inspiring thoughts about online communication.
Like pretty much everyone else who played it, I was pretty impressed by Journey. Beautiful, triumphant, masterful; I agree with it all. For me, the challenge is honing those emotional impressions into lessons I can learn from.
I decided to take a closer look at why I felt so optimistic after playing the game. A big reason was because I felt like all the people I met were having a similarly upbeat experience. Think about that for a second: random, public multiplayer interactions as positive experiences? That's a rare thing.
So how did thatgamecompany pull this off? I argue they did it by distilling communication and then letting me unwittingly fill in the gaps with my biases. Without voices, character customization, or mechanically-detrimental multiplayer actions, it's nearly impossible to act like a jerk towards another player. When you can't yell at or hamper another player, the worst you can really do is ignore them, a decidedly neutral action. In the vacuum of explicit communication, I was free to project my predispositions on others. Since I wanted to believe everyone was having a good time, experimenting with the game, and generally being polite, that's all I saw. The limited nature of the communication made me feel closer to my multiplayer friends.
There's actually a somewhat disturbing implication here: is Journey just a big confirmation bias experiment? Was I really connecting with those other people, or was I projecting only what I wanted to see and then agreeing with the things I wanted to believe while ignoring any other behaviors. If the key to making a pleasant random multiplayer experience is limiting expression, are we really ever going to get to know other people. Sometimes, communication is simply ugly.
These are all questions for another day. For now, I just want to enjoy the opportunity to see the best in my fellow gamer.