The Cowardly Journey

I moved lightly over the sand, leaving trails behind me. I had to admit, it felt pretty good skimming along. But there was so much ground to cover, and limited energy to explore it with. The pace soon slowed, energy depleted, and I imagined myself grumpily kicking sand around with my foot. Stupid sand.

I loved flower, but something made me far more dubious about thatgamecompany's Journey. I went in feeling flippant and impatient. I dared it to try and move me, not expecting to find anything particularly meaningful. I fought against whatever emotion the game was trying to achieve (not always effectively, I'll admit).

There were a few reasons for my recalcitrant attitude, but the most interesting was the multiplayer. Journey's online elements terrified me, so I hardened up as a survival mechanism. I doubt many (if any) people would describe Journey as scary, but I couldn't play it in one sitting because I'd get too tense. One playthrough was quite enough for my heart to cope with.

This isn't a new feeling for me. Multiplayer means other people, and I'm not that great with other people. But Journey has such restrained, anonymous multiplayer I'm sure even some people who know me well will be surprised to hear about my difficulties. The thing is, however anonymous and limited the interaction, the multiplayer in Journey is also intimate. There's a serious attempt to form a bond between two strangers. That's powerful, but also confronting.

The first time I encountered another player was a surprisingly festive moment. We danced around each other, chirping and gaining extra height from each other's energy. But I couldn't sustain this kind of interaction, emotionally. I started to obsess over etiquette and appearances. Like in life, I had absolutely no idea how to behave. It was too intense and I broke off to explore the area more fully, while they moved on without me.

I met several others along the way, but tried not to pay them too much mind. Most seemed willing to pass me by. Things went a bit wrong in the later stages of the game, though. You know how lots of movies have the cowardly character who is willing to sell out the heroes to save their own skin? That was me playing Journey.

Me and another player were taking cover as monsters flew overhead like ominous kites. As usual, I was hanging back. They would go first. They had to go first, I sure wasn’t going to take the lead. Sure enough, the other player moved out into the open, only to be attacked and swept off. I was left with a clear path out of there, and I took it leaving them to their fate.

I was alone as I made my final trip up the mountain. I imagined myself stepping over the bodies of those I’d abandoned. I would die alone in the cold, and that seemed right. This was my role in the story.