Developed by Jenova Chen and Nick Clark of Thatgamecompany with Sony, Journey is quiet, abstract, and spiritual, yet riveting. There is no dialogue in Journey. There are action sequences, without the violence. As a player you are a robed figure, seemingly lost. You have to go somewhere, to reach mountainous heights, but you do not know how. You are called to roam and find your own path, to pick up scraps of ethereal fabric and interact peacefully with other journeying creatures, both automated and alive. Journey is multiplayer, so you will meet anonymous strangers, other players searching for what they do not know. But you cannot speak to each other—no “locker room talk” here. All you can do is be with and support each other as you traverse a landscape both barren and beautiful, an endless desert littered with civilization’s remains.
Journey shook the gaming world when it was released a decade ago, winning awards for story, directing, design, even music composition. It crystallized the spirit of a burgeoning generation of indie game developers, whose tender, artisanal works recalled the wonder of the earliest days of gaming. Journey stood out for its lush design and incredible restraint: a minimalist wonder in a maximalist age. Its serenity conjured magic in a chaotic time when social media and networked game engagement was rising exponentially. In retrospect, Journey represented what was missing from our ever more interactive media environment. In Journey we are encouraged to collaborate with anonymous strangers as opposed to shouting at them for competition or clout. We are asked to slow down, stop talking, and pay attention to history and the ecosystem around us.
In Journey our goal is better understanding of ourselves and our world. We can think of few games that deliver this pressing message with more elegance and craft.
Legacy Interactive Narrative
SONY Computer Entertainment, Santa Monica Studio Developer: THATGAMECOMPANY INC
Never Alone is an epic story of survival and cooperation, passed down orally through the generations. Based on “Kunuuksaayuka,” a traditional Alaskan Iñupiat tale, it follows a young girl, Nuna, who fights against an eternal winter storm threatening her community’s survival. For the 2014 atmospheric puzzle-platformer Never Alone, this epic journey has been adapted by writer, storyteller, and poet Ishmael Hope (Iñupiaq and Tlingit) into an artful and accessible educational game that can be played in different ways, by one or two players, and on multiple platforms, including mobile.
Players of Never Alone can co-play with a friend or parent, or can play alone and switch at any time between the two central characters, Nuna or her adorable companion Arctic fox, as they traverse across an awe-inspiring Arctic landscape, confronting physical challenges, puzzles to solve, legendary Iñupiat mythical figures, and, of course, fierce winds. Nuna and the Artic fox must work cooperatively, relying on the unique skills of each character to succeed in the quest.
Throughout the game, players encounter powerful video vignettes of interviews with 40 Iñupiat Elders who share legends, cultural practices, and traditional world-views. The vignettes, together with the gameplay, illuminate Iñupiat principles of coexistence between humans and wildlife; respect for nature, one another, and communal life; and a spiritual understanding of the land.
Importantly, the project originated with Upper One Games, a for-profit subsidiary of Cook Inlet Tribal Council established in 2012 as the first Indigenous-owned commercial game company in the United States. Upper One Games co-produced the game with E-Line Media and the two companies merged in 2014.
For co-creating an enchanting cooperative game through an Indigenous-led process and company, the first of its kind in the United States, by exquisitely translating a traditional Iñupiat story into an artful digital, interactive experience, Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa) wins a Peabody.
Legacy Interactive Narrative
Sean Vesce, Alan Gershenfeld, Gloria O’Neill
Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc. E-Line Media