Virtual Wayfarers:

An Analysis and Critique of thatgamecompany's Journey

- Tyler Quiring, University of Maine / @tylerdq_

Description of Study

Three-part study of the cultural practice of videogame play

  1. Thematic historiography
  2. Game description
  3. Object analysis

Thesis: Interactivity is the core defining feature of the medium, and Journey employs this interactivity to encourage socially constructive behavior.

Historiography:
Key Scholars

  • Kent (2011): "Great Man" approach
  • Brookey (2010): Media convergence as control strategy
  • Wolf (2001, 2012): Cultural expression, industry volatility
  • Montfort & Bogost (2009): Platform analysis and formative interactivity
  • Bailey (2008): Easter eggs as heightened interactivity
  • Tucker (2012): Multiplayer gaming and community agency
  • Crawford (2012): Aggregate gamer power

Historiography: Themes

Scholarship increases in complexity alongside games

  1. Interactivity
  2. Behavioral Design
  3. Multiplayer Gameplay

Plot Overview

Introductory segment, followed by 6 chapters:

Plot Overview

Introductory segment, followed by 6 chapters:

  1. The Broken Bridge

Plot Overview

Introductory segment, followed by 6 chapters:

  1. The Broken Bridge
  2. The Desert

Plot Overview

Introductory segment, followed by 6 chapters:

  1. The Broken Bridge
  2. The Desert
  3. The Sunken City

Plot Overview

Introductory segment, followed by 6 chapters:

  1. The Broken Bridge
  2. The Desert
  3. The Sunken City
  4. The Underground Passage

Plot Overview

Introductory segment, followed by 6 chapters:

  1. The Broken Bridge
  2. The Desert
  3. The Sunken City
  4. The Underground Passage
  5. The Temple

Plot Overview

Introductory segment, followed by 6 chapters:

  1. The Broken Bridge
  2. The Desert
  3. The Sunken City
  4. The Underground Passage
  5. The Temple
  6. The Mountain

Analysis: Player Constraint

Achieved in a few different ways:

  • Geographical design
  • Music and mood
  • Self-expression in multiplayer

Analysis:
Producer Perspective

“When it comes to Journey it’s a metaphor trying to explore our life’s transformation and the crossing, the intersecting of our lives between each other.”
- Jenova Chen (thatgamecompany co-founder): Journey collector's edition special feature "Developer Diary"

Analysis:
Producer Perspective

“We started to realize game innovation can actually be about emotion rather than just game mechanics or game simulation technology innovation: You can innovate what the game makes you feel. And that’s pretty much started our company, which is we want to make games that make you feel differently.”
- Jenova Chen (thatgamecompany co-founder): Journey collector's edition special feature "Developer Diary"

Analysis:
Critic Perspective

“I immediately named her “Anna,” for no particular reason, despite the fact that she could have been, in reality, a 45-year-old male banker or an 11-year-old boy. In my favorite fantasy, she’s a 14-year-old nerd girl who will one day be a game designer . . . I can imagine these things; the desert isn’t the only thing that’s subject to interpretation.”
- Linda Holmes (NPR blogger): Blog post "Virtual Strangers"

Analysis:
Gamer Perspective

“When we were standing in front of the exit, the white robed character started walking in a circle around me, I followed them thinking it would be another secret helpful thing. Once I stopped I noticed that the footprints in the snow from me and my new mystery friend formed a heart . . . At this point we were a room full of 20-something guys, full on sobbing and feeling like we needed to go do nice things for people.”
- OfficiallyMoonlighting (Online commenter): On NPR blog post "Virtual Strangers"

Conclusion

Videogame play as social cooperation:

  • Political cooperation
  • Self-reflective constitutive rhetoric
  • Player constraint/resistance through interactivity

The End

By Tyler Quiring / tylerquiring.info

* Many thanks to Dr. Michael Socolow (UMaine) for his graduate Media History seminar that this paper grew from and for his helpful comments along the way.