Long in the memory

Not ever journey needs to be lengthy for it to stay in the memory long after it has been completed. Those short travels are just as likely to contain moments of joy and discovery, as those marathon hikes. But much can be said of the company that is kept along the way; travelling long-haul with a noisy neighbour is certainly going to push you to forget that journey ever existed(once the destination has been reached).

…if we all knew when the time of our death was to occur it would make appreciating the present a tad more difficult.

Although it takes less time than a long haul flight to complete, a play-through in Journey is as much about the company you keep – the shared experience – as it is the beautiful desert vistas that are navigated. Although all journeys have a beginning and an end, it’s certainly an experience more to be taken for the events in-between. Knowing in advance how long a journey will take can lead to the thoughts of what will be waiting for us at the end. I suppose if we all knew when our time of death was to occur it would make appreciating the present a tad more difficult.

Friend or Foe?

My friend Aaron spoke about his journey back in 2012 and I have to agree with the sentiments he delivers. Those of us that like to explore a digital world with the possibility of making a few friends along the way, need developers to create more co-operative – and dare I say it? – emotionally mature content.

Journey does a wonderful job of stripping away the noise normally associated with multiplayer gaming. No voice chat or text, no weapons or ways of offensive play. Not a game? Well the design may seem simple the elements of succeeding still depend on how you react when faced with another player. Ignore their support and things can get a little tricky.

journey

Other players have an effect on the same environment you inhabit. Resources can be removed if the distance between you becomes too great. I experience at least one such moment during the course of my first play of Journey. While traversing an area of  high dunes I lost sight of the player I was sharing the world. The magic carpet/kites that had supported both of us were now far from my sight and I lost the ability to call them to recharge my characters scarf. As I fell further behind, all I had left was to frantic call out and hope the other player returned or at least stopped to wait for me.

But if co-operative online play is ever going to ascended the ‘cowboys & indians’ level of engagement then developers need to take more risks…

I shared my time with 5 other players in my first Journey play. There were excellent moments of emotional attachment to the unnamed character I played and to those players that shared the journey to the peak of the mountain. This was without language or text and meeting a random player that you had no known connection too. Having this reaction was totally unexpected. It will interesting to see if I react the same way upon my next journey and hand-on-heart, I will be making many more returns to this nameless world.

Future is now

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if there were a variety of co-operative that didn’t rely on weapon play? Rather than having the best armour and weapon upgrades, we’d be measured against how we interacted and support other players in a less offence-orientated way.

I could argue that too much weight and support is given over to the paranoid, death-tripping hive mind that’s the buzz of current multiplayer. Yet I also know it’s what the kids want and I wouldn’t want it to wane unnaturally. But if a co-operative online game world is ever going to ascended the ‘cowboys & indians’ level of engagement then developers need to take more risks and follow the lead of companies like thatgamecompany.

To see much more innovation, over retread, now that there’s the hardware to support it would see gaming taken far more seriously than it is now. But for it to shake the stigma that it’s just a ‘adolescence playground’ could take a marked shift from big $$$ developing to something much more small-scale.

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