When I first saw a figure in the distance, I was unsure how I should react. I wanted to yell - I had been walking alone for what seemed like miles and I wasn’t entirely sure where I was. However, I didn’t know this person. How could I know that I could trust her? I didn’t speak. I simply walked toward her, she acknowledged me and turned and began walking toward the looming mountain in the horizon. I followed.
We walked silently together. At first I followed, but we soon reversed roles and I began leading the way. At some point suspicion of my companion gave way to trust. When we arrived at the caves in the foothills of the mountain and I slipped and fell, my companion helped me up. When I lost my way in the dark, she would come near and lead the way. I soon found myself helping her when she fell and signaling to her when she turned the wrong way. She became to me a guide and a friend. It was still my journey, but I no longer wanted to be alone.
Somewhere near the mountain’s peak, I lost sight of my friend. I retraced my steps, looked in every direction, but she was nowhere to be found. I waited for her at the summit. Time slowed and after what seemed like an eternity, I continued on, climbed up the peak and stepped into glory.
I suppose Journey could be interpreted in many ways as it presents us with a stunning but desolate world and charges us with a simple task: collect bits of an old scarf as you make your way toward the mountain and eventually to its summit. The world of Journey is plagued with uncertainty. There is no prologue and there are no written or spoken words throughout. Its lack of stated goals and its mysteriously quiet world will make you question yourself. There is an intentional lack of guidance from the game itself.
You enter Journey alone but it’s up to you to determine whether you will remain that way. When you happen upon another traveler – representing a real flesh-and-blood person randomly placed into your game, just as you are randomly placed into theirs - you cannot speak, you can only produce a small beacon to inform them of your location. There are no extra points scored for traveling together or special locations reachable only by teamwork. Traveling together is entirely up to you and whoever you happen upon.
Journey is perhaps the most meaningful game experience I have ever had. To me it was a metaphor for my own personal journey as a Christian - the journey toward eternal glory with the Father, the journey made possible for me by Christ. I was traversing sparse landscapes, foreboding caverns and strange ruins, but always moving upward toward the peak of the glorious mountain. Every misstep was a trial or temptation seeking to defer my gaze from my goal and every step toward the mountain was a reminder of the promise of eternal reward.
Like many of That Game Company’s games, Journey makes a strong case for the aesthetic value and emotional potential of video games as a medium. It’s a game about progress and yet it has the potential to be much more. For many, it’s a game about the value of human interaction, trust and companionship. I doubt that my companion internalized her experience in Journey the same way that I did, but I am glad that she was there. Perhaps I would have made it without her. I cannot be sure, but I know that she helped me reach my goal. I could have made my pilgrimage alone, but if Journey taught me anything about myself, it taught me that I didn’t want to.
What Do You Think?
- Have you played Journey? How would you describe the experience?
- What other metaphors does the game bring to mind?
- What role does companionship play in our faith journeys?