Nitpick: Uplifting atmosphere
What I normally do every week on Nitpick is to find an aspect of a game and try to make the point that it drives me crazy and exactly why. However, to change it up I want to do the exact opposite this week by talking about one thing that’s quintessential when driving an entertainment experience: atmosphere. This important aspect of the game is what drives us to have various emotional experiences, whether it be positive or bad. It’s hard to believe that one aspect of a game can leave a powerful impression on us but unsurprisingly, atmosphere’s aim is more than that. It’s also created for the sake of thought making us question why exactly does the game feel the way it does. Tautological phrases aside, I want to talk about two very specific games in which atmosphere doesn’t just play a small role in the making of a video game but something much larger.
Journey is an incredible game with unparalleled atmosphere. The emotions that are evoked as you traverse across the various environments as well as setting the tone and mood in combination with gameplay can be described as brilliance. However, what sets Journey apart from other games that use the same tactics? The simple nature of the game makes it easier for the player to notice the game’s environments. The lack of objects in the world allows for the player’s eyes to ease themselves into the world and notice the smallest of details.
Take for instance the color of the desert area. It’s brown and reddish color stands out immediately immediately because there is nothing complicated distracting your eyes. The player contrasts the color the sky with the broken ruins and the color of the sand. They all meld extremely well setting a consistent color tone for the area while maintaining a distinguished personality. It’s cleverly implemented and the way the atmosphere deploys itself we get that feeling as if the sun is setting. Hope isn’t completely lost but the ruins depict a sense of lifelessness. Put this together with the way sand travels as you tread across the desert and you have a simple atmosphere that breathes life through its simplicity.
However, why is this atmosphere so important in Journey? We know that it’s presented exceptionally well and executed brilliantly but there has to be something beyond it. The beautifully crafted world evokes an emotion that is beyond complete understanding, one that incites us to think heavily about why the game is designed such a way. Journey’s atmosphere just happens to be one of those thought-provoking elements in a game easily guiding the player to wonder, “What exactly was the reason and purpose behind its design?”