A Digital Life, Death and Afterlife in 90 Minutes

Journey (video game)A figure with eyes as white as snow stares forward. It is clad in a flowing burgundy robe and gold flecked scarf. What’s on its mind?

A second figure, jumping with joy, pops into view. This second figure, an identical companion, stares at the clone with an empty gaze. A strange character – from an unknown language – emanates from both of their faces and appears above their heads.

The chit-chat is short: the second figures disappears as if some being had reached down from the heavens and removed it. The strange characters now fade into the ether. There’s nothing left to say. One robed figured stands tall and alone as wind whirls through the desert sands.

Suddenly, the sole robe jumps up and sails through the air without any cares. Its long, luxurious scarf seems to have a mind of its own as it ripples in the wind. The robed figure lands gently without disturbing a single grain of desert sand. A moonlit glade would envy the serene setting.

Then, a giant shark-like creature swims through the air and charges, like a bull after seeing a red flag, toward the robed figure. The robed figure tip toes to a small structure to hide. It’s too late. The bell tolls for thee.

The shark creature flips the robe into the air like a flimsy Kleenex. The robed figure flies backward and crashes in the desert with a bang. It doesn’t have a scratch. Instead, the scarf became shorter and glimmers with less gold.

The robed figure gets back up and walks forward with resolute boldness. If the figure had arms, it might also dust the sand off its shoulder.

Meanwhile, another friend pops into view. The two companions trudge through snow and sleet toward a mysterious mountain peak. The fun seems to stop when you and your friend freeze along the way.

This is Journey.

If you play games, at least most shooters, you know death is non-existent. You just restart a checkpoint. In these games, your heart pounds and you have little time to think about what happened. How can you reflect on death and afterlife when you mow down bad guys with buckets full of ammo?

Journey, though, offers you a chance to reflect on life and death. Then it will take you, if you’re open to it, on a trip to explore some big questions.

So the game resurrects both characters. One robed figure peers up and sees a series of towering creatures in snow white robes.

A door opens to a new world. All of a sudden, a blue sky splashes across the screen and the music is beautiful.

I saw this blue sky as a spiritual moment. The two figures are back from the dead. Now, their bodies still rotted on the mountain side, but their souls soared through the air to finish the journey.

The figures wear the same robes, yet something has changed. They can now soar to new heights in the limitless blue sky.

The figures touch down on the mountain and the light from a crevice beckons them closer. They inch forward like worms until the light swallows them. The brightness is all that remains.

This game suggests the afterlife is a place where souls are separate from physical bodies. After dying on the mountain, the robed figures’ souls are free to try to reach the light. They do. Then they get a chance to reflect on their life as they revisit everywhere they’ve been. After that, the cycle continues.

But you still have to wonder what lies in that crevice full of light. Does something lie in wait to embrace the robed figures?

Some might say the game is only about death. The only thing the light offers, they might say, is an eternal void. I, however, like to think there’s something beyond that crevice.

For me, Journey deals with the profound, with body and spirit, and the afterlife. The game does it all without uttering a single word. The game does it all without bloodshed.

A breath of fresh desert air.

 

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