Thursday, April 5, 2012

More on Journey

Not to beat a dead horse, but I have more to say about this game after a week of playing it. As I said in my last post, I don't want this to turn into a video game review blog. That's not my aim. Instead, I'd like to have a discussion about this game, because I absolutely love it. I love this game.

Here is some background music for you while you read the article. Please listen to it; it's one of my favourite pieces from the game's soundtrack.

Since my last post, I have played through this game 4 more times, making for 5 in total, and my husband has played through once. I've convinced 2 other friends to play and it affected them similarly. The 4 other playthroughs were vastly different from my first, and two of them I found profoundly sad.

What I've learned from the playthroughs of the game is that finding a companion who wants to travel with you is absolutely golden. I was spoiled during my first few plays, and I had partners who were helpful, engaged and patient, then moved on to partners who were mostly goal-oriented in the latter plays, some of whom didn't think twice about running ahead. I got separated from many of them. It didn't sour the experience, but it did make me feel very sad, and lonely. This is especially true for the last one, in which I had a few not-so-patient partners, then finally came across one who was very friendly and let me teach them a little trick (how to trip). Momentarily afterward, though, we were separated, and then I was forced to complete the rest of the game alone.

One of the main things this game has taught me is that you can find kindness in anyone. In that the game is anonymous (until the end--but even then you can retain a level of anonymity), any person you meet on the street can be a person you played with. Regardless, I've been rethinking how I interact with people I don't know, even if it's obvious that they wouldn't play Journey. To me, the people you play Journey with are the same as the people you encounter randomly on the street. They each have that capacity for goodness and kindness. The person you're playing Journey with is, figuratively, the person who holds the door for you, or the person who bends down to help you pick up something you dropped. They may not be directly or overtly changing or affecting you, but what they do for you certainly means a lot. It's like graffiti or yarnbombing, but instead of witnessing a physical imprint, the player gets to witness an emotional imprint. The game's anonymity is also a nice reminder that you could be playing with anyone, making discrimination virtually impossible.

That also means that in this game, any first impression is not a first impression of you. You don't need to wear specific clothes or look a certain way for someone to like you. Racism is gone. Language is gone. A whole new level of anonymity is achieved. Because of that, nothing can be personal; it's simply not possible. Though, of course, with a game like this, the player just might end up taking things personally, because the game feels personal, even if it really isn't. The game is really an extension of yourself: it is how you project yourself uniquely in a world where people don't look so unique.

On a more plot-driven point, this game can be seen as many stories converging into one. This game has seven chapters: the Prologue, the Broken Bridge, the Desert, the Sunken City, the Water Caves, the Sand Temple, and the Snowy Summit. Other things that have seven chapters are the seven stages of grief and the seven stages of life, both of which can have nuances which hint to themes used in the game. I will leave that for you to explore with your own experience of the game, and if you haven't played the game yet... well, why haven't you played the game yet?!

The game is also highly reflective of the hero's journey, which Jenova Chen himself spoke of in an interview. Once again I'll let you read it and draw your own parallels.

Part of the problem I've had more recently with finding partners not quite so engaging might be me. I've realised that I have gone into the game more recently with a goal: to show people things and to make friends. But, it's the journey that's important. The point of this game is not to have goals and things you absolutely need to do or succeed at. It's the journey that counts!

To end this, I have a different article for you to read. This one is about Jenova Chen, co-founder of thatgamecompany and artistic director. I find his vision to be fascinating and genuine.

I think part of the reason this game has affected me so strongly is because I am on a journey, myself. Like Chen, my desire is also to move and touch people, but with words instead. It is my wish that some day, I might be able to write something that moves someone in the world as much as Journey moved (and continues to move) me.

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