A PlayStation 3 game, Journey is an anonymous online adventure that allows the player to experience a person’s life passage and their intersections with others. The player controls a robed figure who wakes alone in a vast desert and journeys towards a distant mountain, through rolling sand dunes, age-old ruins, caves and howling winds. The experience is discovering who and where you are and what your purpose is. Other un-named players are discovered on the same journey who can assist but not communicate via speech or text – only through wordless singing which creates magic powers affecting the game world and allowing the player to fly. The music, composed by Austin Wintory, responds to the player's actions.
The game evokes a sense of smallness and wonder and creates an emotional connection between anonymous players. It has been called ‘beautiful and haunting’ ( Wired) and ‘absolutely gorgeous’ (gaming magazine The Escapist) with the Guardian saying, ‘it manages more meaningful communication with one button than most can with endless text and voice.’ Journey is the last game made under a three-game contract between thatgamecompany and Sony, the first two being Flow and Flower.
Jenova Chen, President & Creative Director, thatgamecompany, comments, “I really like the goal of GameCity, to get people to notice games and talk about games, particularly for people who don't encounter many video games in their daily life. Thatgamecompany has always focused on making games for everyone, so it's nice to see GameCity recognize our game and give us an award. In the end, we believe that games are a mature media that deserve to be enjoyed and loved by everyone, by people. Thank you very much for this prize."
The judges of the prize, each one acclaimed within their own fields, include Lucy Kellaway, columnist with the Financial Times; comic artist and writer, David Gibbons; UK designer Wayne Hemingway; award winning journalist and BBC broadcaster Samira Ahmed; writer and broadcaster Ekow Eshun; the actress Louise Brealey; author, actor and comedian, Charlie Higson and BBC Radio DJ and television presenter, Jo Whiley.
The Chair of judges, film maker Lord Puttnam, comments, "Journey was a unanimous choice for the GameCity Prize 2012, many of the jurors were un-experienced in playing videogames and it confounded their expectations of what videogames were. Of all the shortlisted titles, Journey presents the player with an especially coherent vision, simultaneously fantastic and familiar.
“All of the Jury commented on the art direction in particular, the extraordinary sense of size and scale it portrayed. Whilst it was a short game, it was in no way small. It's a focused, detailed piece of work - challenging you to measure it in terms other than just the length of gameplay. One of the jury commented that it was like a favourite place, a walk in the country, that she would love to go back and revisit. In particular, Journey was a videogame that had been created by artists immersed in a broad culture. Both obviously a game, but challenging of what a game could be - it displayed an extraordinary level of care and attention.
“Whilst Journey was a clear winner, the jury also want to commend Fez. It explored, iterated and carefully mined a single idea - showing us new dimensions in it - but never descending into bland repetition. An extraordinary work of invention, whilst never losing sight of the fact that it was first and foremost a videogame."
Journey was selected from a shortlist of seven games including Catherine (Atlus Persona Games), Fez (Polytron), Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik), Mass Effect 3 (Bioware), Proteus (Ed Key and David Kanaga) and Super Mario 3D Land(Nintendo EAD).
The GameCity Prize was launched last year to explore and celebrate the very best in interactive entertainment and drive understanding and appreciation of videogames within a wider cultural context. GameCity Director Iain Simons comments, “ We're really excited to be bringing the conversation about videogames to an ever wider audience. The short-list this year was a diverse mix of brilliant titles which pushed at the boundaries of what videogames are and can be.”
The shortlist was selected by an anonymous, international and gender-neutral academy of videogame experts, drawn from within and outside the industry.
GameCity, now in its seventh year, is a free festival powered by Nottingham Trent University, for everyone from dedicated gamers to the culturally curious providing a platform for world class developers to share their creativity and interact with the public, showcasing the most exciting new work in the world and highlighting their culture significance, resulting in a unique celebration of videogames.
Minecraft won the inaugural GameCity Prize in 2011.