by ted2112, HSM team writer
It has been just over six months since thatgamecompany released the PSN game, Journey. In these six months, the game was the fastest selling game on the PSN store ever, and has scored one of the highest game rankings metrics ever given to a game, and been the recipient of many awards, accolades and a massive home-grown fan base that participates in everything from fan-fiction to cosplay to art projects. Journey has blurred the line between art and gaming, and in the process captured our imaginations in a way we haven’t quite seen before.
I eagerly anticipated playing Journey since I first heard of the game in the spring of 2011. Thatgamecompany is great about using social media to keep their fans involved in what they are doing, so when I got the tweet that the game was ready, two days before the official launch day, I jumped at the chance to download it. That was March 17th 2012, and have played it many times since.
One of the remarkable things I find about Journey all these months later, is it’s re-play value. Even though you have finished the game before, you will have an entirely new experience playing it again. Journey is like a chess set. The pieces may be the same, but every game is different. This is entirely due to the companion factor. Journey matches you up with an unidentified player, who is at the same point in the game as yourself, and what you do with that is completely up to you. This unique slant on the multiplayer game, make for some of the best gaming experiences I have ever seen, and I feel is what brings players back again and again.
In preparation for this article, when playing, and having paid very close attention to all those players I have met in the game. I have found that Journey attracts players from every PSN region, and no two players are alike. Some want to have a quick hello and be on there way, some want to be left alone entirely, but many more want to team up and face the challenges and beauty of the game together. Many players have a set route, and like to lead, yet some prefer a slower pace and open to seeing a new perspective. During several playthroughs, I have seen things I have missed many times over (have you ever been “drawn” a heart by your companion at the end, for example?), by following another player. I have in turn shown later companions these glitches and less traveled routes. All of these factors make Journey a perpetual game in a way.
I am a huge roller coaster fan, and love to travel to experience roller coasters. My favorite coaster is Millennium Force in Cedar Point Ohio. I have ridden this coaster many, many times, and the experience doesn’t seem to diminish for me. Each ride is its own unique and wonderful experience. Journey seems to have captured this effect as well. By focusing on an emotional experience rather than a tethered and linear playthrough – which is the case in most games – Journey has distinguished itself.
I find it remarkable that the game is still going so strong, and wonder how long it will continue like this. Numerous fan sites have popped up where players share their experiences, and even post their normal playing times in the hopes of meeting other similar minded players. A small yet dedicated Journey sub-culture has organically grown, and due to the anonymous nature of the game, is more about an equally shared experience that a Home-based club, guild, or fam building community also has.
All of this is a new thing in gaming, and maybe that’s why it is so exciting. The bar has been set, and it will be interesting to see where thatgamecompany goes next, or how other companies, who have noticed, apply this unique twist and incorporate into their future games, or whether this was a one shot deal, never to be repeated.
Six months after all the hype and attention of the game’s debut, Journey is still going strong. This is normal if you’re playing a MMO, but in a downloadable title for fifteen dollars, it’s remarkable. Most games by this time have been relegated to the bargain bin, and without any add-on features to the game, it’s a testament to its success that there is still major attention being focusing on it by with thatgamecompany’s release of the Journey collector’s edition and a book called The Art of Journey.
Journey has taken on a life of its own, and that life is still being sculpted, not by the establishment, but rather by the players that love the game. In a time of dwindling game sales and same old, same old, first person shooters, and formulaic, rehashed story tropes, Journey has been a breath of fresh air, and that fresh air half a year later is still blowing.