ThatGameCompany who brought the world such varied experiences as Flow and Flower. If you ever plan to play this game then please stop reading, refrain from seeing or hearing any more on it, as the more that surprises you about this game the stronger the experience is.
Whats new about Journey is not the methods by which it leads the player along its path but the way it evokes feelings whilst doing so, one reviewer commented on the elements inspired by other games, and there is evidence of drawing from other game's strengths. The iconic landscapes of Shadow of the Colossus strewn with crumbling viaducts and bridges features in one section, while the constant goal of the lit peak on the horizon is quite reminiscent of the ever present singularity tower in Half Life 2: Ep.2, always reminding the player of the importance of certain narrative points.
In the online gaming community of sports, shooters, and MMOs: identity is paramount. You must connect to your avatar because then you will invest time into developing your character's skills and appearance in order to differentiate yourself from you team mates or competitors. This culture of individualism would have destroyed the experience Journey aims for as it is very important you don't have this separation of identity when you meet a companion. For your companions are in fact other pilgrims, on other consoles, travelling with you through bandwidth, and sand.
Yet for all this common ground between players it is still essential that players are strangers to begin with. As strangers the evolution of your acquaintance with each other parallels the evolution of the journey you take together, you discover a new place whilst simultaneously discovering a new person. Another of the game's metaphorical systems of play is the attainment of scraps of cloth to add to your scarf. Mechanically this allows the player to spend longer in the air as they expend the magic symbols inscribed along the length of their scarf. It also gives the player a sense of history, like each scrap is a memory collected and stored, and who has the most memories? The well traveled, the experienced: the elderly.
There are other anecdotes of abandonment, euphoria, and relief at not being alone at the end. And this is only one person's experiences with a game that offers such an emotional range I imagine there are thousands of emergent stories being told by players, all variants on the template which ThatGameCompany created. Journey is just one of those very rare games that manifests its vision so completely, so elegantly.
"This move (to abstraction) underscores ThatGameCompany's sophistication: in a medium where interpretation is scorned as indulgent and pretentious, Journey gives no ground: the player must bring something to the table." (Bogost, 2012).
After its all over you are presented with a screen of PSN ID's, the online identities that you spent your journey with. So if you did value your time with you fellow traveler, maybe you actually did find a like minded person who you now have the opportunity to contact, now you have the opportunity to extend that relationship beyond the boundaries of Journey. But the screen fades before too long and I got into the digital equivalent of that situation where you lost the contact details of someone you met on holiday, so if my companion debellatoro1 (or similar, because that PSN ID didn't work) ever reads this, send Olninyo a message.
IGN's behind the scenes interview with Jenova Chen
Ian Bogost's retrospective on ThatGameCompany's game's and their progression from the theory of flow to Journey.
A behind the scene documentary with the designers talking on the game and what it means to them.