Platforms: PS3, PS4
Content Areas: Art, Language Arts
Suggested Age: Elementary School, Middle School, High School
Play Length: 2 hours
Number of Players: Single/occasional multiplayer
Difficulty Rating: Easy
In the years since Journey’s original release, it has proven to be a game that resonates not only with “hardcore” gamers but also with players who look to interactive media as a bridge to cross into art, psychology, philosophy, literature, and even education. Reviewers and journalists in the video game industry write about Journey with a level of reflection that seems reserved only for fine art or a best selling novel: “Journey's beauty not only echoes in its vistas and music, but in the subtle details that coax you in” (Ryan Clements – IGN), “[Journey’s] deliberate ambiguity brings on the urge to speculate on deeper meanings, but meaning here is bound to be personal, and best discovered for yourself” (Jane Douglas – Gamespot), and “Give Journey the same attention you might bring to a musical concert, a well-directed film, or a long-awaited book, and its rewards are substantial” (Matt Miller – Gameinformer). So what is it, really, that makes this game so special?
While it is a blessing that Journey came to the PS4 as a port from its original PS3 release, it is certainly sad that Journey has not received release on the PSVita or other mobile devices. For classroom teachers the lack of access to the game may be the only reservation about using Journey as the backbone for some unbelievable extension activities. With limited resources in the classroom, it would be difficult for teachers to use a game like Journey that insists on a deeply personal connection. However, those students lucky enough to have access to a PS3 or PS4 will be able to dive into the game to discover its secrets on their own.
For those teachers with ready access to the hardware to play Journey in their classrooms, the possibilities are endless for using this game as a learning tool. Using Common Core standard W.11-12.1 (Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence) as a framework, students can, after playing the game, debate whether or not Journey should be considered art. Students may need work through a definition of art before considering this topic, but should be able to pull evidence from the game to support their arguments. Citing the game’s visuals, game play, immersion, etc., students can write/create/present their arguments answering the question: Is Journey art? (The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect by Chris Melissinos and Patrick O’Rourke and The Art of Journey by Matthew Nava may be useful resources with this activity).
Unlike literature and most games, dialogue in Journey is limited to short chimes emitted by the player character and the occasional symbol found in the game world. Focusing on the Common Core standard W.11-12.3 (Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences), students could write a narrative that tells story of one level in Journey from the main character’s point of view. Students would finally give a voice to the cloaked character by providing the inner-dialogue that exists during the level. Taking this activity a step further, teachers could even break classes into small groups to create stories for each level of the game then combine the story in a collaborative writing assignment.
Erik Kaine, a contributing writer for Forbes.com writes, “Journey shows us not only that games can be an art form, but that video game consumers have an appetite for something more than just the next big first person shooter.” While Journey has proven to be a deeply engaging experience for every player who takes the time to realize its beauty, it has also proven that video games can connect to players on a level beyond pure entertainment. In a world of big budget, profit driven titles, games like Journey can exist and can thrive because they fill a void that many games cannot. Journey exists to provide that deep, emotional connection and it is certain Thatgamecompany will continue to provide moving experiences for players to enjoy.
Educational Rating: 6/8
Classroom Friendly (only if hardware is available) Motivation, Concrete Learning (does not teach a specific skill), Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension
Overall Rating: 8/8
Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control