I’ve seen the future of video games, and it is Journey – an artistic masterpiece that not only transcends the medium, but completely reinvents it.
Several years ago, video games overtook film as the most lucrative media format in the world, but no-one seemed to notice.
To the majority of people, the concept of a video game delivering an emotional narrative is distinctly odd, even laughable. The enjoyment they see others having from a story-driven game seems primitive. We look at it how we would look at a child playing with a toy.
We seasoned gamers know the truth – that the video game is the current revolution in storytelling, and the culmination of all kinds of artistic expression. An emotional moment in a game always feels somehow stronger than a similar moment would in a film or a novel because the audience is part of it, rather than a passive spectator.
Admittedly, I feel that the video game has never truly competed with the more established narrative forms, until now. Journey at last throws the limitations of other formats into sharp relief, and shows the glorious future of storytelling awaiting us.
It is difficult to describe the game to someone who has not played it, simply because there has never been anything quite like it. Journey is not a game. It is an experience. Journey is visually and acoustically stunning, but sights and sounds do not make a work of art. A work of art must inspire a special kind of emotional response from its audience. What is it that makes Journey extraordinary? The story it tells and how it tells it.
You play Journey as a nameless robed figure. The story is told completely without dialogue or even text. Instead, the story is told entirely metaphorically through the gameplay itself, by the actions you must take and the trials you must face. The story opens, and you see a shining star at the top of a faraway mountain.
You are given no instruction, yet you are compelled to move towards it because it’s the only visible landmark. The quest is simple: to make your way towards the star at the mountain’s summit. However, every moment of the story is highly symbolic and open to interpretation, such that no two players will experience the game in the same way.
Journey evokes feelings in the player quite unlike those of any game I’ve ever played, its themes exploring the most fundamental aspects of life and the human condition. The player does not take part in the story, rather, it is the player’s story.
I will say nothing of my own opinion on the meaning and message Journey conveys, as to do so would be to influence your own thoughts, completely undermining the power of this game. No matter your interpretation, it will be your own, and it will speak straight to your heart. It is likely that the closing sequence will leave you speechless, maybe even in tears, and this is nothing to be ashamed of. Journey is a transformative experience that utterly transcends the medium of video games and shows us something more; something a film or a novel could not hope to accomplish.
As the credits quote from Joan of Arc: “I was born for this”.