by Jeremy Rogers Video games are a unique medium; the physical act of using a controller creates an instant connection between the player and the player’s digital character. Because of this ability to connect players to their characters, there are many opportunities for immersion and collaboration between different players. Taking advantage of these opportunities is a part of the design philosophy that went into crafting the 2012 game Journey. [embed]https://youtu.be/vwDlyQ-fL6s[/embed] In the game, the player controls a lone figure as they travel through various biomes. There is no dialogue, and the game’s mechanics focus on 3D platforming. Despite having a relatively short runtime of 90 minutes, Journey released to rave reviews, being hailed by many gaming outlets as their 2012 Game of the Year. The people at ThatGameCompany decided that, when making Journey, they would focus on making the emotional center of the game about making connections with other players by letting one player appear in the game of another online. No chat or emote functions. Just two travelers walking in tandem yet each cultivating their own unique experience. The president and creative director of ThatGameCompany described the game in an interview with Geoff Keighley saying, “Journey: It’s about people connecting with each other.” That is not where Journey’s impact has stopped. The game’s composer, Austin Wintory and the Chicago-based chamber music ensemble Fifth House Ensemble are touring different venues and playing the score of the game in front of live audiences. But unlike ensembles that play film scores live, Wintory and Fifth House Ensemble play with a live player on the stage playing the game with them. And on January 25, they invited six Ball State students to volunteer to play Journey with them on the Emens Auditorium stage. Ball State is the latest stop on a live tour that began at MAGFest in Minnesota, making stops along the way at The Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, Florida Atlantic University, The nonprofit National Sawdust venue in New York City, and several others. One of the student volunteers, Matt Stark, described their experience playing on stage. “I expected it to feel less interactive than playing at home, but it was surprisingly more immersive... I got chills more than once when something cool happened in-game and the music responded to it right on cue. The music lined up perfectly with the action, and it felt like I had a part in the ensemble in some minor way.“ Through this performance, the volunteers were not the only people making new connections. After the game was completed, Austin Wintory took to the stage to answer questions from the audience. One attendee approached the mic and said, "You are my inspiration. In 2012… my dad passed away… When I picked up the game and I started playing through it, the music… it was just so, so captivating. It was a big part of my life... Tonight was just absolutely fantastic. I cannot thank you enough." Wintory replied, "I can only say thank you, except that it falls so short of how that makes me feel, because it's not even what we were trying to do. It goes beyond the actual goal of the game. So again, I just really appreciate you sharing something that personal." According to Wintory, the development team has been inundated with similar messages since the game released seven years ago. Throughout the Q&A session, he emphasized how many people have commented saying that Journey was the perfect game to accompany them through some of their lives' most arduous times. Austin Wintory hasn't just composed the score for Journey. Series like Assassin's Creed, The Banner Saga, and Leisure Suit Larry have had contributions from Wintory. He has also worked on a number of indie titles such as Tooth and Nail, Abzu, and Absolver. Wintory's work has received several awards, including the first Grammy nomination for a video game score. But aside from the awards, Wintory underscored how special Journey is to him. "This game definitely changed who I am as a person and awakened me to a totally new way of thinking... Journey will always have a very special place in my heart."
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Additional sources: Fifth House, Facebook, Twitter, ThatGameCompany, YouTube, Austin Wintory Journey LIVE: Conducted by Austin Wintory Performed by Fifth House Ensemble Video: Directed by: Jeremy Rogers Camera: Jeremy Rogers Edited by: Emily Reuben Photography: Kyle Crawford