Is the Journey as meaningful without the struggle?

Ugh! What a week. On the heels of my recovery of my previous week long illness my whole family gets nailed with a nasty flu. I have no memory of every being sicker in my life from the flu and I have never felt so cold, right down deep in my bones. Xander was hit last Saturday and my wife and I joined him Monday. I was in bed most of the week when I could and still feel fairly sick, but at least I'm finally on the mend and glad to have my warmth back.

Before getting sick I was able to polish off Guacamelee last Saturday night. It is hard and often unforgiving, but it was so much fun. The combat is equally as exciting as the platforming which is a rare treat. I thoroughly recommend it to those who enjoyed Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

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I had no idea until I was watching the credits that the game was created in my own backyard and with funding from my taxes from both provincial and federal funds. It is so nice to see my taxes going to help people with obvious talent get the break they deserve.

So, the next night I finally played Journey and after the two hours it took me to complete it, I was left with a big WTF moment. What was all the fuss about?

It is a beautifully created experience with stunning art direction, great level design (at least from a visual standpoint) and amazing music. But I would hazard to call it a game at all. I think it is squarely in one of those nebulous areas of "interactive experiences".

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I don't have a problem with interactive experiences, except I don't know that I've come across one that I've enjoyed, but when you look at The Best Games For The PlayStation 3 and Journey is listed right there with The Last Of Us, I think we really need to start separating the interactive experiences from the games.

Journey has some extremely weak game elements inside its experience, but I doubt even the most inexperienced player could find anything to prevent them from progressing to the end. I think an experience that offers nothing to challenge the player and is essentially a story that the player reveals by going from point A to B shouldn't be lumped with other games. As the experience progressed to what could be called the tragic moment in the cold (trying to avoid spoiling here), I felt no attachment or emotion to the situation. I had barely had anything to do with getting to that point, the "game" had offered no struggle for me to empathize with the struggle being shown to me on-screen. I felt detached from the experience as a player and felt more like a voyeur than a participant.

I am not arguing against the existence of such experiences, just that we need to be careful about what we label a "game". Clearly many people had profound experiences with Journey. I read a heartfelt article on TAY not so long ago about the loss of a parent and how Journey brought that parent closer to them in the moment. (Ellen if that was your article or if anyone knows the one I mean, please let me know and I'll edit a link in here, Kinja search failed me).

I think experiences like Journey show us, without fail, that games and interactive experiences are art. The ability to evoke emotions, spark debate over interpretation, impress some and fail to move others show us all the range of human experiences that other art forms give us. I think we just need to move forward and start some more definitive classifications for video games and interactive experiences.

After Journey I started to dabble with Dragon's Dogma on PS3. Since I've been really sick and haven't been able to really get my head in to it yet. I'm not super impressed so far, but that's generally my take with most RPGs when I first start them. It is always a slow burn for me and RPGs. I dislike the Pawn system and the inventory/equipment menus seem poorly designed. However the dungeon design and creature design seems very cool up to this point. I regret picking a magic user as I think I would have had more fun being more active in the combat, but maybe that will change later.

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The game would have done well on PC with some nicer textures, but I think the missed opportunity here was the lack of any co-op. Had this game been 4-player co-op it would have sold extremely well.

I'll stick with it for now, I can't judge games when I am high on cold medicine and barely able to concentrate on them. Maybe it will grow on me. I did play all of Two Worlds and enjoyed it, which this game reminds me a lot of, and loads of people thought Two Worlds was a real stinker.

So, hopefully more Dragon's Dogma for me this weekend. I hope this weekend will let me decide whether to stick with it or not. Life is too short for bad games.

So, what are you playing this weekend?