news\ Mar 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Journey meant to be a vehicle for friendship

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When thatgamecompany designer Chris Bell joined the creative team of Journey halfway through the development process, he sought the answer to an interesting problem: how to bring people together when they're interacting over the Internet, without any vocal or visual communication to assist them.

"What I'm interested in personally is that spontaneous bond between strangers," he said. His tactic when approaching Journey was to "get people to empathize before their prejudices allow them to draw lines between each other."

He recounted a time when he was sixteen-years-old and playing the Final Fantasy XI MMO with another player online, who was Japanese. Despite the game's limitations on interaction, Bell was able to convey his gratitude for the other player's help through in-game motions. "As a player, I felt alienated, unwanted, disconnected. Because that was my experience," he said. "A single rule can pollute an entire system."

Bell expressed his desire to recreate that same experience for gamers today. Journey presents its own restrictive set of methods for communicating with other players, and the designer hopes they make the story more memorable: "Because you engage in these experiences with another player," he said, "there's the potential to go through a wide range of emotions with them. ... Personally, I prefer that players communicate through non-verbal actions."

The Journey designer related the video games medium to one of "play, a language that reaches across cultures," believing there is worth in teaching players the value of connection.

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