Critical Play: Walking Simulator

For our critical play this week, we were asked to play a walking simulator game. I was excited because it’s been a while since I’ve played a non-competitive game, and was eager to try out the class’s suggestions.

Rated 4+ and created by Annapurna Interactive, Journey is single-player spatial game where the player walks through the desert, seemingly in pursuit of a rewarding experience, as illustrated by the tip of a glowing mountaintop.

To progress in the game, the player walks towards the mountain. The game’s mechanics consists of moving, controlling the camera, and jumping. While the final mountain can be seen most of the time, it is seen from a distance, illustrating there is much ground to be covered before getting there.

Mountain in the background, with a vertical, beaming light before then

During the player’s move to the mountain and through the desert, there are different environments. In each environment, the player has to perform some function in order to continue progressing through the game. Environments typically have a brighter accent on the screen to indicate that the user should move in that direction. For example, in the first environment I encountered, when I got to the bright, vertical light, there was a golden orb-like object I hovered over. This allowed me to continue progressing through the game. When I did not listen to the game’s signals and just tried to continue moving forward haphazardly, the wind would blow me back, suggesting there was something I still had to do.

About to hover over the golden “orb”

Walking moves the player to different environments.

Walking lets the player interact with the environment. In this scenario, I didn’t think walking through the sand waterfall would lead me to some puzzle.

Puzzle on the wall after walking through sand waterfall

One type of fun this game engenders is discovery. The player walks in the direction of the mountain and gets to enjoy the different and unexpected structures and interactions. While playing the game, it reminded me a lot of The Alchemist, where one of this book’s main messages is about the fun being in the journey, not the destination.

Challenge is another type of fun the game possesses. Each environment that player encounter is a type of puzzle, in the sense that the player needs to figure out how they must interact with the environment to continue progressing in the game.

Unfortunately, I did not get to finish the game. However, I did have a good time… walking.

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The focus of CS 247G is an introduction to theory and practice of the design of games. We make games (digital, paper, or otherwise), do rapid iteration, and run user research studies appropriate to game design with the goal of improving and refining our design instincts.

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