Journey is a Playstation 3 game developed by Thatgamecompany and although I haven't had the chance to play the game the whole way through, what I did experience was impacting enough for me to look further into it. A friend showed me an interview with Jenova Chen, the game's designer. His ideas of video games as art and the power and presentation of interactivity really resonate with what I myself have been thinking about.
Journey is minimalistic, both in its visual style and in its mechanics. There is no HUD (heads up display) indicating any information to the player about their status or which buttons to press. This relieves player of the omnipotent framework that video games tend to construct around themselves, allowing one to experience the work in a purer, more cinematic form.
"For the minimalist interface design we do in TGC games, we believe that the best interface and game design should be based on human instinct, rather than gaming knowledge.
If a child, a non-gamer, can interact with our game, a gamer should be able to as well. Just think about the whole process of an online console game – lobby, latency, hosting, kicking. None of these concepts are intuitive to a non-gamer."
By constructing mechanisms of interaction to be assessable, the work's mood, themes, atmosphere and narrative can be delivered with a greater potency as the reception of these forces is not restricted by a player's background and remains untainted by obtuse, constant reminders that the the world which is being experienced is in fact virtual. If even on some minor, conscious or subconscious level, an audience just for a moment forgets that they are interfacing with a virtual environment, then surely the affective nature of that environment becomes all the more effective.
Something which intrigued me about Journey is that during the game, players can encounter one another but the way in which interaction occurs is quite different from what we have come to expect from other online games. There is no chat window way to communicate through words and no indication of who might be behind the screen:
"For the lack of online ID, chat and voice, to create an emotional bond between the two online players, we have to create an atmosphere and mood so that when the two meet in the game, they are willing to do it.
We created a world where the rules and values are very different from reality. Your avatar doesn't have arms or mouth, so players should buy into the fiction that they can't speak human language or punch each other. If you see the player's online ID – for example, 'HairyKnuckle1991' – it instantly takes you out of the fiction"
Journey is a game by definition, though its own website prefers to term it as "an interactive parable". The word 'game' is so broad, we seem to define media under this umbrella by certain mechanics of interaction but it seems obvious to me that not everything which is interactive has to be a game. It is through this way of thinking that I believe the potential of such medium can be further explored and new possibilities of the way in which we present stories, ideas and experiences can be developed.