The Average Gamer

My Journey

If you’ve read my review of Journey, you’ll know about the sense of wonder on discovering a fellow journeyer. You’ll know the joy of hearing a response to your questioning chirps, of working out a way to communicate, of dancing together before setting off to find the mountain. You’ll know the terrible sense of loss when they leave and the trepidation of getting a second chance. What you won’t know is why I love the game so much.

[Spoiler warning. This post talks openly about the end of the game.]

It was late in the game when Journey transformed from something merely beautiful and wonderful into something truly special.

Staggering through the snow, my companion and I huddled together for “warmth”, chiming and chirping to give each other strength and keep our scarves attached. It didn’t work.

Of course it didn’t work. Our scarves, our power was stripped away as we climbed and climbed. We blundered through the blizzard and lost our bearings and found them again. We trudged along, heads down and cheeped at each other, our voices muffled by the wind until at last, they were gone too. Our only communication was robbed from us and still we stayed together, him a few paces ahead.

In perhaps the most devastating moment in my gaming to date, I watched as our steps slowed and our heads bowed further. Slowly, inevitably, he tumbled face-first into the snow while I frantically mashed the call button, desperate to give him what little energy I could. It didn’t work and on shuffling up to his prone body, I collapsed and faded myself.

It’s incredible, what they’ve put into this game. That flat, white screen is long enough to make you doubt yourself. It’s just long enough that you could think they really did give you the most hauntingly anti-climactic ending you’ve ever seen. And then, as you put your controller down, your Journeyer rises again in a world filled with wonder.

On my rebirth after that crushing moment on the mountain, against the backdrop of Austin Wintory’s truly stunning soundtrack, I saw my companion fly off into the distance. I guess he awakened before I did and thought we had been separated. With so much to see, I understood completely but my exploration was still tinged with sadness, for both the deaths in the previous section and the loss of my friend.

The part that really hit me, the part that made me cry was when I found him waiting at the top. Even as I flew in entirely the wrong direction and collided into cliff walls, as I fell into every pool and bounced off every archway, he stood at the entrance to the mountain at the end of our journey. This gamer that I’ve never met waited for me to complete our journey together. We’d travelled together for so long and I’d accepted his leaving but I felt the most incredible sense of relief and elation as he chirped his greeting and I replied.

We stood at the top there and looked down on the world. We took in the waterfalls and the clouds and the carpet creatures, then we turned and walked into the light. But most amusingly, we shuffled. I walked a little, he walked a little and we shuffled and stopped and started until we were side-by-side, walking together like a pair of children on our first outing. All without a word. I don’t know why we did it but it was beautiful.

At the end of Journey, you get a list of the PSN names that you met along the way. That’s how I know that I only met two people and that’s why I’m sure that the Journeyer at the top of the mountain was the same one I’d travelled with for so long. I still have their names. I still don’t know who they are.

It’s probably not difficult to figure out. I played at night, the first Friday after review codes were sent to journalists. The game wasn’t due out for another month or so, so both my companions are probably fellow games reviewers and probably in Europe. I did a bit of detective work but when one candidate turned out to be someone I know and don’t speak with much, I stopped. I don’t want to know.

What if it’s that guy who thinks I’m boring? What if it’s that woman who hates the way I write? What if it’s someone I didn’t know at the time but now we’re great friends and he or she simply doesn’t remember? I think that one might be the worst of all.

We experienced incredible things together. We shared our fear of the monsters and talked each other through the safe places in the snow. But coming face to face with my companion could only cheapen the experience. Journey is a game about bringing people together. And yet, because it was so amazing, I’d rather remain alone.