Critical Play: Walking Simulators

For this week’s critical play, I chose to play “Journey” developed on iOS by thatgamecompany and Santa Monica Studio. Journey was created by an indie studio and seems to target players interested in beautiful scenery, peaceful gameplay, and a sense of wonder.

The player embodies the character of a robed figure in a large spanning desert. The player is fairly limited in the diversity of actions they can take — they can move around, look around, and interact with magical pieces of cloth strewn about the world that enables them to jump and progress through the game.

While the mechanics are fairly simple, the world immersion is not. Players are immediately welcomed with a broad sense of fun as sensation as soon as they load into the first scene. Words cannot do the beauty of Journey justice — the combination of the vast mysterious desert with the art style of the robed character and pieces of cloth along with the WONDERFUL musical score flowing through each movement creates such an awe-inspiring experience.

The player is struck with the sense of fun as narrative and discovery as they begin to explore the story and world that surrounds them. This point is not to be neglected, especially considering that Journey lacks dialogue or any blunt explanation of the game’s narrative. Instead, players are inspired by their own sense of wonder and curiosity to continue unearthing the storyline of Journey. When explanation is omitted, players seek out understanding on their own.

This ties in with the genre of the game as a walking simulator. Players feel in control of their own exploration of the game and feel a deeper sense of immersion as a result. Every second the player spends walking around the scenes of vast desert is another opportunity to bask in the beauty of its visual oeuvre. As the player walks through the game and discovers new mechanics via the pieces of cloth, they gain a greater understanding of what the game world has to offer and why it is the way it is.

Overall, Journey is a beautiful game that leverages the walking mechanic as well as any game should. I would totally recommend purchasing and playing.

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