Brief Examination of Metaphor in PS3 Title ‘Journey’

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Journey is not a deep game: not in interface, nor storytelling. It is a very straightforward game that depends on honest emotive content to convey feelings. It poses no game-over, no challenge that holds *conventional* consequences. If you fuck up, your scarf gets smaller. That’s it.

It is beautiful on its own, but many of the themes are dependent on the ‘multiplayer.’ While trekking through deserts all alone, you will (thanks to the wonders of an internet connection) come across other players, one at a time, at random. No voice chat, no keyboard communication. You are only able to press a button to sing to each other. Being near someone when they sing also helps you fly. Many of the strongest moments in the game are made stronger when you are paired with someone else: tragedy and other emotions gain a random element because your friend may fuck up, disappear, or be uncooperative at the worst of times- and there is something sublime when you and a stranger are huddled together, creaking your way up a blizzard-stricken cliff face.

Journey is minimalist, but the story is aided by symbols. The main ones are discussed in the video. 

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6 Responses to Brief Examination of Metaphor in PS3 Title ‘Journey’

  1. Guy Fox says:

    My first reaction was “Much ado about a run ‘n jump.”, but different artists have done a lot with bowls of fruit and such, I guess.

    As for the analysis, it seems plausible from the images in the video, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot. You’ve identified what you see as symbols and their referents; i.e. this object was inserted to represent this other thing. To add meaning, pick apart why these symbols were assembled into this narrative, and what that symbolic narrative has to do with the broader cultural context.

    In other words: Great, so the game is a metaphor for conception. So what? Why is that an important/meaningful/attractive/compelling metaphor right now given its cultural context?

  2. Dodge says:

    Hi. Describing a game’s gameplay (run ‘n jump) can equate to describing a book’s prose (No Country for Old Men? Another concise ‘n gruff?). With current input methods, the more control options a player has, the more grounded a game has to be. MGS4 is a game with five different ways to go prone, so it won’t be a game that lets you improvise some parkour, or grab onto a speeding truck. But Shadow of the Colossus is a game whose functions can be boiled down to ‘jump, grab, and stab,’ and it allows you to ride bulls and slay sea serpents.

    I’m not sure about bringing deconstructive analysis to Journey, because it is language-free and mostly in keeping with the theme of environmental destruction/betrayal.

    Does it have a cultural context? It clearly says that anonymity and rudimentary communication are preferable to advanced human interaction. At the same time, it shows that we’re still capable of empathy, even if only for an artistic representation of a person we’ll never know. It also occupies the space of ‘minimalist game design,’ meaning it is nearly a criticism of most other games.

    The point of the video is that nobody wants to mention the big gaping vagina that’s always floating on the horizon.

  3. Guy Fox says:

    Does it have a cultural context?

    Are you serious? Pong might not have much connection to its broader culture (other than the fact that people are willing to devote time to playing it), because it’s so low on symbols. But you’re saying there’s a whole freakin’ theatre production about sex and syngamy going on in this game, there is singing, scarves, and figures magically uniting, and you’re asking if there’s a broader cultural context?

    Try thinking about it like this: you’ve noticed that the whole game proceeds with a giant vulva on the horizon. Why would the game’s designers, marketers and financiers calculate that this game with this aesthetic bent would be successful? Is it just a means of providing low-key titillation with some sentimental gloss for the raging-hormone-no-girlfriend 4chan-crowd?

    So there’s a vulva. Why a giant vulva and why in this game and why now and not in 5 years or 50 years ago?

  4. Nachlasse says:

    the mountain is a vulva.