A New Journey
With this being my first official wordpress post, I struggled to figure out exactly what I would say. This also marks the start of a personal goal for me, that is, to be a full-time writer. Ambitious, I know, especially for someone who is rather shy, meek, and often lacks the needed confidence required to attempt such a feat, but I press forward in probably ignorant bliss hoping I may actually make it one day! With that said, I thought as I begin a new journey for my career life, why not begin talking about the latest game I completed: Journey.
When I decided as of this year, I would happily claim the title “Gamer,” I did so with the understanding that this new identity opened up endless possibilities for new adventures, excitement, and discovery – all from the comfort of my room. I have not been disappointed and have thoroughly enjoyed my time investing in my new adventures.
As I have indulged in my couple of hours a week with Master Chief, Princess Peach, and fighting Diablo, I remembered a seemingly forgettable demo – Journey. I had heard of its claims to fame, but frankly the demo felt sparse and a little too vague for my liking. What I do fondly remember though was the music.
Earlier this year I was privileged enough to hear live from the composer of this Grammy-nominated score at Video Games Live in Austin, Texas. The music was beautifully orchestrated as if straight from an Oscar award-winning film. Yet, this humble and unassuming game from Thatgamecompany crafted not only a musical masterpiece, but to my pleasant surprise, an equally captivating world.
As I confessed, the demo did little to pique my interest initially, but once I had the game in hand, I felt an urge to re-try this uniquely presented platformer. As I settled into my comfy chair and my palms warmed up to my controller, I felt embraced by the first track of the Journey theme number, as the string instruments echoed its low and haunting notes. I suddenly felt eager to begin the game and whipped through the first section (as I had already experienced in the demo), and excitedly looked forward for the rest of the adventure to unfold.
I was not disappointed in the slightest.
I will take a small step back away from the initial gameplay and say, as a writer, I truly appreciate a story that reveals itself through its beauty rather than its words. Of course, words and dialogue are crucial to many narratives, but a visual work such as Journey did not rely at all on these normal components to tell its story. Instead, the music, tones, movements, and single notes become the storytellers and work side-by-side with rich colors and graphics to paint a gorgeous tale. My imagination was able to focus on these components and fill in blanks as to what the characters in Journey must be thinking, feeling, saying, and hearing.
Similarly, the main character had no real facial expressions, yet I felt a deep connection as I would to any other protagonist that fulfills a quest in any other game, book, or movie. Though the red-hooded character remained silent, pristine art direction and a precisely tuned orchestra filled this void with life and a voice. That voice became my own as I found myself relating to the hero (or heroine). I felt as though the struggle to travel alone and the challenges I faced pulled out insecurities of loneliness and fear as I pushed through each level. I found myself anxious to come across more flighty pieces of cloth or dolphin like companions (that suspiciously looked like the dog-esque foot rest from Disney’s Beauty & the Beast). They were my faithful companions that not only encouraged me on my quest, but also, gave me the strength to carry on, or fly on, in some instances. Without them near by, I felt very lonesome and wary that I was on this journey on my own.
Perhaps I sound too much like an eight-year old who is still afraid of being in the dark by herself, but the game truly evoked emotions and fears that at times made me hesitant to continue. I was not necessarily afraid of “dying;” it was the fact the world of Journey felt so grandiose and vast, and that I was just a tiny, hooded creature following some grand beacon in the distance. I was anxious to get to that light on a hill to find out what I had come so far for and what sort of ending awaited me. In small ways, Journey paralleled very much how I see my own life – a literal journey through beautiful, difficult, lonely, dark, and majestic places to reach this light at the end and hopefully be told it has all meant something.
I do not want to spoil the game for anyone, so I will resist the urge to talk about the end, but I will say that it left me wanting more but realizing it did just enough – like eating a healthy portioned meal and feeling satisfied but wanting a second serving, but you know you should stop now, because what you had was perfect. Although, there is an aspect of re-playability to complete objectives; to me, that’s not what the draw is to play again.
As I said earlier, there is a strange connection I make to the game and my own life. Journey is a metaphor; a reminder that my life is filled with obstacles, challenges, companionship, trials, and tribulations, but I keep my eyes on the Light ahead which remains my steadfast hope to push forward with the faith that my journey’s end will reveal the source of that Light and I may bask in it with the knowledge that my life’s purpose was fulfilled. Perhaps, I have looked into an indie game too deeply, but I feel as though if a simple two-hour game helps remind me that my actual life is worth traveling, then I certainly have found quite the worth out of this little gem called Journey.
I look forward to my next game that captivates me just as much as this one has and until then, I live my life, apart from the gaming world, anticipating the discoveries and excitement that are just around the bend.