Journey Creator’s Next Project Aims to Gain Wider Cultural Respect for Video Games

When Jenova Chen released Journey ten years ago, he wanted to prove to the world that video games are art. Now everyone pretty much agrees that they are.

So why, he asks, do they still not get the cultural respect they deserve?

“You go to a party and someone says, ‘What are you doing?’ If you say “I write scripts for films”… They treat you like a book author or a poet… You serve the community, but if I tell them that I work in games, in 2005 they said: “You know shooting in Columbine? Congressmen said you guys are raping children.” And from 2014 to today, people have been saying, “I heard you guys make a lot of money, right?”… That’s basically what people ask. The only other time people ask these questions is if you run a casino.


Official travel screenshots




“Now we are working on something else, because now [we’ve proven they’re] art, why do people still not respect games? I bought games like “Flower” and “Journey” from the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian, and all those modern galleries. I thought it would raise public respect for games, because how is it possible that the game is less of an art form than any other? … If proving that games can be art can’t increase respect, or how public opinion is about games, what else can I do to change that?

Chen cites the mobile market and the resulting rise in free-to-play games and what he sees as predatory monetization tactics as part of the reason games continue to struggle for cultural respect. While he himself has released several games for mobile devices and acknowledges that there are artistic mobile games, he says that the prevalence of these particular business models has dramatically increased the number of people who regularly play games, but has also damaged the overall public image of games as art.

Now we are working on something else, because now [we’ve proven they’re] art, why do people still not respect games?

“As a console developer, I feel very ambivalent about how I want to respond to this. On the one hand, we now have ten times more players, but at the same time, where is the money flowing? Where is the talent going? What are we focusing on? I was very happy in 2012 when I saw more and more AAA games start to get artistic and emotional but all of a sudden you have tens of millions of new games created as the opposite of those old games with free to play and predatory monetization today is shaped more by these mobile games than console games and that’s why people treat me like I run a casino.

“For me, this is the saddest realization of change in a decade: no matter how much work we’ve done on consoles, it doesn’t matter because it’s been diluted with mobile, this new group of people, and this new group of games.”

At this point, Chen can’t give any details about what exactly his new project is and how he’ll defy those conventions. But he confirms that doesn’t mean his own Sky mobile game isn’t going anywhere. He compares Thatgamecompany to pirates who are always exploring and looking for new treasures. But now that they have Skye, their work is divided.

“One thing I joke about is that we finally found one special treasure. [Sky]. Now we can no longer be pirates because the treasure is deep in the mine. We have to dig it out, so we have to have this maintenance operation with hundreds of people, and this is a whole new stage of life. But deep down, I’m still a pirate.

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