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Life in the Ruins

Katie Williams | 4 Oct 2011 13:00
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After exchanging a few trills and racing around each other excitedly, we set off into the desert. Sandy peaks and valleys spread before us, and a tremendous, royal-red kite dipped between the dunes, guiding us and filling us with energy. My new friend and I sprinted across the dunes together, occasionally taking to the wind. We sang to each other in varying tones, the ebb and flow of our song not too different to the sand that shifted beneath us. When one of us fell behind, the other doubled back to check that they were okay. We'd been together all of five minutes, but we were already inseparable, drawn together by the emptiness of the desert and a love of song.

I suddenly felt silly, like an annoying, yapping chihuahua.

When we came across the collapsed wreck of an old building, countless white ribbons burst from within, spiraling into the air like a dream. My nameless friend and I floated upwards on this pretty updraft, letting ourselves be carried high into the air, where we rested breathlessly in the sky and surveyed the endless spread of sand around us.

As we drew close to the base of a colossal cliff-face, I knew that I was going to spend the rest of my time in this game with this one person - for my avatar, that would be the rest of her life. I had found my Journey soulmate.

Together, we drifted towards the cliff, the screen fading to black.

When the game awoke again at the title screen instead of the next area, the sudden shock was overwhelming. The beta had ended there, as had my wordless whirlwind friendship. I would likely never see her again. If I did, I wouldn't know it; she might have continued to live in a way that would change her from the happy, trilling figure I so briefly knew. She would look just like anybody else I might encounter in these sands.

HEAD IN THE SAND

The next night, as I sat down to play again, I wondered if my friend was wondering about me. Maybe she had returned to Journey to try and find me again? Maybe more of the beta would unlock, allowing us further progress through the game? Or maybe, just maybe, we would meet again and simply float in the sky for hours, watching time slip away like sand in an hourglass.

This time, I noticed another robed figure in what looked like a massive amphitheatre through which the disintegrated remains of stone structures arched. She sat pathetically by a large, flag-like ribbon. I approached her, circled her, and chirped.

She took a while to respond, and I imagined her fumbling with her controller's buttons on her end. When she finally did, my heart sank. This was not the same, captivating friend I'd made the day before. This new person bleated the same short, graceless tune, over and over again, and didn't respond at all to the way I bounced ecstatically around her. I suddenly felt silly, like an annoying, yapping chihuahua.

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