I recently found myself with some spare psn points to throw around and decided to take a chance on journey, knowing nothing about it until now other than the fact that a lot of people where talking about it.
I know there are many traditional gamers out there who like to shit on "art" games from a great height, but even as a young lad I've always had a deep appreciation for unusual videogames. My library consists of games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Okami and Beyond Good and Evil. All games that seemed to become collectively revered by the gaming community as criminally underrated masterpieces, all of which I picked up on a whim because they intrigued me. I've made a habit of becoming utterly enraptured by the unique experiences these sort of games deliver and I suppose it's one I intend to continue.
Even so, I have to admit that playing Journey was something else altogether. I started the game up, completely unaware of the multiplayer aspect and after quite some time spent running around the desert, I eventually made it across the broken bridge near the beginning of the game. As my character sat down by the shrine at the end of the bridge, I saw a second character come floating down gently beside me, from off camera. I thought nothing of it, assuming the game had merely provided me with a companion and I continued on my adventure.
The longer I played however, the more impressed I became with what I assumed to be the games "AI". The companion seemed extremely attentive to whatever mad whims I went on and thus I began playing with it. It had all started with that damn sing button, you see. The first time my character let out a note and the companion replied with one of their own, I became utterly obsessed with that button. Wherever I went my companion would follow close behind, with both of us chirping madly back and forth to one another as we danced across the sand. Every now and then I would pause for a moment and take a few steps back, chuckling to myself as the companion halted and corrected course to follow. It wasn't until I had made it three quarters of the way through the game that I finally became aware that my companion had been another player all along.
I had paused for a few moments, my character dropping onto the snow as I headed to the kitchen to quickly make myself something to eat. When I eventually came back I was upset to see my companion missing and after a few moments spent on google I felt like a complete and utter fool as I realized what had happened. I thought back to all the moments spent toying with my companion as we had made our way closer and closer to our destination. I thought about all the mad chirping and running in circles I had done under the assumption that I was simply fooling around with an AI that had seemed incredibly in sync with my actions.
I spent a few minutes running through the area I was in, hoping to find my lost comrade. Sadly after 5 minutes spent frantically running around in circles I finally admitted to myself that he was long gone by now. I paused the game again and flicked through the menus to the players met section of my friends list, desperately hoping to send a quick apology to my stalwart comrade for the silliness I had dragged us through on our journey, as well as my sudden unexplained disappearance from the game. I was bitterly disappointed to find out the players name was nowhere to be seen, but eventually I picked up where I had left off, hoping to at least finish the game even if I had to do it on my own.
I spent those last few moments of journey, feeling incredibly lousy about the whole thing. Trudging on by myself through the blizzard, all too aware of the fact that there was nobody by my side anymore. As my character slowly struggled up the mountain however, I received a message from someone who wasn't on my friends list. A message thanking me for being a wonderful companion on his first trip through journey, with a friend request at the end.
I've played the game more times than I can count since then, with players dropping in and out of my world all the time, completely unlike my first time through. However I have to admit this game has given me something special. It let me connect with another player despite never once using a microphone to speak to them, or solve any particularly tricky puzzles together or sharing in the defeat of any tough opponents. Journey has connected me with a fellow human being through nothing more than an incredible shared adventure, as we both experienced the journey for the first time by each others side, and for that I am very, very grateful.