The Greatest Game I've Ever Played
The early days of parenthood go by in a whirlwind. There are diapers and feedings and crying... And that's just from the parents! Which is understandable. It's strange suddenly being thrown such a burdensome responsibility. It's exhausting and an emotional rollercoaster unlike any other human experience. It was during this time in my life, the summer of 2012, that I experienced a Playstation exclusive indie game called Journey.
I'd heard great things about the game but knew very little else. One afternoon, while my wife and newborn son were asleep, I snuck downstairs and turned it on. From the very beginning I realized Journey was going to be something different. Although artistically distinct and beautiful, the graphics and characters were fairly simple. The world was vast and fantastical, the music damn near hypnotic. But there was little else. No captions. No dialogue. Just you, the world, and the other players you encounter.
The general premise of the game is that you have to traverse the world to climb a mountain and learn the history behind your collapsed civilizations. Simple, right? But every storyteller knows the keys to a good story aren't in the idea but the execution. And Journey executes magnificently.
You're given a partner on your quest, an actual player you must cooperate with to progress through the levels. But there's no dialogue. So you can't speak to each other. You don't even know the other player's name. All you can do is communicate through a series of musical tunes.
Sometimes you can have multiple partners throughout the game as people quit and new players join. Except my partner, whoever he or she was, never did. We started the game on the first level together and played all the way through to the end side by side.
While my young family slept in the bedroom above my head, I spent the next two hours of my life immersed on a journey with an anonymous stranger. We had struggles. We had triumphs. And when it was all over, we parted without goodbye. It might seem weird saying it now, but it wouldn't be an understatement to call my time playing Journey a spiritual experience.
When asked what the best game of all time is, gamers often cite huge, blockbuster epics or groundbreaking classics. I'm not sure Journey is either of these things. But games, like any form of media, are more than just the sum of their parts, and people who experience them do not exist in a vacuum. Whenever we watch a movie, read a book, or play a game, we bring with us the baggage of our lives. Our joys and fears. Our pleasures and pain. For me, playing Journey at that time in my life elevated it to masterpiece status and made it an experience I will never forget.