How Games Work – Journey



Today I will talk about Journey.

First time I heard about Journey was from Pete during his elective at the University of Brighton.

I immediately knew I would like to try this game out. It looked very pleasing aesthetically and it was supposed to have a great story, two elements that always draw me into a game.

When I started working for Pete he sent me to a games festival happening in Brighton. There they had a big room full of PlayStation devices and computers pre-loaded with a game each. One of the games was Journey! This is the moment, I said to myself, you need to try this, see if it’s as good as it looks. Journey was better that I expected. It sucked me into its world completely. Moments after I started playing, the world around me was gone. There could be ten people staring at the screen in front me while I was playing and I would never have known.

This game looks great!

First of all, Journey looks fantastic. It is a piece of art extremely pleasing to look at. It’s graphics are quite simple, it’s not a high budget game but everything is designed with extreme care. It’s colour pallet is wonderful and everything from the levels to the main character of the game just looks great together. Everything blends together nicely which makes the story element much more interesting as well.

Story telling - Mystery Box

What’s very interesting is how Journey tells you a story without using a single word.

I talked about mystery boxes in the last blog post where I talked about small gamification.

A mystery box can be anything that looks interesting on the outside and evokes people’s curiosity. Anything can be a mystery box, from a TV series to a video game to a book. Mystery boxes don’t reveal their secrets easily and that’s why we find them so attractive. Journey is a great mystery box in that sense. There is no way you can tell exactly what the game is about before you play it. Even then, the story is revealed to the player and doesn’t really make sense in the beginning. As the game goes on though, it develops a visual language with the player and a way of telling you a story that’s quite unique.

Dare to be different

Another interesting element of Journey is that it has no combat system and does not introduce competition of any kind. A great example of how games and gamification do not need combat to be interesting. Another thing that I noticed the second time I started playing Journey was how it’s world felt huge but it wasn’t. There were very specific limits designed in such a clever way that made the player think that the world is huge but there is no real interest in anything else than the main path. Controls and gameplay are also minimal, your character can basically do two things, walk and fly for some time, depending on how far in the game you are. This a great game mechanic by the way. As you progress in the game you don’t get any points or badges, the hero does not get stronger or learn new skills. The only feedback – power up you get is for how long you can fly, depending on the length of your magical scarf!

Lessons learnt

All in all, what we can learn from Journey is how to try and be different. If you have an idea for a gamification project that is a bit different compared to what you see out there in the world, go for it. Have a look at Journey and get inspiration on how to make something great and innovative at the same time without a huge budget too. Essentially Journey does one thing really well and that is story telling. It engages the player and takes him on a great Journey using every tool the developers built into this great interactive experience.

About the author 

Vasilis Gkogkidis

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