So here’s a curiosity…
Four years ago, thatgamecompany would unleash Journey onto the world, a short and endearing adventure game that quickly became Game of the Year for its simple but interesting gameplay and emotional story. Though the game itself is great (I’ve beaten it several times now and played it on YouTube with a friend), probably the most notable aspect of the game was the score, lead by Austin Wintory, which helped frame the games narrative and made every scene compelling and heartfelt.
Wintory’s career has been successful since the game, and now after a few years of the game enjoying its popularity, he’s come back to the project to breath some new life into the experience. A Kickstarter was hosted last month by the Fifth House Ensemble in Chicago, which almost immediately found funding. Their idea is fairly simple.
To bring Journey to the stage.
Okay, already that’s pretty cool. When I heard that, my first thought was something akin to The Lion King Broadway musical. Actors dressed with reds and whites with magical scarves, flying around the stage on wires. Very little dialogue, maybe even no dialogue, with just the music to lead you through was was happening, like a ballet. The backdrop to the stage has the mountain ever present in the distance as the lights change and shift with each scene, lots of scarves and fabric for the shifting sand, and some animatronics for the big machines that try to take your magic someone make this.
Much to my dismay, that isn’t exactly what the ensemble has in mind (despite how brilliant that ideas is, seriously). What they do have planned, however, is still something of note. People would buy tickets for a stage performance, where the Ensemble would accompany the game live in front of an audience. Someone would be playing the game on a very large screen as the ensemble played along in time with what was happening.
Silence your first thought. The one that says, “Wow, that actually sounds kinda dumb.” That’s what I thought, especially since it wasn’t like what I had already imagined. But after giving it some thought and imagining what it might actually be like, I had to give it some pause. There’s never been anything like this, and it makes sense. The two mediums don’t seem to play nice together, i.e. games and theater. How could they?
A lot of stage productions tend to go for about four hours at a stretch, sometimes more depending on the material. Journey clocks in at just a little over four hours depending on how well you know the game and how much you need to explore to figure out what the game wants you to do. The game has an incredible soundtrack and already functions a lot like a ballet, with the music doing a lot of the story telling and mood-setting. You rely on the music to understand how you should feel as the player. Now, the music in the game is really good depending on the hardware you play on.
Now imagine that same experience live…
Did you just get chills? It’s okay, you can admit it to me.
There isn’t really another game that you could do this with, at least right now. Imagine being in an audience, having never seen the game before and experiencing it for the first time in this way, rather than playing it. We already know people will pay to watch other people play video games, MLG is proof of that. Now imagine making a game with that setting in mind. Making a game to be played live with accompaniment. What bounds will be broken? What new games will come from this new format? Is this the beginning of video games as high art?
I certainly hope so.
P.S. As an addendum, Sam was reading this for me and happened to mention that I should include my playthrough of Journey that me and a friend did for Fytstyx_Gaming on YouTube. You can see the whole playthrough here. Like and Subscribe. Shameless plug. Completely shameless.