Joystiq Top 10 of 2012: Journey

Watchmen, the monumental graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, was once deemed "unfilmable." So entrenched were the creators in the structure and language of their chosen medium, that no interpretation, even if faithful to the plot and characters, could truly convey as intended this study of duplicitous, damaged superheroes.

One of my favorite novels, "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski, belongs best in a book, which you flutter through, turn upside down and decode in mad layers. The core of it, however, is a spooky, spatially suspect house. Hollywood can probably handle that – and I'd go see the results – but it wouldn't be the same without the scribbled anecdotes, the cover and the spine.

Journey is an unfilmable video game, despite being rooted in a concept that's miraculously relatable and explainable (for a game). A slender being, draped in beautiful and unfettered fabrics, is drawn to a mountain. The beacon beckons not with words, but a language enmeshed with the world itself. Some designers show they care by putting a dot on your screen; others make you a mountain.

And that's it, really. You move from Point A to Point B, which sounds quite filmable, especially in cases where B = Vegas. The difference is in the texture, felt on the radiant sand dunes and stubborn snow you cross along the way, sometimes alone and sometimes with a stranger heading in the same direction. There are moments of calm observation, of downhill frivolity, and a few scary bits that halted my breathing.

I could accuse developer thatgamecompany of obvious manipulation, warping the environment and the very light to instill emotions within me, but isn't that the point? To master the language of the medium, to be evocative and to make us walk a steep path and then let us savor the views from its peak? In Journey, world building, writing, and design feel like they're the same thing.

Though I wouldn't go as far as calling Journey the ultimate video game representative (it's not really the kind of clockwork thing with systems and rules that you endeavor to exploit), I believe it's a genuinely joyous illustration of how games can effectively stir and converse with players. Taking its quiet methods to heart, I'm starting to wonder if the best rhetoric built around Journey uses as few words as possible. Gonna shut up now and wait for you to play it again.

Joystiq has chosen its 10 favorite games of 2012. Keep reading for more top selections and every writer's personal picks in Best of the Rest roundups. The list:
  1. Journey
  2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  3. The Walking Dead
  4. Fez
  5. Super Hexagon
  6. Dishonored
  7. Halo 4
  8. Mark of the Ninja
  9. Mass Effect 3
  10. ZombiU

This article was originally published on Joystiq.