Stay With Me

Posted by Tidel (360 posts) -

Early in my journey, I come across another soul wandering the dessert. He hoots at me. I hoot back. We take a few moments to share staccato hoots, and then he flits off across the sand like a breeze-caught leaf.

I follow.

From there we climb ruins, and surf down dunes, weaving in and out of each other’s path like flirting birds, like dancers, like butterflies. Journey is a simple game with few inputs, but everything executes with exquisite grace. We discover nooks with secrets. I help him; he helps me.

Journey takes directions that surprise me. And through it all, I’m not alone. At times, I feel a bit dragged, like I am being forced to match a pace I don’t want; other times, most times, I am just grateful – for the company, for the help, for the comforting hoots when things get dark.

Toward the end of the journey, I lose sight of him.

On the precipice of the last path, I pause. It doesn’t feel right to take the next step without him. In our short time together I feel bonded to him. The journey wasn’t long, but it felt… deep, and full. A lot happened, and we had seen each other through it.

He didn’t have to stick with me. He could have left at any time. I could have left, too… but then, no, I couldn’t have, because I didn’t – because I wasn’t leaving right now. I wait. I hope he’s just behind me, but the seconds stretch out. I have to pee – I’ve had to pee like crazy for the last hour of our trip together. But there was no way to tell him, ask him, so I just held it. Because he needed me… no, that’s not something I can say. I needed him. Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe I just wanted him with me. It blurs, my assumptions and his motivations, and in the end I can’t ascribe things to him that want him to be feeling – I can’t tell myself he needs me just because it’s more comfortable to say that, than admit I didn’t want to go on alone.

But here I am on the threshold of the end, and I am alone. I hoot. Once, twice. Several quick in row. We had a kind of language we developed together – short, quick bursts meant trouble or help or over here right now. And… nothing.

As I wait, the foolish feeling creeps in. Maybe he’s already gone through. Maybe I am the one left behind. It’s a cold thought. Standing like a chump waiting for a companion who has long moved on ahead, without me – every twist and trial behind him, forgotten, thanks for all your help, dude, smell ya later.

I know that feeling better than I’d like – being the fool, the one who waits because of a story he told himself about the way things were, not the plain, uncomfortable truth. I may have even been that for someone myself.

In the distance, under the background noise, I hear something distinct, and familiar. Short, quick bursts, faint but growing louder and closer: over here over here over here.

And there he is. He did not leave me. I did not leave him.

We passed through the final door as we had the first: together, hooting at each other like fools.

A stranger becomes a friend, and then is gone. That is the way of it, in life. What a wonderful thing people are, and how they can surprise you. Some things are worth risking a small piece of ego over – sometimes waiting is rewarded with the thing you wish for.

This playthrough will stay with me, like thoughts of nameless stranger I shared it with.

I will go back again. This gorgeous husk of a world, the beings of light and creatures of dark than haunt its sands and skies. Maybe I’ll see you surfing the dunes sometime. Maybe I’ll hoot hello. Or maybe I’ll just race away. I’ve had my romance in Journey, and it was lovely. But that’s the end of a story, and Journey isn’t really about ends at all.

#1 Edited by Tidel (360 posts) -

Early in my journey, I come across another soul wandering the dessert. He hoots at me. I hoot back. We take a few moments to share staccato hoots, and then he flits off across the sand like a breeze-caught leaf.

I follow.

From there we climb ruins, and surf down dunes, weaving in and out of each other’s path like flirting birds, like dancers, like butterflies. Journey is a simple game with few inputs, but everything executes with exquisite grace. We discover nooks with secrets. I help him; he helps me.

Journey takes directions that surprise me. And through it all, I’m not alone. At times, I feel a bit dragged, like I am being forced to match a pace I don’t want; other times, most times, I am just grateful – for the company, for the help, for the comforting hoots when things get dark.

Toward the end of the journey, I lose sight of him.

On the precipice of the last path, I pause. It doesn’t feel right to take the next step without him. In our short time together I feel bonded to him. The journey wasn’t long, but it felt… deep, and full. A lot happened, and we had seen each other through it.

He didn’t have to stick with me. He could have left at any time. I could have left, too… but then, no, I couldn’t have, because I didn’t – because I wasn’t leaving right now. I wait. I hope he’s just behind me, but the seconds stretch out. I have to pee – I’ve had to pee like crazy for the last hour of our trip together. But there was no way to tell him, ask him, so I just held it. Because he needed me… no, that’s not something I can say. I needed him. Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe I just wanted him with me. It blurs, my assumptions and his motivations, and in the end I can’t ascribe things to him that want him to be feeling – I can’t tell myself he needs me just because it’s more comfortable to say that, than admit I didn’t want to go on alone.

But here I am on the threshold of the end, and I am alone. I hoot. Once, twice. Several quick in row. We had a kind of language we developed together – short, quick bursts meant trouble or help or over here right now. And… nothing.

As I wait, the foolish feeling creeps in. Maybe he’s already gone through. Maybe I am the one left behind. It’s a cold thought. Standing like a chump waiting for a companion who has long moved on ahead, without me – every twist and trial behind him, forgotten, thanks for all your help, dude, smell ya later.

I know that feeling better than I’d like – being the fool, the one who waits because of a story he told himself about the way things were, not the plain, uncomfortable truth. I may have even been that for someone myself.

In the distance, under the background noise, I hear something distinct, and familiar. Short, quick bursts, faint but growing louder and closer: over here over here over here.

And there he is. He did not leave me. I did not leave him.

We passed through the final door as we had the first: together, hooting at each other like fools.

A stranger becomes a friend, and then is gone. That is the way of it, in life. What a wonderful thing people are, and how they can surprise you. Some things are worth risking a small piece of ego over – sometimes waiting is rewarded with the thing you wish for.

This playthrough will stay with me, like thoughts of nameless stranger I shared it with.

I will go back again. This gorgeous husk of a world, the beings of light and creatures of dark than haunt its sands and skies. Maybe I’ll see you surfing the dunes sometime. Maybe I’ll hoot hello. Or maybe I’ll just race away. I’ve had my romance in Journey, and it was lovely. But that’s the end of a story, and Journey isn’t really about ends at all.

#2 Posted by car3223 (1 posts) -

By chance did you play with kidjc last night?

#3 Posted by Tidel (360 posts) -

@car3223: I'm not sure. I ran to the washroom during the credits (I held out as long as I could), and when I got back I was back on the title screen. So then I went outside for a cigarette and to stare at the moon while thinking of my place in the universe at which point I maybe entertained a few manly tears.

I think it's cool they put up the names at the end (I've been told), but I also dig not knowing. Our shared moment just was what it was.

#4 Posted by TheJohn (553 posts) -

Thanks, dude. That was great.

#5 Edited by murisan (1119 posts) -

@Tidel: If you pay attention, I'm pretty sure each player gets a "unique" symbol if possible for that playthrough, and those symbols are attributed to their PSN ID at the end of the game. So, if you find yourself flying along with someone the entire game and you really like their playstyle, you can match the symbol to their ID and find a possible good gamer buddy.

Then again, half the fun is the anonymity and silent cooperation.

#6 Posted by Tidel (360 posts) -

@murisan: Last night, on my fifth playthrough, I ended up meeting one dude early on and we went through the whole game together -- both of us had journeyed more than a few times (anyone who plays more than once will likely notice what it is), and were able to show each other secrets that the other had not discovered before. It was really something. And we had this... chemistry, and a sense of play, that was unbelievable. We flew through most levels, barely touching the ground, able to get that specific rhythm of singing and flapping, staying close together to keep our scarves full... it can't match my first for the breathtaking surprise of it all, but it showed me the game has far, far more worth than just one go.

All of which to say, I waited through the credits on that one and was just about to send a friend invite when I got one from him. It was really special, and for that run, I'm glad I could reach out after it.

#7 Edited by realph (261 posts) -

@Tidel: You summed up my experience with Journey perfectly. Thank you.

#8 Posted by Tidel (360 posts) -

@realph: Cheers, duder. :)

#9 Posted by Rave (371 posts) -

Great post, I loved the game and just reading posts like this makes me sad I can't play it again for the first time.

#10 Edited by senorfuzzeh (385 posts) -

The game was amazingly emotional as it was. The game alone was pure poetry. And then I came here, and remembered my silent companion. And Honestly, I shed a tear. I've never shed a tear for a game before. Ever. And here I am. After only 2 and a half hours of being close to someone i'll never know, My eyes watered up.

I wonder if he remembers me the same way I remember him. The way I dropped back to make sure he was okay during that final push, huddling for warmth, hooting to eachother for comfort, thinking to eachother "We're gonna make it, we're gonna make it" and then he collapsed. I almost had a panic attack. I thought I lost him. But soon we were reunited, and then departed at the end of our journey.

This was an expeirence I'll never forget.

This is proof, that gaming is not dead.

EDIT: Thank you my friend to this great post. You just earned yourself a follower.

#11 Posted by Excast (1029 posts) -

I haven't played Journey, but I think that concept of telling you who you played with at the end is absolutely brilliant.  It is amazing that they have created a game with such a level of comradery that doesn't really require any teamwork at all to conquer.  It is just...there.  It seems so refreshing in an age where online gaming communication usually amounts to 15 year olds yelling racist and homophobic garbage into a microphone.

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