Why You Cried While Playing Journey

Why You Cried While Playing Journey

People have a hard time talking on the internet about crying. Crying is a vulnerable enough act on its own that taking the time to write about it just seems over the top! When we talk about games like Journey, we usually talk about how “the room got dusty”, or we “got something in our eye”.

Edge Magazine editor Jason Killingsworth has a theory as to why Journey has kicked up so much dust in so many rooms over the last few weeks — it’s the jumping.

The jumping is where Journey breaks your heart. The jumping is why many players cried, even if they couldn’t pinpoint the cause. The jumping is the tiny, insignificant-looking wingnut holding Journey together, without which it would collapse into a heap of exquisitely airbrushed scrap metal. It’s not Thatgamecompany’s token nod to classic video game interactions, settled on after staring blankly at an empty white board for two hours, unable to come up with anything more engaging to have players do. It’s not just a tool for poking around its stunning vistas and drinking in the sights.

Killingsworth says that he initially didn’t understand people’s desire to play Journey for a third, fourth, or fifth time. But now that he’s thought about the jumping, he gets it — it’s about weightlessness, it’s about the incredible, near-perfect feeling of jumping in the game. “Jumping affects the emotional tenor of gameplay in the same way a well-timed key change does a pop song.”

Crucially, it’s not about flying — it’s about jumping. “We don’t want to KO gravity; we simply enjoy head-butting it in the nose repeatedly,” Killingsworth writes, citing other not-quite-flight abilities in Just Cause 2 (yes!) and Batman: Arkham City.

I like flight as much as the next guy, but I think Killingsworth is on to something here. Without the gravity, the jump means less. And my fondest memories of Journey involve sliding down the sand with the sun in my eyes, shooting up the edge of a ramp, and jumping, jumping, jumping.

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  • I think the string orchestra combined with that final elated feeling of accomplishment against death in the end scene was the real emotion spurrer.

  • I didn’t cry while playing Journey. Nor did I bother to play it more than once. OK game, hugely overrated. Stop going on about it, already. Over it.

    • I did cry. It was the best game experience I’ve had all year, just slightly above Portal 2.

      I loved Half Life 2 as well, yet I often hear people say “Half Life 2 was hugely overrated, pretty meh game”, I think they’re crazy, but everybody experiences these things differently. Perhaps you weren’t in the right frame of mind to enjoy it (wrong expectations etc) or it just wasn’t the type of game that you enjoy, but either way you missed out on a deeply moving experience in my opinion. Clearly other people did enjoy it, a lot, so perhaps you could just let them without telling them they’re wrong. It’s games like Journey that renew my faith that games as a medium are progressing and are capable of some amazing things. I think in the future, many important developers will quote Journey as being inspirational in elements of their design and direction.

      I’d agree with Nomet though – the music was a huge part of what made the game emotional, combined with the narrative and the co-op interaction. The jumping was fun, but I don’t think that was an emotional string in any meaningful way.

      • I think I was in the wrong frame of mind; probably due to high expectations. The only time I felt emotion was the frustration I felt towards the other travellers I met on the way.

        I appreciated the music, and many of the vistas, but I was never moved by them. By comparison, I tear up every time I hear the opening theme/Terra’s theme for FF6.

  • I honestly don’t see how jumping in a game could even make my eyes watery in the slightest…

    The only time I ever remember crying because of a game was during Planescape: Torment’s “sensory-stone of longing” scene. Oh God that was a powerful scene, the most emotional moment of my gaming life. I’m not ashamed to say I cried like a baby, and that’s really accomplishing something since I usually don’t feel any kind of emotion from video games at all.

  • I am in absolute love with Journey, as well as flOw and Flower. I cried once during the first playthrough during the struggle in the blizzard. It’s especially heartwrenching if you get another player to brave it with you. You’re both trying to keep eachother warm, but the intense winds simply throw you around, disintegrating your scarf. You’re call gets quieter and quieter and your movements become labored and sluggish. You can sense that they still have hope, but their bodies can’t keep up, and they collapse into the quiet snow.


  • The soundtrack is what got to me the most and how the Apotheosis plays dynamically as we reach the end, and the feeling of being in some sort of pilgrimage combined. It was a very powerful feeling to get to the end. I definitely got the collector’s edition and I am enjoying the soundtrack.

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