How I Ruined Journey
I recently finished playing Journey and it wasn’t great. The thing is, it should have been; I just ruined the experience. How? I did two things completely wrong: 1) I played it like a game, and 2) I stopped playing for an extended period and came back to it. Now I know what you’re thinking: how did you not complete it in a single sitting? The answer to that, is I played it like a game.
Initially I was entranced watching my brave adventurer slide across dunes, chirruping excitedly at everything that wasn’t sand. When I was joined by someone else, our interactions as we twirled in a synchronised dance of exploration seemed magical. Each new unveiling of the ideogrammatically recorded history of the society whose ruins through which I now glided answered old questions and raised some more, and I hunted on a self-determined quest to have the grandest scarf in all the land.
Each new environment seemed more enchanting than the last, and so it was a surprise to encounter a foe capable of causing harm. The snake-like mechanical creatures writhing menacingly through the air caused a little concern and a cautious approach. Despite my best attempts at avoiding discovery, I was caught mid-mad-dash by the mechanised monstrosity, my lovely scarf shredded to perhaps half its former glorious length.
Depression began to set in, and a short time later I was joined by another traveller whose luxurious, flowing, scarf mocked me. It was obviously possible to evade the soldered serpent, and I had been unsuccessful. I mourned my scarf. At that point I considered trying again, but I was far enough past the point that it seemed counter productive, so ever onward I trudged. My companion and I sung our way through to the snow, where we used our melodious calls to press on through the harsh cold winds.
And soon the threat of death slithered above once again. Staying against the hills we avoided its unblinking gaze and hurried to the small doorway that led to safety. Half way there, an angry light swept over us, and it was all I could do to watch as my colleague bore the brunt of the creature’s wrath. He’d had such a beautiful scarf.
Alone I went on, and in the real world it was getting late, and I was getting tired. Work tomorrow. Sleepy. All that. So I stopped playing and went to bed.
When I came back to the game I was back at the start of the snow level that saw the demise of my previous erstwhile companion – somehow the game had not saved my progress where I thought it had. And when I attempted to sneak by unnoticed, I failed. Right then, anger was all I felt, so I quit and restarted the level. After all, I’d seen the results of successful avoidance – a scarf about which bards would write sonnets – so it must be possible. But no matter how I tried I couldn’t seem to get by unscathed.
This was my first mistake.
I got annoyed enough that I turned the game off and didn’t return until over a month later.
This was my second mistake.
By then I was playing on half-remembered emotions and a hazy recollection of the history I had learned. This time I vowed to play through no matter what, and sure enough I passed through the portal with only the barest indication of any neck-oriented accoutrement remaining. It wasn’t much longer until I realised my worry over the magical material was for naught, and a short time later the game was over.
I’d not had enough time to reorient myself within the world, to delve again into its mystery, and as a result I was left feeling not much of anything. I didn’t feel as though it was a bad game, but neither was I able to associate with the wonder felt by other players. Had I played all in a single sitting however, and not unnecessarily attributed an importance to an object which ultimately held no meaning, I get the feeling I would have enjoyed the entire experience much more. I tried to play Journey as a game, with goals, and scores, making my avatar in the world as powerful as the world would allow (the way I play every game), when really I should have played Journey as… well, a journey.
But then again maybe this is part of the experience too. Perhaps the journey I experienced is exactly how it should have happened for me; that it acted as a reflection of my approach to games, and this is just one of the myriad experiences that engaged players the world over.
It was a magnificent scarf.