If you haven't played Journey yet, go play it before reading this. Similar advice is given in most media you will see about Journey, such as Strange Game by John Siracusa on Hypercritical, and it is great advice. Just trust me on this. I played it on iOS, but any platform will do. Listen to the soundtrack while you play.
Trying to make a living as an independent software developer means that occasionally, or often, I fall into the trap of working many more hours than are reasonable. When this happens, I tend to feel guilt from activities that I will enjoy that aren't directly productive, like playing a game, shooting hoops, or reading. This isn't the healthiest state, but when I saw media coverage of Journey again on social media a few months ago and had never played it, I scheduled some time to play.
I kept reaching for a story while I played, trying to get ahead of what I was sure would be some big reveal. Are there bad guys? Who are they? Am I freeing these creatures? I get some kind of energy from them; we must be on the same side.
Playing through Journey was an almost meditative experience, one I sincerely enjoyed.
Unfortunately, the game's multiplayer elements were almost completely lost on me, as I only encountered others very briefly. For the majority of the game, I was alone. The strangest thing was that I felt far from alone! During one of the scenes, almost gliding down slopes of sand with these winged creatures flying next to me, it felt like I was surrounded by friends. Sitting at home, gazing into my phone screen with my headphones on, I felt warmth, companionship, and calm. I don't know if I've ever felt that level of immersion in a game before. I've enjoyed games before, sure, but this kind of visceral experience might be new.
I'll likely set aside a few hours to play through it again, as playing through it in one session was a fantastic way to experience the game. It made me think, what other games might have a similar effect? What is the breadth of responses that video games and media can elicit? What else could I be feeling or experiencing if I tried suitable media?
Cover image from Journey's press kit on IGDB