Critical Play: Walking Sims // Journey

For this critical play, I played Journey on PC, created by That Game Company. The target audience for the game is people who see games as a form of art. In fact, many people consider Journey to be one of the first, if not one of the most influential, art games. Mechanically, the game uses simple tools like walking and jumping, but adds a layer of interest by making jumps conditional on the bits of floating fabric in the world. The jumps feel very floaty and light, which is incredibly satisfying as it gives the feeling of flight. Furthermore, walking is incredibly satisfying in this game; I spent a good 5 minutes in the very first area of the game walking in circles in the sand. The game is mostly singleplayer, but other players can join automatically to cooperate with you. Walking and jumping tell the story, not like in Mario where you ‘defeat’ the environment, but in a way where you cooperate and perhaps ‘heal’ the environment. For example, the character fixes the burnt banners in the second environment of the game, creating a fabric bridge which we then fly across. These fabrics give us the ability to jump and we heal them. The player cooperates with the environment to beat the game, that is how movement tells the story. Sensation, Fantasy, Narrative, Fellowship, Discovery, Submission are the types of fun. The sensation of walking in the sand and floating around with our jumps is a big part of the fun. The world is fantastical and has a mysterious narrative which we uncover, which are big parts of the fun. Fellowship comes in when a strange player automatically enters your game; then cooperation occurs. Discovery happens as we explore the world, discovering new areas and abilities. Submission in this game does not occur like in Fruit Ninja or something like that; rather, we submit ourselves fully to this world, allowing us to blur our real life for a little while. This game works because the inherent movement actions are very satisfying and the world is incredibly beautiful and mysterious. From the first minute, we want to see this story through to the end because of our innate curiosity, and once we start playing we feel the satisfaction of the controls. This game cannot be improved, although it can be iterated on to make a different experience, like Abzu for example which is a swimming sim which shares a lot of similarity to Journey. This game is more fantastical and mysterious than other walking sims. A lot of walking sims have more overt character drama and mystery. You don’t need to get vulnerable to play Journey, but it might make you feel things you haven’t felt from playing video games.

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