Storytelling in Journey

Having played through Journey now, the experience was wonderful.  Rarely has a game been so compelling, and with so little dialogue to build its narrative.  One of the ways that Journey does this so well is through the use of dynamic lighting and music to influence your mood as you progress through the different stages of the game.  When you start off, the land is bright, enjoying the pleasantly filtered (afternoon?) sunshine as you experience the game’s world for the first time.  Later, as you explore the ancient ruins before you, the lighting changes to a beautiful sunset-like shade of gold and orange, lulling you and creating a sense of peace as you descend into the ruins.  Deep inside the ruins, you find that the world is not as peaceful as it appears at the surface, with giant machines that seek to eliminate all of the scarf you’ve been working so hard to collect up to this point.  The music takes a dramatic shift, and the atmosphere becomes much darker with eerie green and blue accents instead of the comforting gold and orange of the previous stage.  These shifts occur to inform the player that there is danger, something that these changes seem to subconsciously alert us to.  This method of moving forward a narrative creates an experience that feels less forced, although the game is still “on rails” in many ways.

One of the other aspects of the game that helps develop a sense of context are the murals hidden throughout the game.  Upon arriving at a blank wall with a few gravestones framing it, you can activate your chime and trigger a reveal of a mural on the wall, which details some aspect of the story hidden behind the world of Journey.  Without these murals in the game, I don’t think I could have begun to understand the series of events leading up to the present state of the world.  What ThatGameCompany did with Journey is a masterpiece.  They hid the story just within reach, but asked the player to decide whether they wanted to know more or not.  This allows the player even more agency, and helps develop a sense of immersion with the world should they choose to seek out all of the murals and hidden items throughout the game.

 

Source: Storytelling in Journey