Why I Love Playing Journey With My Mother
“You enter the forest
at the darkest point,
where there is no path.
Where there is a way or path,
it is someone else's path.
You are not on your own path.
If you follow someone else's way,
you are not going to realize
Journey is a stunningly beautiful game. It is a realization of the Hero's Journey. It is a quintessentially modern game, unrestrained by the traditional notions of what constitutes a video game. There is no real challenge here - not in terms of gameplay mechanics anyway - but it is a world to be experienced with a controller nonetheless. This is something that video games can do better than any medium: to immerse you in a world in a way that no other artform can compete with. That you are directing the story, invests you in a way like nothing else can. Journey is my mother Mary's favourite game. It is not just because it does not require her to master tricky controls, but because of the spiritual and artistic heart of the game.
I spoke with Mary about why she loves the game so much:
Why I love Journey...all equally relevant and important:
~ I love Journey because it is evocative and deeply resonant on so many dimensions. I find the whole experience mirrors closely the multi-dimensional experience of being a Spiritual being living through the human journey.
~ Austin Wintory's score immerses the whole game experience with a beauty that is sometimes too much to bear. It comes with you on the Journey and synchronises with the ups and downs, the challenges and the joy, responding to your experience like a sixth sense. Choose any moment on the soundtrack and you are instantly transported into that time and place on the Journey, inhabiting your body as if in the present moment.
~ One of the main reasons I love Journey is because, like all the great stories and legends, it follows faithfully Joseph Campbell's notion of the Hero's Journey. The Hero's Journey is every human's journey and because of this, it resonates at a very deep level, mostly unconscious and taps into what it has always meant and what it has always felt like to be living through the human experience. Like all human journeys, there is Light and Dark. There is joy and sadness. There are challenges, individual and collective. But ultimately, it is about a personal journey. Although the One Who Journeys has opportunities along the way to meet up with others and even travel some of the way with them, he/she is nevertheless on a path of solitude, with goals and obstacles as individual to them as the experience itself. The One Who Journeys is on a mission, witness the opening shots of the game where the Goal is illuminated clearly in the distance as the compass is set to guide on the path.
~ I love this game with all my heart and Soul. It is fuel for the Journey. It is Light and Beauty and Hope and All that is Good about this life. But it is also Shadow and Dark and Sadness. Because life is made up of Both. And while we are here, we are Both. And that is absolutely how it is meant to be.
~ But although the journey is a solo one in seeking to reach that goal, the One Who Journeys is not truly alone on this ultimately Spiritual Quest. Overseeing it all are those who Guide the Journeyer and seek to encourage and mentor at specific stages along the way. It is clear that we are not the first to make this journey. Others have gone before us. And not only that, in time it also becomes clear that we ourselves have made this journey before, many times.
~ There were so many spontaneous and uplifting moments of clarity in my first run right through this game. But the one that stands out clearly is towards the very end of the game. You've made it through all the challenges, the unforeseen dangers and monumental treks through the wilderness and feel surely this is the last stretch. But slowly, you realise that your stamina is running out, no matter how hard you try to brace your way through the snow storm and howling winds to the Summit. No matter how much you want to make yourself keep going regardless, you feel your physical body slowly giving in and despite all your best efforts, you have no choice but to Let Go. There are a few moments when you think...I failed. But then the circle of Guides surround you and reassure you that no, you have completed the Journey successfully. You lived it fully and that is the success of it. But soon it is time to return again and give it another go, filing away all that you have learnt from this time and absorbing it into yourself, so that next time you will move further along the path of Consciousness/Individuation, whatever you want to call it. In that moment, like a ray of clarity, your mind and heart are illuminated and you realise just what is that tiny spark of light at the very beginning of the game that moves rapidly back across the landscape to where you wait to begin. The spark is You, returning once again to take the path of Growth and Learning in order to some day inhabit fully your individual 'nest of belonging' in All That Is, bring your own unique journey full circle within the Circle.
Video games are not just those things that you play with a goal in mind. They are anything that wraps you up and moves you. Anything that provokes elation and contentment. Let's not be so reductive and silly with our definitions. If Journey isn't a video game, then so what? Don't call it Art either if that bothers you. All I know is that it is beautiful and moving and worthy of exaltation. Journey is about humanity, and all other life forms on this planet of ours. Journey is proof that video games have grown up. This is a meditative game, about the struggle to realize our true potential. To look up without fear. To confront the demons inside us. There is nothing aggressive or violent to be found, just a deep sense of belonging and peace. Just look at how it has affected Mary and moved her, and how much meaning she has found in it. We need more games like Journey in video games. Games that are open to all and which seek to move as much as they seek to provoke adrenaline. Let's bury the grey and casually violent shooters and invest in more thoughtful explorations of the soul.