The Journey teaches us that game environments don’t have to be intimidating, dystopic, and combative.
There is a certain amount of patience in exploring the desert landscape, but this only forces greater recognition and reflection of the environment you find yourself in.
As we surf around the sinuous, sandy landscape, the underlying decay of desert palaces remind us of the failure of civilisation, drawn only to the distant mountain that provides an ever present compass.
Gusts of wind prevail, preventing exit from the game boundaries rather than walls of static, meaningless objects we so often see in game landscapes. This guides in a way that makes the game feel less linear, although the minimalistic landscape makes way-finding quite intuitive.
As your journey continues the landscape becomes a conduit to delivering the powerful societal narrative. Squandered power of a once mighty empire. An extinct race and stories in the stars. Unique and mysterious. Bold, majestic and brave.
There is also merit in scaling the heights of the desert environment. It prompts moments for reflection, and contemplation of big issues like enslavement, climate change, deforestation – also prompted by cut scenes comprising only of hieroglyphics.
A broader question of the Journey as an experience is, do you have to be lost in a game to make it truly captivating?
A game is a bit like an unfamiliar city, a maze where you must make the connections by familiarising yourself with the environment. That doesn’t make a city you reside in become less compelling, but less challenging, less like a game.
The digital lens which we look at cities could make them more compelling not only for visitors, but long term residents. Maybe we need the sensation of being lost so we can learn the value of discovery again. It once again demonstrates that games can render place, but places of imagination, of role play and interpretation.
Technology has burned discovery in some ways. The narrative of our cities lost in a visual garb of commercial splurge, delivered via our various electronic devices whilst telling us where to go. If the city is no longer the retail consumer hub it was why do we still treat it like it is? Experience becomes the product, the brand.
A lot of people won’t like this game. They will ask what the point of all of it was. It is not until you reach the pinnacle of the game and the plight of your cloth shroud avatar becomes apparent that the underlying message of the game becomes clear. Other avatars you met during the game weren’t just bits of programming but other players playing simultaneously… companions met on the way. The value of the shared experience.