Apprehension is a word that best describes what I’m about to write and as I type this, the soundtrack for my game of the year plays in the background of my home office. This approach seemed the most appropriate for me as Journey is a game that I have a difficult time going back to. That doesn’t make much sense does it? Yet the deeper I’ve delved into player experiences, it’s a sentiment that is echoed. This game is something different to nearly everyone who has picked up a Sixaxis controller. How does a game with such an abstract approach to storytelling evoke so much insightful emotion? That isn’t a question I can answer for anyone else, only speculate. What I can answer is what that Journey was to me.
For two hours and twenty seven minutes I sat enthralled at something. Not fully understanding what I had witnessed, I set the controller down as the ending played. An ending that was to be a new beginning. My mind ran wild with genres, rules and gameplay buzz words that we twist and bend to describe our favorites, but none fit. A puzzle lacking a piece, a game that breaks the mold and a narrative without words . Why was I on the verge of tears? Happiness and sadness are the words, but putting words to this seemed criminal. Blanket statements bereft of the true meaning, but to remember this I had to understand all of it.
Through my meager attempts to understand Journey I have realized that our own life experiences are the building blocks, allowing the setting and music to shape them. To me, Journey represents life and the vague steps we take in it. The rush of overwhelming orchestral sound representing the act of birth as the camera flies towards our wanderer and then it’s just you, left wandering to find yourself. Each level attempts to echo a stage of our lives. Chirping friends that come and go, teaching us something and taking a part of us with them. Peaks and valleys to fall down and climb through. A sand to surf as we enjoy our teenage years then the sun sets and life hits you. The struggle as our final years play out until the inevitable end and then the light. It began to make sense to me and as I looked at the trophy list, the words and the order Thatgamecompany placed them in help me to possibly share in the developers vision.
- Mirage-Our eyes attempt to witness what we can’t yet comprehend
- Explore-Senses engaged, we see the world for the first time and it is beautiful
- Trials-Nothing is ever easy
- Ancestors-We have a lot to live up to
- History-To know where you are going, you must understand where you came from.
- Rebirth-Is there an afterlife? Are our children and what we leave behind true immortality?
- Companion-Life’s experiences are never fully realized until you share them with someone
- Reflection-Have I done well? Did I make the most of my time while I was hear?
- Wonder-No matter what media tries to make us believe, life is a miracle and to live is to witness something that can’t be put in to words
- Return-With Rebirth. Hinduism may play into this
- Transcendence-Our minds are our gift and our prison. Shackles broken allow us to truly be free. The final confluence.
Words are one aspect, but the music is what cements it. People say every life has a soundtrack and this is Journey’s. But the titles chosen seem to fit with the idea. The first game soundtrack nominated for a Grammy award among everything else given to it, Austin Wintory and the Macedonian orchestra are truly deserving of every accolade. The music is the game, as much as the visuals on the screen are. It carries us from infancy, to death and transcendence, back to the beginning. The final track “I Was Born For This…” couldn’t be more fitting.
Journey is my life, our lives, put to 1′s and 0′s and we are better for it, as is our medium of choice. This game is truly something special. Thanks for reading and here is a video done by Sony that encompasses the sound and feeling of Journey perfectly.
A Musical Journey-Live orchestral trailer