This project was created in the form of a Zine with Brianna Fromont.
First published: 21/10/2015
Designed by That Game Company, Journey is a game that has won multiple awards and is considered a creative masterpiece. The game is centred on the principle of Flow, outlined by the game’s director Jenova Chen (2007). So what is Flow, and how does applying it make such extraordinary games?
Chen describes the Flow experience as loosing track of time, the optimal level of focus in order to maximise the enjoyment of an activity. This “Zone” is a feeling shared by many activities, from creating art to physical exercise or working. In games, Chen describes the Flow zone as somewhere between anxiety and boredom. Game designers need to find the optimal challenge for a player between their own abilities.
Journey tells the story of a traveller’s journey, as they make their way through the desert to the peak of a mountain. Guided through the ruins of an ancient civilization by a white figure; players comes across pictographs depicting the rise and fall of an ancient civilisation and need to contend with the ancient automations left behind. The story itself is wordless and largely open to interpretation, making it all the more intriguing and beautiful.
From the moment we are given control over our character, all movement feels instinctive and intuitive, with the game teaching abilities in an extremely well integrated manner. The main ability is the players ‘chime’ which is used to activate the environment or pieces of cloth. This cloth is one of the games main features and is responsible for the players movement, whether through changing the environment or lengthening the players own scarf, allowing them to stay airborne longer. The players chime and the games cloth are two very elegant mechanics that work in tandem to keep players in this ‘flow zone’.
An additional element is added when players come into contact with other players, with no means of communication other than their ‘chime’. They are able to help, but not hinder one another, if they finish a chapter at the same time they continue together. It allows for the game’s experience to be shared among two strangers. In his Keynote speech (2013), Chen discusses the purpose behind this idea and how being able to experience a play-through with another person allows players to develop an emotional attachment. Journey is also a refreshing change from a gaming culture that often surrounded with online harassment and mean-spirited banter.
The experience of the game is enhanced not only by the addition of another player, but also by the Transformative Play brought by the players themselves (Salen and Zimmerman, 2004). During their play-through, Rooster Teeth’s Burnie and Ray (2003) talked about deeply personal experiences. Unlike their play-throughs of other games, which can be loud and aggressive, the Let’s Play for Journey was a reflection on the games ability to calm, relax and immerse players.
Everything in Journey has been designed to maintain the zone of Flow. Journey is a game worthy of all the praise it has received and as most people who have played the game will tell you, “Just experience it for yourself, Journey is worth it” Ryan Clements.
All art work original
- That Game Company. (2012). Journey. [Video Game] PlayStation Network
- J. (2007). Flow in Games. [Thesis] Communications of the ACM, 50(4), 31-34. Retrieved From: http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/lieber/courses/cs4500/sp09/resources/p31-chen-flow-in-games.pdf
- Variety (2013). Journey Game Creator Jenova Chen “Theories Behind Journey” – Full Keynote Speech [YouTube Video] Retrieved From: https://youtu.be/S684RQHzmGA
- K, Salen. E, Zimmerman (2004) Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals . The MIT Press.
- (2013). Game Time Burnie & Ray Play Journey [YouTube Video] Retrieved From: https://youtu.be/9SmiMv9RF9c
- IGN (2012) Journey- Game review [IGN Review] Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/bKqeD7ojynw