My eyes open for the first time and I immediately think to shade them from the blinding sun that's beating down on the land around me. I can see sand in every direction I tilt. Ahead of me, in the distance, three stone pillars protrude out of the ground; artifacts from a lost civilization begging to reveal their secrets to me. With nothing else around, these pillars act as a beacon.
As I take my first steps, I can almost feel the crunch of the coarse sand beneath my feet. I realize I lack arms, so protecting myself from the blistering sun is out of the question; only my robe and ever growing magical scarf can protect me now. When I approach the pillars, my perspective shifts and my true purpose reveals itself. Off in the distance is the summit; my goal, my greatest achievement, my trophy, but ultimately the end of my journey.
To say anything else about what to expect in Journey would be a disservice to gamers everywhere because Journey is a game that's hard to define; and may mean something different to everyone who plays it. There are no true objectives to accomplish, no real levels to complete and certainly no bosses to beat. As anyone that's finished the game can tell you, Journey isn't beaten – it's experienced. Mechanically, it's a testament to innovation out of minimalism. I'm given the ability to chirp and jump, the two abilities go hand and hand as my chirp can at times charge my jump. Sometimes chirping allows me to fly majestically through the air; at other times, chirping is used to communicate with other "players" in the area.
In Journey, other players come and go as they please; sometimes interrupting me as I am trying to pull off a particularly tricky platforming sequence, causing me to chirp at them in displeasure. At other times I chirped for attention as I found myself enthralled by a beautiful sight I just needed to share. Having that partner from time to time also added gravity to my adventure. There were moments of genuine tension as my partner and I struggled to survive in a way I've never experience in gaming before. There were also times I felt entirely betrayed as my partner sat down before me and hauntingly faded away into oblivion. With no verbal way to express ourselves besides chirping, we had to pay extra attention to each other's body language, forcing us to become closer, both physically and emotionally. An emotional connection sparked by the lack of communication tools available to us.
The beauty of Journey is in what it doesn't tell me. Because so much was left to my imagination, I was left to infer further about my surroundings and motivation. It thus became an adventure that's unusually subjective for the medium and hits incredibly close to home because of it. But what truly makes Journey a special game is the human aspect. Whether it's the trek through the sands that acts as an analogy of one's journey through life or the interaction with perfect strangers to reach a common goal, Journey, like life, is what you make of it.
In an age of technological achievements, where developers are trying to out Michael Bay each other, thatgamecompany has created a silent film. A piece of fiction so engrossing; uttering anything but a chirp would be negligent. It's a work of art so brilliant it questions the very fabric of our industry – what defines a video game? With my first steps in Journey, I believe I now have the answer.