When my mother passed away recently on Feb 03rd 2012 I was deeply saddened, totally at a loss and pretty much inconsolable - I didn't feel like doing anything at all, my creativity had dried up to a husk and I just wanted to shut myself away from anyone and everything. I had some amazing friends though and they helped me in ways that I can never really truly repay, but they know who they are...then there was Journey...
You can get it for the PS3 and packed into those few hours of gameplay are some of the most incredible stories that you will ever interact with. You see, Journey is something of a unique title in that it has no dialogue or text, save for the odd hints and tips that are rare indeed. You cannot in mere words express the sheer creativity that has gone into this particular downloadable title, if there's an argument to the old chestnut of: Games Are Art, then Journey is the clear answer and winner.
I've played tons of games from Pong through to Mass Effect 3, and tons of adventures have passed these 42.5 year old eyes since I have been gaming when the Atari Games Console came into my life. I have seen the horrors of mutant viruses, the whims of alien overlords, the laughter of a simple sorcerer down on his luck and all sorts, yet as much as I love these things...I can't help think that in the short hours that it takes to make your first journey in Journey, there's more storytelling, emotion and heartrending beauty in those than have been put into story-games since well, ever.
Journey is a game that doesn't involve complex controls; communication is done through an innovative system of 'chirps' that echo from your titular character. Along with these chirps, comes a unique symbol that identifies you to others that might be sharing your particular travel and experience. There's a real sense of loneliness to begin with as you explore the beautiful environments, wrapped by the gorgeous Austin Wintory soundtrack and then you see it...a white light that appears at the edges of the screen, it gets brighter as you move towards it, dimmer as you move away.
So you explore that way and discover another you, that's right, there's another red cloak (or a white if you manage to transcend) and it is in those moments of complete lack of traditional communication that Journey shines. They might have a longer scarf, or they might be just starting out if they're garbed in red. You don't know, you can only wonder and guess who that person on the other end is...and you know what, they're probably doing the same about you.
Then they chirp, or you do. It can be a short series of chirps or a longer and more meaningful expression, the point is that you make a sudden connection and you're no longer alone in your experience. You're with another traveller and one that could be your sole companion from beginning to end, if you bother to cooperate together and work side by side...you're not forced to do this, and sometimes you'll meet other travellers who just whisk on by and completely ignore you...
That's Ok, because there's always someone else that the game's server will match you to. I have actually made a couple of new friends over PSN thanks to the game, people who I might never have met...but I recognised their symbols in the post-game acknowledgement screen and sent them a thank you message across the PSN message system - something that I always feel strongly about if I have managed to have a great Journey with someone.
You travel through this wonderland with your companion, you undergo trials and forge a bond of friendship that can lead to unexpected secrets in the game world for both of you, especially if you manage to find a mentor in an experienced white cloak, a person who has learned the location of all the secret power glyph symbols that allow your scarf to flourish. I guess I should explain that as you find them, the banner that your character has grows and grows, becoming longer and more ornate ... allowing you to fly higher and soar into the heavens.
There is something quite magical about taking flight with a new friend, chirping and singing your way through the desert, or the underground areas of the game. Something that really does lift your heart and truly makes you smile or at least it did for me. It's odd to be able to credit a game with helping you recover from your mother's death; I know I won't ever be the same again, but like my little red cloak in Journey from the first Journey to my tenth so far, I have changed and I feel it's for the better.
I can understand people in pain far more and I can fully sympathise with my wife and friends who have lost people close to them. It's a learning experience and whilst I wouldn't wish it on anyone to go through that pain, it's a pain that does mellow eventually; I can now look on my mom's photo again and smile at the good times we had, rather than see the pain in everything to do with her.
Journey has helped me in more ways than I can imagine, and from the beautiful art style, stylistic animation and uplifting music it paints a tapestry that is hard to ignore - it also represents a very interesting cycle of life and rebirth in a way, especially once you understand a lot of the meanings behind the various acts of the game, and how the whole thing comes full circle. I won't detail that suffice it to say that the final act is one of the most uplifting things I have seen in a game for a long time and it really made me glad I was able to reach the end with a friend, even though we didn't travel together the whole way...
Journey is something that I won't ever forget and that's something to say about a video game...I can tell you.