Recently, I played through Journey for Playstation 3. First off, all I can say is “wow”. It was an amazing experience and I suggest every Sony fan pick it up. What I’d like to talk about, however, is the ideas that were rushing through my head after the experience. Thatgamecompany has created an artistic masterpiece with this game. The art was beautiful, the gameplay fun, but most of all, the narrative was one of the deepest I’ve experienced in a long time. Journey actually left one of the biggest impressions with its narrative in my heart and mind out of any game I’ve ever played. There is absolutely no talking in Journey. The entire game is based around your thoughts as you play. Emotions were running like a river through my mind as I experienced the different portions of gameplay. I feel the best way to portray this is to share my, well, journey. Beware, this will explain a lot of the game’s events, so don’t read if you want to avoid spoilers.
I awoke in a lonely desert wearing my robes. I was a pilgrim in the desert, traveling to the top of a large mountain in the distance. I was alone, tired from my travels, and honestly unsure of my potential. As I progressed over the sand dunes, I came across an ancient temple, where I learned I could bring magical objects to life. I acquired a magic scarf which allowed me to fly a certain distance based on how long the scarf was. After climbing the ruins, I endowed magical cloth to help me progress past a blockade. I arrived at the top of the ruins and proceeded to travel onward towards my goal. There was a long bridge leading up a tower, but the bridge was broken and impassable. I noticed several magic cloths drifting around in the wind, so naturally, I decided to wander around and bring them to life to assist me on my journey. As I was summoning the third cloth, I saw someone in the distance. It was another player.
The other player was also summoning the cloth. After he brought another cloth to life, he looked at me and I looked at him. We proceeded to express our excitement by communicating in the only way we knew how – making primal “beep” sounds with the B button. This was the turning point of my play through of Journey. I realized that this is more than a game. It’s an experience. This player was there to help me. We didn’t know each other or anything about each other. Not even each other’s usernames. But when we saw each other there was something I felt. I saw hope, I saw help, I saw somebody treading the same treacherous path I tread. This is an amazing feeling I am describing. Thatgamecompany has shown me how it feels to be lost and challenged. They proceeded to show me how it feels to have a complete stranger join your efforts and hold you as highly as he holds himself. Through the course of the game, it became clear. We as individuals cared about each other. We were alone on this grand journey with many hardships ahead. We only had each other.
We travelled over the newly built cloth-bridge and I wondered what we’d see next. I was in awe as we progressed into even greater ruins. The beauty of Journey is something I will remember for a long time to come. A combo of the magnificent lighting, textures and color was absolutely breathtaking. As we continued to solve puzzles and explore the even bigger ruins, we came upon a massive sand hill stretching down the ruins. We jumped on and slid on the sandy slopes beneath our feet. I felt like I was freefalling down because of the intense speeds we had reached. This portion of the game can be described in one word. Happy. I felt sincere emotions of happiness in my mind. My newly found friend and I were doing what can only be understood by experiencing it for yourself. I felt like nothing could stop us as a duo. The sun was setting in the distance and it made the game feel even more beautiful. We reached the end of the slope, but neither of us could have predicted what would come next.
We fell. Into a dark, lonely, and relatively scary hole. As we came to our senses, I saw beaming eyes in the darkness. We had awakened a flying, serpent-like, ancient temple sentinel whose only purpose was to stop us. Afraid, I ran behind my friend. The sentinel floated around the room looking for whoever disturbed his thousand-year sleep. His eyes were like headlights beaming on a dark and lonesome highway. We hid in small tube-like structures on the ground. As he patrolled the large echoing room, we step-by-step progressed towards the freedom that was screaming our names in the next room. My friend ran ahead to a tube, but right before I could follow the sentinel flew right over my head. This wasn’t good. My friend stopped and looked at me. He was beeping as if to tell me “Go, now, while his back is turned!” I ran and to my relief, the sentinel decided to proceed instead of look behind him. We were so close to the end of the room. My friend had stopped but I was so close I could almost taste it. I ran. Dead sprint. As I looked behind me, the sentinel was nowhere in sight. I was getting closer and closer, and then suddenly the darkness was gone. However, this wasn’t because the next room was bright. It was because the sentinel was looking right at me. Fear shot up into my stomach. I heard the sentinel ball out an other-worldly scream and fly at full speed towards me. My friend beeped as if he was fearful for my life. And with that, I was on the ground. Unable to move. Dead.
I thought I was dead. My friend quickly came to my aid after the sentinel passed. He used his magic to summon me back from the grave. I was eternally grateful to my friend. We continued up the ruins. After about a half-hour of climbing and puzzle solving we reached the top of the ruins, and the midpoint of the mountain. Snow was down falling onto the land. We fought angry winds and ferocious hails. It was so cold the magic we once held was constantly being sucked out of us. Warmth was the only way to restore the power we once held, so we had to stick together. When we were near each other, our magic would increase over time. We came to a portion of ruins in the mountain. The wind was forceful and tried to blow us over the Cliffside. Luckily, both my friend and I made it across the icy ruins. We came near the top of the mountain. We could see it in the distance, but it was a long walk and we were very tired. We tried summoning cloth to help fly us up, but the magic would run out too fast, and they fell to the ground shortly after coming to life. We had to do this alone. So we walked, and walked, and walked. As we climbed, I noticed my friend started to drag his feet and was getting tired. I looked at myself and noticed the same was happening to me. We were so close, but our bodies couldn’t take it. The snow and wind was too harsh, our magic was out and we seemed to be out of time. Suddenly, my friend collapsed in the snow. I stepped over to him and looked. His body was lifeless. I was alone. Before I knew it, I was on my knees, and then face first in the snow.
I awoke. I was no longer on the mountain, but in a white room. A powerful being stood over me. He pointed to the top of the mountain and I nodded. He then touched me and gave me enormous power. Suddenly, I was with my friend and we were flying up the mountain as if our magic had completely comeback. We flew up and saw amazing sights. I saw magic beings flying around, waterfalls, and beautiful clouds. Then I looked behind me and saw the journey I had fought, no, conquered. We approached the top of the mountain and we saw what our goal was for the entire game, the light that shone out the top of the mountain. It was beautiful. We slowly step-by-step wandered into the light and suddenly…
Rebirth. Journey‘s entire narrative is birth, life, death, and rebirth. It all made sense. I was standing in the same spot I started at the beginning of the game, in the desert, alone. Unsure of where I was. This is what made Journey so unbelievable to me. When it all came together at the end I felt an overwhelming amount of happiness. The beginning represents easy going, but uncertainty. The beginning of a newborn’s life. The second represents speed, happiness and fun. This is when you’re a child. The darkness and challenge is a symbol of adulthood and hardships in life. The cold climb to the top demonstrates the elderly age of man and death. The fly to the top represents your spirit being lifted, experiencing enlightenment. Then suddenly, you’re there again. At the beginning with the same challenge you started with. Journey was amazing. It’s a game I’ll never forget and I recommend everybody give it a try. Journey is just an example of how gaming can bring to life some of the most beautiful messages one can conceive. I am excited to see where Thatgamecompany goes next and to see if anyone follows in these amazing footsteps that they built.