There are many things to be said about Journey, and they are all good things. Starting with the absolutely gorgeous scenery and its interplay with the atmospheric musical score, continuing with the inexplicit story line which requires a bit of imagination to fill in the gaps, and finishing up with the rather few instructions the game gives you, allowing you to discover the mechanics mostly on your own, the game sets the scene for a wonderful and enjoyable experience.
However, what impressed me most was the realisation that I was not playing alone. This discovery came somewhere towards the middle of the game, when I saw another character just like mine flying around. Although I needed some clarification as to whom I was playing with, first thinking that it was just AI meant to help me get through a level faster, I was told that it was a randomly selected player from anywhere across the globe. While I found that idea fascinating, I was quite surprised when I met my fellow player again a couple of levels later and realised that he/she was waiting for me and genuinely wanted to help me get through the game.
The higher skill set of the other player was apparent due to the length of their character’s scarf. Nonetheless, despite my inexperience, he/she stuck around from that point until the end, and despite not being able to communicate through words, I think some kind of communication was achieved. I soon understood that being near another character was powering up both our abilities, and that we could ‘sing’ to each other as a token of friendship and appreciation. Even when my rookie mistake got us discovered by one of the enemy flying robots, he/she did not seem to mind all that much, and I made sure to sing my apologies.
So whereas the first half of the game I was just enjoying solving the puzzles and admiring the stunning visuals, during the second half I found myself actually trying to be good at playing the game and making the other player proud. I would say that we were communicating mostly by sticking to each other and waiting for one another, and while it might not seem much, I believe through this we demonstrated patience, trust, gratefulness and even friendship, although the mentor-mentee relationship was more prevalent.
To conclude, I believe the fact that people still play Journey 3 years after it was first released only stands as testimony for its ability to provide a unique and special gaming experience, which makes anonymous players actually feel some emotional connection between themselves. And to take the communication aspect even further, after finishing playing and talking to my friends about it, I realised that I would quite enjoy playing it again and again myself, driven by the thought of maybe someday being the one helping someone new to the game discover its beauty.