Thursday, May 31, 2012

Humanity At Its Purest, Most Simplistic Level

I bought thatgamecompany's Journey to relieve stress after the fuckery that is my Humanities groupmate. I'd been hearing a lot of good things about it, including an article from Game Informer about gaming fandom's immaturity and having faith restored in gamers through Journey. I have to say that I agree. I honestly hate a lot of the jags I run into when I'm shooting down zombies or simply watching the way Jenny Haniver gets treated when she plays Call of Duty both annoys and amuses the hell out of me.

Journey is the definition of what partnership should be about and illustrates the exact opposite of my incompetent Humanities partner and so many others. It is by far one of the single most beautiful, visually stimulating, and emotionally profound games out there. Usually, I go for the complexity of storytelling, character development, social commentary (well, depending on how you interpret it, this can definitely be social commentary), etc. However, this is the one time that I found beauty trumps complexity. I've been following Journey Stories on Tumblr just to see other people's gaming tales. Every time you play is a different experience. You don't even have to be a regular gamer to appreciate it. If you're interested in a simpler breakdown, here's a video review by IGN.

Jarbird described the co-op perfectly:

It’s safe to say there’s never been a game like it, and it offers up what is easily the most creative use of online cooperative gameplay ever implemented. It’s integral to the emotional experience of the game, and to attempt to describe the feeling of finishing the game with your unnamed companion by your side is an exercise in futility. With the release of Journey, That Game Company has shown that they are masters at crafting experiences that move the player emotionally. The most impressive feat is that they’re able to do it without words. Instead, they allow subtle visual cues, and incredibly moving soundtrack, and painstaking detail to atmosphere inform you of your purpose and drive the story. They’re telling the player “We trust you to bring the emotional weight to this.” This kind of respect for the player is a rare thing, and more developers should take note.
Snippet from tinysatanist:
Every time you play the game is different and meaningful but this was the most touching one I ever played. I thought this game was pointless the first time I watched my friend play - it took me playing to really discover how deep/what a commentary it is on humanity at its purest level.
And a final snippet from Game Informer:
Journey’s most innovative feature is the way it lifts that sense of loneliness through cooperative play. If you play online as you travel and come to a spot where another player is also exploring, you can interact with them. Join them as they continue, or split off and leave them behind. Take them to hidden secrets you have found, or solve a puzzle together. There’s even a simple form of communication – a sort of chirping call that can be used to “speak” back and forth. When playing together, you’ll quickly notice the way you can help to recharge each other’s energy, and by working together you’ll have an easier time moving through the world and its challenges. It’s not a subtle metaphor, but it is a powerful one.

As for my own experience, there isn't much left to say that hasn't already been said. I've never been more involved with my teammates. I can't play most FPS games that are in the style of Call of Duty, Crysis or Battlefield because I get motion sickness so those kind of co-op games won't do for me. I mean sure, we strategize and figure out who will do what but playing MMO's and other multiplayer games never evokes any kind of emotion that Journey does.

At one point, when my partner and I were trying to reach the peak through the snowy mountain, we caught the flying monster's attention. My partner diverted its attention and it threw them across the map and tore their scarf instead of me (the scarf is an integral part of the game). I went all the way back for them and we were more careful the second time around. The melodic chirping is also something new and great because you're not communicating through words and there's something profound in that. It's just beautiful chirping sounds.

And I have got to tell you, reaching the peak with the person you'd been traveling with for the past few hours before the closing credits is truly indescribable. As you and your partner are walking into the light at the peak of the mountain, and the music fades out, and your chirping becomes inaudible, and both your silhouettes become one and then back to two as they walk side by side, you get feelings that you can't put into words. Truly beautiful.

Now I can't stop listening to the soundtrack and it sounds so majestic on my new speakers (bought it for my speakerless desktop that's being assembled at the momento). It's absolutely gorgeous. Seriously, listen to Apotheosis. It's the song that plays before you reach the finale. If you don't have a PS3 or don't mind being spoiled, this is the end of the game with Apotheosis playing in the back from your last gameplay and the closing ending credits. The video does the game no justice to be quite honest.

It's simple yet elegant when you're playing it. Each time I've played, I find pieces of the story that I didn't discover before. This is cliched but it's really about the journey and not the destination. The narrative is very poignant and evocative without needing words. That's not to say that it isn't without certain themes. I've been stressing how simple it is so don't expect any complex decision-making or themes of racism/sexism/ableism/etc (although I really appreciate the gender and race neutrality). Ultimately, it isn't an integral part of the experience so I definitely recommend this game if you or a friend own a PS3. Depending on how much you like to explore, the game will take you anywhere from 1 hour to 4 hours to complete. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did!

No comments:

Post a Comment