Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mysticism in the Media: Journey, Part 2

Since I published my first analysis of Journey last May, I have played the game several more times. Through these playthroughs I have discovered that Journey is a near-endless well of insights. This, as well as the fact that today is the one-year anniversary of the game's release, leads me to make a few more analytical observations in this post, focusing mainly on the game's mechanics.

Journey concerns exactly what its title suggests: the trips, treks, and voyages which constitute our lives, all involving struggle and transformation in pursuit of a goal. The Mountain is designed to represent that goal, the endpoint at the conclusion of any such personal journey. However, at least for me, the most poignant interpretation of the Mountain is God, his grace, or heaven. In fact, I have found that the various mechanics and elements of the game parallel almost exactly what this specific "journey" is like. Take the "scarf" for instance. In my quest for God, I find that the more I strive to be godly, the happier and more free I become, almost as if I were no longer constrained by the gravity of the natural man. Much like this, the longer the scarf is, the farther you can "fly", metaphorically meaning that you can reach higher places and cross larger gaps. To further the similarity, just as a righteous person needs regular exposure to godly things (such as scriptures or prayer) in order to exercise their freedom, a long-scarfed player needs to regularly "recharge" from the floating red-and-gold cloth encountered throughout the game. 

However, this scarf-lengthening spiritual buildup is far from a one-way process. We will inevitably be led into the temptation that pervades the world, and we will all fall to it at one time or another. In Journey, this principle is represented by the flying stone creatures.

Though we have built up our "scarves" as a result of endless righteous pursuit, it can be instantly torn off when we succumb to the wiles of the adversary. Such spiritual amputation is not easy to repair - it requires the long process of rebuilding your scarf, or in other words, repentance. However, even though these scarf-shortenings can and do happen, it is far from the end. You see, in Journey, you cannot "die"; no matter how far you fall, or how short your "scarf" becomes, you can always proceed in your trek to the divine mountain.

The final scenes of the game reflect yet another spiritual principle. Specifically, I refer to the Gospel's insistence that if we try and inevitably fail to reach God by our own tremendous efforts, God will make up the difference. This idea is called grace, and it is the central climactic theme of the game. When the Journeyer and his companion trudge through the snow, they use every fiber of their being to reach their mountain goal. However, despite their gargantuan effort, they ultimately fail: the Mountain fades from view, and one seems to give up hope. But the brilliance of this part of this game is that it is not the end. This beautiful scene depicts a being who has tried as hard as they can, and though they fail, is elevated by the grace of the divine power which helped them from the very beginning - illustrating magnificently the principle that "we are saved after all that we can do". 

After this resurrection, both symbolic and literal, the game uses this spiritual symbol even more. When we are filled with the grace of God, or with the Spirit, it suddenly becomes natural to live righteously and avoid sin. Things that would be infinitely hard without it become suddenly easy, and what took great effort suddenly become effortless. And what is the Journeyer's dance through the clouds if not effortless? Due to its new, extremely long scarf (and all the connotations that entails) it is able to traverse extremely large gaps, something inconceivable in earlier parts of the game. But the final "chasm", the one ending in the Mountain peak itself, is the most illustrative. When he lives that final archway, he become filled with "light". What cloth had infused in him temporarily all along his journey is now present in him in its fullness, allowing him to soar to his divine goal without pain or even effort. 

As the Journeyer settles on the Mountaintop and walks into the light, you cannot help but feel the godly relief that comes from the Spirit, of a being that has suffered through endless struggles, and finally rests in God.

1 comment:

  1. Such a beautiful game. I hope to show this to my family one day.