Journey is the third video game produced by independent development house thatgamecompany. I really enjoyed their previous games Flow and Flower. These games stretch the definition of "game", and Journey stretches that definition the furthest. In Journey you play as a...well.. who knows. Your character is an armless humanoid dressed in a robe that covers you from head to foot. Your objective is rather vague: there is a mountain in the distance, and you will journey towards it. Your interaction with the world is limited to just a few actions: moving about, vocalizing, and leaping. The world that you move through is really extraordinary, and it is fun to explore and find out just how much you can do with these limited controls. Still, this limited interaction leaves me wondering if "game" is the right term to apply here. In Flow you battled against other organisms to become king of the depths. Flower was more vague, essentially a finding exercise as you searched for enough flowers to bloom in order to open up the next section of the game. Journey offers even less direction. If you wanted, you could just tape the joystick to point forward and come back in two hours to see the credits roll.

There has been a lot of dispute about whether or not video games should be considered art. Acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert has famously said that they are not comparable to film and books as art, while the Smithsonian Institute has created a traveling museum honoring the art of video games. Journey, in my view, is trying very hard to be considered art. It is an interactive experience that each person is going to react to differently. The gaming press has been falling over itself to lavish praise on this game, but I'm not sure that this is necessarily a good thing. Yes, Journey is beautiful and unique, but the "game" element here is pretty weak. Someone looking for the same sort of release that a game like Call of Duty provides isn't going to find it here, and that could create a backlash by the gaming community. The entire experience can be completed in under two hours, and many gamers might feel cheated by that.

I definitely recommend giving Journey a try, but caution to approach this as a piece of interactive art rather than a video game. Consider it a $15 door fee to a private showing at an artist's gallery.


Jade Mason