When a video game mirrors the struggle of a young girl and her dying father, she thanks the creators in a beautiful, unexpected way.
Turn right. Turn left. Cross that bridge. Dodge the monster.
These commands may not always seem real or normal–and to some, they may even seem foreign. To some, these might sound like what they’re intended to be–commands. They very well could be ones that man follows in real life, or in a place far less real–such as in a video game.
It’s said that mankind is built to endure whatever is thrown its way, but not every man, woman and child arrives at the same places of pain, struggle and resolve at the same time. Nor do they leave those places at the same time. When you think about all the twists and turns in life, however, it sort of makes sense to compare it to navigating through a video game.
By the same token, video games might not be the first thing one thinks of when talking about the bond a daughter has with her father–but that’s exactly what virtual reality created for 15-year-old Sophia Ouellette and her terminally-ill father, who both loved to play video games together.
In 2011, Ouellette’s father was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. As his diagnosis progressed, he lost the ability to live a normal life–and gaming became his only escape. Even then, it was increasingly difficult for this dad and daughter to do what they loved. So, Sophia began to search for a game that would be easy for him to play–and she stumbled upon Journey, a simulation game created by the masterminds at The Game Company in California.
It was a discovery that changed Sophia’s life and as Upworthy.com reports, also coincidentally helped her see her father’s eventual death in a new light.
In the video above, Jenova Chen, video game creator at The Game Company, talks about the inspiration behind Journey:
“Every human being has one full start. Every human is one full creation. So when [we] made Journey, we just wanted it to be a game actually about people. Journey is about an emotional connection between people, and it’s about a simulation of life.”
Sophia then describes her initial experiences playing video games, and her personal connection with Journey:
“When I first started [playing] as a child, I didn’t quite understand the potential for these games to have such an impact on people. My dad has always been a huge gamer. He would play games all the time with the whole family, invite everyone to join in. Just him playing those games and sharing the stories of the characters within the games, it really got me interested in them” I think after playing Journey, I realized that there was potential for art to be created in [the video game] industry.”
The notion of art and video games coming together to create an almost surreal experience inspired Sophia to show this particular game to her father. It would ultimately be the last game they’d play together, but as she states in the video, she recalls him having a sense of calm while playing it–because it depicts a sensual landscape, beauty and an “end game” that’s equally as beautiful.
She describes the gameplay itself as an out-of-body experience, as characters within the game pass each other without knowing who each other are. They don’t speak, but there’s a profound feeling because they’re still interacting. Sophia also mentions the landscape changes towards the end of the game and characters have to withstand howling winds and a harsh winter–reminiscent of the emotional journey of having to carry on without her father.
The game has become such a crucial piece of Sophia’s life that she wrote a letter, thanking Chen for what he had done. The creators responded and flew her to California to meet the people behind it. There, she expressed her love of art and creativity–and how this team of vibrant minds changed her life:
“In my dad’s and my own experience with Journey, it was about him–and his journey to the ultimate end. I believe we encountered the game at the most perfect time. I continue to play it, remembering the joy it brought to him. I want to thank you for the game that changed my life, the game whose beauty brings tears to my eyes.”
Society often frowns upon the “spell” it casts upon youth and humanity, but one can’t deny video games are a huge part of technology. They’re evolving at the same rate as technology. So, if a video game can bring positive social impact the way technology has been doing, do we really have the right to bash it?
Photo Credit: EricHolsinger/Flickr