Having been out of town a lot over the past month, I arrived home from all my travels and did something I thought I would never do: I bought a Playstation 3. Nearly every bone in my “son-of-an-accounting-major” body was screaming that this was an absurd idea. “This product is at the end of its development cycle! You could save this money for the next generation! Your kids will never go to college because of your financial malfeasance!” These are the kinds of inner-thoughts with which I had to contend. Fortunately, I was able to quell these fears when an offer popped up on Craigslist for a used PS3 for $150.
My motivation was simple, while visiting with family over the 4th of July, I watched my brother playing Journey on his Playstation. Journey has already received a lot of critical acclaim, and while I share this enthusiasm, I see more in Journey than a beautiful game artfully rendered. Journey has more to say about the value of humanity than many lengthy books or essays ever manage to communicate. At the same time, its genre presents certain challenges in effectively communicating that message.
When my brother began playing the game, my dad snidely asked, “Who are you supposed to shoot?” Now, my dad cut his video game teeth with my brother and I on Goldeneye 007–we had great times blasting away at each other, but he hasn’t played much other than WiiSports since we all moved out of the house. I think the notion that video games are essentially conflict based still holds sway in his perceptions of the medium, and while his question was asked in jest, a grain of truth was buried inside.
Ultimately, the message of shooters is essentially one of individualism–you can kill all the bad guys. But Journey is different; as floating monsters soar overhead, blasting any who dare to venture from underneath their hiding places, you begin to see that cooperation is the key to surviving the harsh landscape.
Is it possible that a video game can speak to our spiritual lives? Running through many strands of Christian thought is an idea known as common grace. I’m no theologian, but as I understand it common grace refers to the fact that God’s presence and grace are seen throughout the world, in all kinds of human endeavours, regardless of whether the particular humans involved profess the Christian faith. In my case, Journey suggests the famous verses from Ecclesiastes: “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
The ever lengthening scarves that don each character in Journey suggest the intertwining cords of human community, an image of the heights we can achieve when working together. Might we who find the value of Journey something worth sharing also urge our friends and family to attempt the experience? While Journey‘s wonderful imagery draws us into a feeling of human connection, perhaps its most significant impact is in entreating us to share this message with others.