Over the past decade video games have become more and more respected in mainstream media.  This is, in part, due to the fact that games have increasingly begun to showcase themselves as viable art forms and not just mindless entertainment.  Developers prove time and time again that the stories they tell and the emotions they evoke deserve to be judged right alongside some of the greatest movies and novels of the day.  No other game better exemplifies this than Journey.

March 15th marks the five year anniversary since That Game Company released their masterpiece to the world, and in that short period of time Journey has touched the hearts and minds of millions.  By telling a compelling story of loss and discovery without the use of any dialogue, players were left to make sense of the story in their own unique way.  This created a community of gamers that bonded over the emotionally compelling story that Journey told, and garnered massive praise from critics across the board.  Specific moments such as surfing through sand-filled tunnels, evading giant mechanical snakes, or that unforgettable ending, are ingrained in the hearts and minds of everyone who played it.  It’s these moments that made Journey stand out among the other indie games of 2012, and gave it a certain charm and uniqueness.

One of the biggest reasons why Journey was so enjoyable came from the fact that the game is quite easy to play.  Given That Game Company’s track record, it came as little surprise that the follow-up to Flower would be another relaxing adventure.  However, what set Journey apart from its predecessors was its setting and character.  Uncovering the mystery of the silent protagonist and traversing the vast dunes and cavernous ruins of Journey’s nameless world is an awe-inspiring experience not soon forgotten.  Furthermore, the game’s seamless multiplayer elements and light puzzle solving meant that players never had to journey alone, and could break up the monotony by scaling buildings, collecting pieces of cloth to add to their cloak, and finding long-buried tapestries hidden in lost cities.

While Journey won multiple Game of the Year awards from sites across the web, its most impressive feat by far was furthering the respect that indie games have in the mainstream scene.  Journey proved that games didn’t need to be extravagant or grandiose to be amazing, but rather touch the hearts and minds of the player in a way they haven’t seen before.  It goes without saying that Journey is a short and easy gameplay experience, and can be completed in less than four hours.  However, it’s the story that’s told, and the emotions evoked, in those four hours that matter.   The indie game genre was forever changed by the release of Journey, as it proved that even first-party games can offer small, enjoyable experiences that captivate their audiences.

Journey is a prime example of video games representing an art form.  Through minimalistic style and a compelling and rewarding story, this simple gaming experience captivated the hearts of gamers across the world, and opened the door for countless other indie titles looking to gain recognition.  Even after five years, Journey still stands as a masterclass in both game development and storytelling, and deserves more praise than can be given.

Carston is a freelance writer hailing from the always humid Sunshine State. He enjoys RPGs, grand strategy games, 80’s New Wave and post-punk, and anything PlayStation related. If Game of Thrones, Mass Effect, or Chinese food are your thing, find him on Twitter @RolandDucant.

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