thatgamecompany’s Zen Video Gaming

In 2009 I downloaded a PS3 game called Flower.  That evening I went out with the PA girls and told them that I had just spent two hours playing “the girliest game ever”, but then couldn’t stop talking about it.  By the end of the game, which I finished a few days later, I realized I had done Flower (and even the term “girly”) a disservice…yes, it is “girly”, if by girly you mean that the graphics were gorgeous, the game play relaxed and serene, and the subject matter non-violent.

The game was much more than that though…it was innovative.  In Flower (which thatgamecompany described as a poem in video game form), you are a lone petal that is traveling through a beautiful landscape.  As you float on gusts of wind, you pick up other petals, all traveling together.  Describing it here sounds strange, but when the world that you are traveling in becomes spoiled by humans  (the sky goes dark and downed power lines zap your little petal), the effect is so jarring that it’s actually genuinely upsetting.

Sports games, RPGs (role playing games) and puzzle games are all tried and true genres that are easily identifiable.  Creating and marketing unique games such as Katamari Damacy (from the always interesting Namco), Flower, and now thatgamecompany’s newest game, Journey, is surely not the easiest sell.  A great video of creative director Jenova Chen describing his game making philosophy reveals his desire to create games that explore emotions other than just primal lust, fear, etc.  With thatgamecompany’s newest game, Journey (which comes out this year), they have continued their tradition of zen-like, easy gameplay.

In this game you are an unnamed wanderer traveling through the desert, on a quest to learn about an ancient and mysterious civilization.    As you explore, the online multiplayer feature allows you to travel with strangers who are also playing the game.  There is no chat feature, so you simply wander with another person for as long as you like; you may stay with them for as long as you are both playing, or leave them whenever you see fit.

Journey has a release date of TBA 2011, argh.  It is only available on PS3 as downloadable content, so come on over and we’ll play together!  If you do have a PS3, I’ll see you in the desert.  I’ll be the one wearing brown.

Flower (and TGC’s other award-winning PS3 game, FlOw) are available now, on PS3.