So last night I had one of the most amazing gaming experiences of my life. This is what happened...

An incredible thing happened last night. I had an amazing gaming experience the like of which I have never experienced before. I've been playing games for over three decades, which is officially a long time, so any new experience is not an insignificant achievement. And this particular thing that happened blew my mind.

The game I was playing was Journey. It's the new game from US developer Thatgamecompany. Previous games from Thatgamecompany are Flow and Flower. They make interesting, beautiful, unconventional games, so that's what I was anticipating with Journey. And I wasn't wrong. My prior knowledge of the game was limited. It looked distinctively stunning. Visually intriguing. See for yourself:

But other than thinking to myself 'Ooh Journey looks rather nice I definitely want to play it', I was pretty clueless as to what was in store. 20 minutes into the game and I was equal parts calmed, impressed and captivated. Journey is a game without instructions. It's up to the player to discover what to do and where to go. Thanks to clever game design, it's a completely intuitive - and empowering - process. 

So I was already more than happy to be playing Journey when I noticed something that - ultimately - marked the start of my amazing experience and journey proper. It was another nomadic wanderer like me. Up to this point Journey's seemingly never-ending desert landscape emphasized a sense of isolation. To see another cloaked figure was a surprise. 

Although there was nothing to indicate this was anything other than an AI character, there was something inherently human about it. Something in the behaviour that simply cannot be emulated through any amount of complex programming and hard code. I knew I'd met someone else playing Journey. At first I was hesitant. I like playing games on my own and actively avoid online interactions with other gamers. Especially strangers. It's just not something I enjoy.

We both headed in the same direction (because there's only one direction to be heading in Journey), but we deliberately and politely kept our distance. I got the sense this anonymous player shared my own belief that 90% of gamers encountered online are complete assholes. For a while we were two lone wolfs traipsing over sand dunes. But it became apparent that the journey would be easier together. And that neither of us were assholes. With mutual respect we began walking, jumping and flying side-by-side. A very real bond was formed. 

And so it went. I don't want to give anything away by talking about specifics, but for the next two hours we experienced the journey as true companions. If one of us advanced faster than the other, we would wait for our friend to catch up. Staying together was as important as completing the journey. There was no way either of us was going to abandon the other and go it alone.

In over 30 years of playing games I've never felt such a strong emotional bond with another character - whether controlled by a living person or an algorithmically constructed AI. I thought Ico and Yorda had something special, but this takes affecting character connection to a whole other level of giving a shit. We shared very real moments through the TV. 

When the journey was over (and Journey is absolutely the perfect name for this game), I sat watching the credits with a massive smile on my face. I imagine tackling Journey alone would be incredible. But playing it with another person was unbelievable. Mind-blowing. Thinking about it now as I'm writing this is still giving me chills. Other games talk about co-operative play, but very rarely do they ever manage to make players let go of those selfish and competitive traits that are so inherent in gamers. But Journey does just that. And it's a truly unique and beautiful and amazing experience because of it.

Journey is exclusive to PlayStation 3 and is scheduled to be released via the PlayStation Network on March 13/14 in the US/UK respectively.


Journey PS3 PSN

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  • MTrigs - March 14, 2012 12:16 a.m.

    Journey has to be the most greatest game I have played in my life. I have never felt this connected to a game since I beat Kingdom Hearts 1 a couple of years ago. This game not only gives you impressive visuals and a captivating adventure, it lets you share this simply amazing experience with a friend who was a complete and total stranger just three minutes before meeting. I cannot stress enough how much I love this game. I LOVE this game. The only complaint I have about this game is that it is definitely TOO SHORT but you know what...WHO CARES?! It's amazing! I've come to the conclusion that if the opportunity arose and the science were available that would permit me to have this game's child, I would in a heartbeat...Okay maybe two heartbeats...Ahhh whatever...You get my point. Greatest. Game. Ever.
  • Plan10FromOuterSpace - March 1, 2012 12:53 a.m.

    This sounds VERY interesting, if I had a playstation I would love to give it a try...its nice to see games trying to bring something truly new into the industry.
  • NightCrawler_358 - February 24, 2012 12:29 p.m.

    So you can unknowingly stumble into co-op, but with how many people? I'd imagine 4 at the very most. That sounds really cool, forming a cooperative friendship with 3 other wanderers in an endless desert.
  • obliviondoll - March 4, 2012 12:04 a.m.

    I've heard it's only 2 people in a few reviews, actually. More than enough for me to be interested.
  • BladedFalcon - February 24, 2012 11:04 a.m.

    Echoing what most people have said here, had been paying attention to this game, and expected it to be good- But never that level of awesome. Specially considering I'm not really a multi-player guy at all, and usually avoid those modes like the plague. Reading this article though, seems like playing on-line is the only really, proper way to go, else you will miss a big part of the charm. Which will leave me no other choice but to abandon my single player ogre ways, and go online. SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE CUNDY???
  • Conman93 - February 24, 2012 9:25 a.m.

    Great Article! As a matter of interest, can you use headsets in this game? And if you can, would you reccommend it, or is it better without them?
  • Matt Cundy - February 24, 2012 10:55 a.m.

    No headsets. Which is a good thing. There is a way to communicate, but it's more a simple system of 'signalling'. It's much more fitting than talking over headsets, which would probably just serve detract from the overall experience.
  • Conman93 - February 24, 2012 10:57 a.m.

    Yeah, I imagined headsets would be a distraction. I like the sound of this system better, especially for this game :)
  • Salazans - February 24, 2012 9:02 a.m.

    Looks like I'll miss out on another anticipated game of mine because I don't own the right console. Just stop with the exclusives guys, we've all got our consoles and this game won't push others to pay for a new PS3
  • BladedFalcon - February 24, 2012 11 a.m.

    I do have to agree. I've heard a lot of good things about Bastion, for example, and it irks me that i can't play it due to it being an Xbox and PC exclusive. Oh well, at least I'll get to play this game! XD
  • soulstoner - February 24, 2012 7:39 p.m.

    You don't have a PC? Bastion can now be played via the Chrome web browser. Check it out.
  • BladedFalcon - February 24, 2012 7:45 p.m.

    Well... I'm not really a fan of playing in a PC, and i am not sure my computer could keep up, even as a browser game. But hey,s till, thanks for the heads up! ^^
  • Fraught - February 24, 2012 9:30 p.m.

    It is a very low-maintenance game, so if you really actually want to play it, then stop bringing excuses.
  • BladedFalcon - February 25, 2012 5:36 a.m.

    And yet I've heard differently... Got a mate in another forum that has a better computer than I do, and noticed the hardware was having trouble keeping up. That being said, you ARE right in that I do not lose anything to just try it, so I might as well do so.
  • metalgatesolid - February 24, 2012 5:12 a.m.

    This looks amazing. Well done Sony in keeping this from Microsoft.
  • Rhymenocerous - February 24, 2012 4:21 a.m.

    Really wish I could walk into a shop and buy this.
  • Hobogonigal - February 24, 2012 4:09 a.m.

    Why do you make me jealous Cundy when I have an xbox instead of PS3?????
  • gypsie - February 24, 2012 3:32 a.m.

    How is it now worth it?! It's 7.5 dollars per hour. Nothing! Well worth it. If all forms of entertainment were that cheap I'd be happy as larry.
  • gypsie - February 24, 2012 3:35 a.m.

    That was meant as a reply to someones comment saying 2 hours for $15 dollars isn't worth it..... Guess I clicked the wrong button.
  • MilesH - February 24, 2012 2:02 a.m.

    Adore this.