Josh Hinke did a lovely article about how Journey eased his anxiety over multiplayer. However as someone who didn’t mind multiplayer action (I’m not the type to actively seek it or require it as a necessity of a games’ purchase) I found myself at odds with his perspective.

Multiplayer games aren’t always my bag. I was never opposed to them, but preferred them as an accompaniment to a game as opposed to a huge portion of the game. I enjoyed the occasional bout of Pokémon Stadium or Perfect Dark, but it was a hassle gathering together enough friends and controllers (bollocks if I’m having more than two.) At the age of 16, I was introduced to Counter-Strike by a friend and the world of multiplayer suddenly turned on its head. There were hundreds of people available at all hours all playing the same game. I was utter shite at it, mainly because I loved throwing a smoke grenade round a corner and then charging in while they were backing off to stave off lag, but who cared? The round would be over and we were free to start all over again in less than 3 minutes. Although multiplayer games are fun they weren’t something I could always depend on. True joy came from playing video games solo.

Playing alone was like being in my own little world. Something I could take at my own pace. If I felt like it, I could go all the way to the edge of the map and come back with no one having a problem with it. This is something I felt Journey took away from me.

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When I first played Journey about three years ago on my PlayStation 3, I got paired with someone a couple of sections in. I knew of the possibility of it happening, but didn’t think it would happen to me. Did have someone who had played the game before? Someone who had gotten all the achievements? I had no way of knowing. Suddenly I felt my own anxiety as I didn’t know who may be hand-holding who. It was like I was the little brother and wasn’t sure if the person with me was a big brother who would keep me company, or another lost boy just like me. As I explored the “level” in one area they were off doing God knows what. For all I know they could’ve been exploring a different area, or were waiting impatiently for me to find the solution that they had discovered several times prior to encountering me. I felt rushed, suffocated and alone because I didn’t have the freedom I had grown up with in video games. This mainly took place in the area where you make the floaty mist (my words for it) rise higher by activating several switches. As I discovered what to do, I tried taking my time carrying on because I started feeling guilty that I was doing nearly everything for my companion. I also felt annoyed when they got to the next switch and did it for me. I felt like we were both robbing each other’s enjoyment of the game by taking away each other’s sense of accomplishment. Or had I? I had no way of knowing. I turned the game off shortly afterwards because of this and returned to it later. If I managed to cross paths with someone else along the way, I rushed ahead so they couldn’t catch up. Other people deprived me of the sense of exploration because my immersion was compromised by these intruders. By the end of the game, I had about 10 names of people I had met along my travels.

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Fast forward to last month when I redownloaded it for the PlayStation 4. My perspective was altered and now I felt like the big brother. Regardless of the amount of the times my new companion had played, I was holding their hand. I flittered to the scarf upgrades by myself just like a big brother not letting little brother have the best sweets. Yet, I always waited for him to catch up and he for me. It seemed like I was playing with someone who had played before because we both progressed at a similar pace. Not too fast, but not checking every nook and cranny for secrets either. We used our calls as actual speech and with the floating sentry dragon things, I scoured ahead and pounded circle to let little brother know where to find me. When he got attacked and I had made it safely away, I rolled my eyes in a “what are you like?” friendly way and waited for my new companion to catch up. As we made it up the snowy slopes, we had a little chat, tapping our circle buttons once or twice and waiting for the same response. When the game ended I had only one name of a companion I had met along the way. Whilst I did feel a sense of comradery that I did it all with just one person, something kept niggling the back of my mind: What if they hadn’t played before? What if I they were completely clueless and were following me like a dog because they had no idea of what they were doing? How pissed off were they that I had done X amount of things before them? It was like the ending of Total Recall – was it all actually real or just the service Arnie had paid for to begin with?

This is my Journey ending with my new friend.

This is my Journey ending with my new friend.

I don’t think this sensation will ever disappear. It will lessen over time, most certainly, but not fully vanish from my mind. As the days go by those who are interested will have played Journey and the likelihood of meeting a first timer will diminish drastically. Sadly it won’t stop me from having this feeling that I might end up royally pissing someone off because I’m doing stuff before them. It’s a gamer’s worst nightmare to have paid for a game only for someone else to play it for them.

  • It sounds like this game should’ve had algorithms to determine what kind of pairings would be welcome, and should have had an Option to communicate what kind of experiences you are open to. It seems like many would’ve been inappropriate for first time playthroughs.

    (Probably if you disconnect from PSN it will let you play alone.)