious way forward.

It dictates nothing but impresses itself with the sound and beauty of an experience. It asks nothing. It invites you to play along. It leads you to what to do. It won’t frustrate you or do anything more than suggest its purpose in the act of playing. We get a few cut-scenes about some ancient civilisation.

What is the aim or purpose?

Perhaps just to enjoy the feeling of movement, freedom, sound, melancholic music and open space, and find your way to some sort of mountain in the sky and there transcend - finally- to some other plain.

Your character weakens but this is possibly the hardship of the climb. You begin to feel the Journey's toll as you encounter strong winds.

I do wonder what this game would be like if/when it’s ever translated to first-person POV and inside a VR headset… It would truly be an experience. And what games could follow in its wake for people always looking for experiences that offer something deeper and richer...?

To ‘watch an entire Journey’ you can find one on the Youtube channel (top right of site)

Wikipedia explains a lot more detail about the game and its story: