Buddhism and video games, a workable combination? I think most would scratch their heads being told such a thing. But yet thatgamecompany’s Journey (2012) not only makes the combination work, but makes it work in such a fashion as to create one of gaming’s most powerfully unique experiences. Despite the relative centuries (in video game terms) that have passed since its release, Journey is a game that transcends time, much like the ideology of Buddhism.
When I say Buddhism, it must be taken more in the abstract than literal. Nowhere in Journey are there laughing Buddhas, wooden fish, monks, or any other item or icon commonly associated with the religion. There are temples and ruins, scrolls and robes, but none of it can be directly tied to any Earthly incarnation of the religion. Buddhism the philosophy is, in fact, the stronger inspiration. From the tranquility of traversing gorgeous desert to Himalayan-esque mountains, the struggles instilled through gameplay to the open/closed mechanisms driving the game, the player finishes the game as contemplative as satisfied. The title appropriate, navigating the 3D platform puzzles, free-falling through the air, sliding along the desert sands of a crumbling kingdom, working your way through a giant machine, facing stiff mountain winds as you climb, and then understanding the cyclical logic behind it all puts the player in a reflective mood that transcends the game, which, is something very, very few games can claim.