A screenshot of Journey, showing the player character running on a red carpet or ribbon above a desert landscape.

Finding Solace in ‘Journey’

Journey truly is a masterpiece and one that I urge you to experience for yourself.

As winter approaches, I find myself searching out “cozy” games that I can play when I need a break from the high-octane action and intense competition found in most modern games.  If you’re feeling a little jaded by mini-maps covered in icons and a list of quests and side-quests a mile long, I have the perfect game for you.  A serene masterpiece for those looking for a port in the storm.

That game is Journey.

Developed by Thatgamecompany and released in 2012, Journey is a meditative experience that invites players to embark on a tranquil journey through a vast and visually stunning desert landscape.

I didn’t own a PlayStation 3 when Journey first launched.  I had read about it in various video game magazines that I collected at the time and was intrigued by its relaxed premise.  Years later, long after the hype, I embarked on Journey’s journey on PS Now on PC and was astounded.  Journey had not only stood the test of time, but it offered, and continues to offer, an unrivalled experience for those looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of modern games.

A screenshot of Journey, showing the player character in a simply-lit desert room with light creating a spotlight on the floor.

At its core, Journey is about exploration and self-discovery. The player takes on the role of a robed figure, travelling across an expansive desert towards a distant mountain. The absence of explicit instructions or a traditional narrative creates a unique space for players to fill in the gaps themselves, all while immersing themselves in the soothing rhythm of the journey itself. If any game can claim to be meditative, it is this one.  The vast, sweeping landscapes, accompanied by an enchanting musical score, create an atmosphere that encourages mindfulness, relaxation, and introspection.

The importance of the art direction in Journey cannot be overstated. The visuals, characterised by sweeping dunes, ancient ruins, and a mesmerizing play of light and shadow, evoke a sense of awe and wonder, something that many games struggle to achieve.  There is an air of simplicity to the world and character design which, when combined with the lack of traditional dialogue, allow players to project their own emotions onto the landscape, creating a deeply personal connection to the virtual world.

A screenshot of Journey, showing the player character flying through the air above a desert landscape.

You need not make the journey alone.  Journey has a unique multiplayer element that adds a profound layer to the experience, something that I have not seen in any game before or since. Players may encounter anonymous companions along the way, and communication is limited to musical chimes. This minimalist approach to multiplayer fosters a sense of shared solitude, allowing for silent companionship without the pressures of competitive play. These chance encounters and moments of connection have stuck with me years later.

Journey truly is a masterpiece and one that I urge you to experience for yourself.  It’s only a few hours long, yet the experience hit me harder than games with dozens of hours of content.

Journey stands as a testament to the video game medium’s ability to evoke emotions. Its minimalist design, coupled with the emphasis on exploration and connection, makes it the perfect choice for those seeking a digital escape from the pressures of the real world.

If you do play it, I hope the experience sticks with you long after the credits roll, as it has done for me.