When most people think of video games they don’t think of art. Video games have become an increasingly expressive medium for artists combining painting, writing, sculpture, music, storytelling, and cinematography. One game has brought all of these things together in a amazing interactive experience. Journey is the most profound video game work of art I’ve ever played. Its simply indescribable, but I’ll give it a shot.
ThatGameCompany, creators of Journey, was co-founded by University of Southern California students Kellee Santiago and Jenova Chen. The studio was under contract to create three downloadable games for Sony PlayStation 3’s PlayStation Network. The first was a remake of Chen’s award-winning Flash game Flow. The company’s second was Flower and their final game was Journey released in March 2012. Truly, ThatGameCompany’s magnum opus.
In the game you play as a robed figure in a vast desert, journeying towards a mountain. ThatGameCompany did an amazing job designing a game that evokes a sense of wonder and loneliness as the player forges through the story, building an emotional connection with the anonymous players they meet along the way. The storytelling is the strongest part of this experience. They convey the story through color and mood, without any verbal communication. It reminds me of what they say about a person who has a comic book penciller’s portfolio. You should be able to follow the story without there being any words. The same is true of our work in children’s books.
Journey has achieved both critical and commercial success. Receiving high acclaim from both players and critics. Who all seem to praise it for it’s visual and auditory art direction as well as the emotional response you get when playing with a complete stranger. IGN described the game as “the most beautiful game of its time”, saying that “each moment is like a painting, expertly framed and lit.” A painting is a wonderful way to describe the art style in this game. From the pinks of the desert to the deep blues of the caverns Journey truly is like playing a interactive painting. When you tie the mood of the art style with the music that dynamically responds to the player’s actions, as well as building on a single theme to represent the game’s emotional arc throughout the story, its breathtaking.
This week Sony has revealed that they will be releasing an art book for Journey called The Art of Journey. The book will include fan art, a PS3 download voucher for the game’s soundtrack and a companion app that can be used with smartphones and tablets making the book’s pages come to life with interactive 3D models. Even if you’re not planning on buying the book, you should still at least watch the release video. It will give you a good idea of what Journey is about.
We could all learn lessons from Journey on better and more powerful ways to convey mood, atmosphere and storytelling. You can get a copy of the game here.