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Journey and the Temporal Experience

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So,a few days ago, I got to discussing with a few friends what my favourite game was, and incidentally brought up 2012's Journey, a critically acclaimed, beautiful game where you, well, journeyed through a desert towards a light on a mountain.

I was talking about how it was one of the few games that has elicited a strong emotional response from me, because, if you don't know by now, the "gimmick" of Journey is that it was actually multiplayer. You would 'journey' and work together with another player, not knowing who they are, and only be able to communicate with musical chimes and movement. A stranger, maybe living a block away, or across the world. You would solve puzzles together, hide from dangers and walk across a beautiful landscape until you finally reached the end of the journey and said goodbye. It genuinely was emotionally affecting, and was almost akin to saying goodbye to a new friend, even though we had never talked and don't know what each other looks or sounds like.

As I was telling my friend about Journey being my favourite game because of how it emotionally affected me, they had said that they didn't get why, it was a pretty walking sim with some puzzles (which to be fair, it was). I asked them if they met anyone else in the game, and they replied that, no, they didn't even realise it was supposed to be multiplayer. They played it more recently, this year to be precise, on Epic Games Store, after it was released on PC for the first time, and I suppose the population was low enough that they never encountered another player.

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And that got me thinking, there is this experience, which existed at the time when I played it back in early 2013, where I got one experience, but to play Journey now, even on PC – the most archiveable platform there is – you would not get that same experience, even if you had avoided all the spoilers regarding the experience of the game. There exists this temporality to the game, the specific experience that the game was designed around, that may never be achievable again.

This is a common issue in other ways obviously in many MMOs, where content is removed or rotated or changed dramatically on a regular basis; WoW's Cataclysm expansion comes to mind, or Destiny's/Fortnite's FOMO driven seasonal approach, meaning content is constantly changing and affording new experiences.

But I think the difference here is that nothing has been done to the game itself to change the experience of Journey; it merely is a result of its age and fading relevance to modern gaming. The experience of it simply changed as a result and we're left with a similar, but also fundamentally different game to play.

Journey, as an experience, exists in a temporal state, that may never happen again.

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