Minimalism in Art – Journey

So the basis for this post comes from two things, my occasional complaints about a book being too long, and the experience I had last Saturday night playing the PS3 game Journey.

I’ve heard about Journey for quite a while, and I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy it Saturday.  It was a relatively short game, but I had a wonderful time playing through it and it was the first time in quite a while that I’ve been transfixed by a game.

There is very little story to the game, but it’s not explained at all and during my play through I had at least 5 or 6 different stories running through my head as to what was happening with my character.  You start off in the middle of a desert, and the only noticeable landmark in the game is a mountain off in the distance.  After each level there is a very short interlude where another creature similar to your character shows you a mural which traces your progress through the game.  Your character is only able to jump and whistle, yet there is a wide area to explore and every area of the game is gorgeously animated.

Another interesting aspect of the game is that while you’re playing, you may occasionally cross paths with another player.  There is no way to communicate with the other person other than your whistle, and considering it’s just a random person that you’re paired up with for a while, it’s a very unique experience as you work with the other player.

I’ve said this before about books, and this is a perfect example of how it can work in any medium.  I would rather read a short book or play a short game that works as well as Journey does than sit through a much longer game that isn’t as enjoyable.  Journey took me about 3 hours to play through, but I was happier with Journey than I ever was while playing Final Fantasy 13, a game which had a budget that easily dwarfed that of Journey, yet I had a better time playing Journey, and I’m more likely to replay it as well as to suggest it to other people.

If you have a PS3 and haven’t played Journey, I’d highly suggest it.  And to any game designers or authors out there, learn from the game and realize that not everything has to be bigger and better than everything else.

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