How Your Parents Can Play Journey in Three Hours | ft. @SocraTetris & @Gyro Gaming
Hey you, person who clicked on this video, have you ever tried to introduce someone to video games, only to have them stare at the floor, walk into walls, then give up in 5 minutes? Yeah me too, I also struggled with this problem for years as I tried to introduce my family to video games again and again, before just labeling the whole endeavour as a lost cause. At the end of this experience, I was just left very confused on why it was so hard for my parents to play video games. But then, Lo and behold, a Youtube video by Game Design Channel Extra Credits descended from the heavens and introduced me and many others to the concept of, Basic Game Literacy or Why It’s Hard to Learn How to Play Video Games. The idea behind game literacy is, that shockingly, video games are like any other art form. I’ve used this example before, but if I wanted to read any book in the English Language, let’s say Harry Potter, and I didn’t know how to read, I’d have to learn about letters, words, and about 10,000 different grammar rules before I could read the first sentence.
Video games are no different. Over the past forty years they’ve created their own language and if I was a non-gamer who wanted to play Breath of the Wild, I’d have to learn about health, damage, saving, moving in a 3d space and so on to survive for more than 10 seconds. Now here’s where the problem is. Extra Credits’ video states that if you wanted to learn the English language you could google “Books for a beginning reader” and find hundreds of phonics books ready to teach you how to become literate in the English Language. However, according to them there are no good places for non-gamers to start when learning how to become literate in gaming’s language. I even emailed the Extra Credits staff about this and they told me there was no real consensus on what video games non-gamers should start with, not one that's particularly helpful anyway.
I thought it was ridiculous that no one had tested what the best games for non-gamers were, so ever since that day two years ago, I’ve been on a "quest" to find the best video game to introduce people to gaming with. And after years of testing, creating supplemental phonics-book-like programs, and cataloguing hundreds of test results from wonderful subscribers I think I found what is currently the best way to introduce anyone to gaming. And it involves a custom teaching program I made and thatGameCompany’s third person adventure game Journey. Basically what I did, was I created the free, phonics-book-like video game to introduce new players to the concepts of moving around and interacting in a 3D space, then I tested that training game and Journey together with a Youtube friend of mine and his parent, I looked at the results of that run and modified my training program to make the next run of Journey better, then more volunteer non-gamer testers and their coaches ran through my revised training program, I edited my program based off their feedback and I ran the next full test of my game plus Journey with another Youtube friend, and finally we ran four more full tests of non-gamers playing my game then Journey, and found out that non-gamers can beat both games in an average time of just 2 hours, 57 minutes, and 25 seconds while all unanimously having a great experience by the end. If you’ve barely heard of Journey, go get it, it’s on Steam now and if you want to be extra cool you can get it on Epic Games Store and support me by using my creator code right here. There will be spoilers in this video, but there really isn’t too much to spoil about Journey.
Just know the game has seven main sections and I’ll explain everything else you need to know along the way. I’m Etra from Etra Games and I’m here to guide you through my crazy experiment. So you can use my custom training program to teach your non-gamer parents, friends, and loved ones how to beat Journey in just three hours, as well as maybe convince ThatGameCompany to hire me as their new favorite intern along the way, who knows? AAAANNNYYYWAY, enough intro whatever. Intros are garbage. Let's begin! Last year, I started working on a game that would teach new players everything they needed to know to learn how to play Journey. Namely, how to use a controller, move, interact with Journey’s blip thing, jump, and use the third person camera without just staring at the floor all the time. The first version of this training program started out pretty simple.
The game begins with the player not being able to move at all before being given a prompt for them to move forward. The prompt then scoots on over to the the left side of the screen so players hopefully use their left joystick instead of the right one to move. After moving forward the player is stopped by these boards and is forced to hold the rightmost button down to charge up their blip thing and break through them. The player then encounters a metal door instead of a wooden one which they can’t break through when they walk up to it. Instead a prompt to move backwards appears and they unlock that ability. Once they move back far enough to see these buttons, the player will finally be able to move left and right and can use that new ability to activate these makeshift buttons, while being right in view of these indicators above the door.
Then the player is introduced to pressing two buttons at once with jumping, next they get the ability to look up and down so they can measure the distance of these gaps before jumping across them with timed button presses. Here they combine everything they’ve learned so far to see, jump up, and hit this button. And finally they unlock looking left and right and are forced to look in both directions regardless of what path they choose here.
After that there is a final test of each of the player’s abilities to break through this final door and get the star at the end of the level. With that done I exported my project, went to find a test subject, realized it was 2020, hid back in my global pandemic shelter, and reached out to a friend of mine, Socratetris, a Youtuber who looks at how philosophy and games correlate, and I asked if he could have one of his parents run through my game and Journey. If you watched my First person shooter video you can tell this new program was largely based on that structure so the stage was set for a perfect run. There was certainly quite a bit to fix and clarify about the program, but our first volunteer test subject still made it through the game. Albeit in 25 minutes, which was nearly double the time I hoped for.
And there was one additional note in Socratetris’s report that greatly worried me about his parent’s playthrough. Keep that in mind. Fortunately, even though the experience was a bit of a struggle, the training program did it’s job and when Alex’s mom started Journey. She wasn’t staring at the floor! The first stage went really really well, but in the second there was a significant rough patch.
First of all she had no idea that using the blip on a select few of these cloth things would build a bridge, on top of that Socratetris told me, But hey, after that things were great in the third stage where she received help from these wonderful magic carpet guides. Stage four had her sliding across the dunes and mastering her basic abilities, and stage five was fine, until she reached here, where multiple issues stacked up on top of each other to make this jumping section very difficult. First, our tester was only looking left and right, or only up and down, never diagonally, which wasn’t super helpful. On top of that, it occurred to me that even though our new player made jumps in the training program with ease they were all horizontal jumps to platforms of the same height, jumping to a platform of a different height was a new concept for our test subject. Finally, and maybe most importantly Journey didn’t test our new player on their ability to jump for an entire hour.
And this led to 20 minutes of failed jump attempts in this area, immediately followed by 20 more minutes of failed jump attempts in the sixth stage as she struggled to climb this tower. Socratetris noticed that even on top of all of that, the physical amount of inputs required at once on her controller increased in this section after a long plateau. We have a great discussion about this, FLOW, and the intended speed of Journey, which will be in the test results collection video I’ll link to at the end. After these nightmare jumps, the final stage went really well (that is if you ignore this this freakin bridge jump that randomly makes a player lose seven minutes of progress if they fall and I want to find whoever thought this was a good idea and take their-) Now just so you know, I’ve been exclusively focusing on the negative things that happened in this playthrough so I can talk about how to alleviate said issues. With that said It is very important to note that even with all the bad things I mentioned, Socratetris’s mother still really enjoyed the game overall, which is something I can’t say about the first tests with other games on this channel.
In the end, his parent finished my training program in 25 minutes and Journey in 3 hours and 20 minutes leaving her with a final time of 3 hours, 47 minutes, and 44 seconds, which is alright at least relatively speaking in comparison to other tests on this channel, but with 40 minutes of failed jump attempts alone I knew that things could be better. So before doing what little I could to modify Journey, I started reworking my training program in a series of livestreams. To start I got rid of the wooden planks and replaced the “trash cans” with a recreation of the buttons used to activate these statues in Journey. Except when hit, these switches don’t just glow, instead they move their light orb over to this indicator so the player can clearly see what activates this door. ` For the first door I now have the player perform a light blip on the switch. And for the second I have them perform another light blip and see if they can figure out that they have to hold their blip button to progress on their own.
Surprisingly, only one out of the ten final test subjects needed help with this part, all others figured it out in less than ten seconds but you may need to give your player a hint at this part if they struggle. My idea is that if they can discover the charging aspect of the blip themselves they may more easily remember the action for later segments. Next, since the idea that random cloths created bridges were confusing for our first new player I got rid of the metal doors and decided to introduce players to this bridge building concept in my program instead. After that I added verticality to all the platforms in the following section.
This covered timing jumps to platforms higher and lower than the player. However, this didn’t let the player practice turning their camera and jumping in diagonal upward directions, like in the tower stage, and that is where this giant tree that’s been sitting in the background comes in. I got rid of the previous turning area, put the final button room from before in the sky, and built a path up to the room that forces the player to rotate their camera left, right, and diagonally upward in both directions to make these various jumps.
I also added one more element to this tree. I noticed that our first player was having trouble with these blip boosted jumps so I remade so I remade these cloth tapestry swarm things, look nothing in Journey has an official name. The closest I could get for these friendly fellows was cloth Homies so please cut me the tiniest bit of slack when discussing these elements. Anyway to end the new tree section off I test the player’s skills with one final particularly difficult jump we’ll see mentioned again a bit later. After this they bolt through a reworked version of the final button room, and use these mega cloths to get to the star at the top of the tree.
The final things our first test subject had trouble with was not knowing what cutscenes were and not knowing where they were supposed to go in my training program. So to solve both these problems I start the game with a cutscene of the star falling from the sky and I draw the camera back to where the player is in order to introduce them to the concept of cutscenes and clearly show where their objective is. With their camera locked in the beginning and the star being up in the tree, the star should be at the top of the players screen for the majority of the game.
Socratetris also had the fantastic suggestion of sloping all the terrain upward. Since the player knows that the star is up in the tree they know they have to go up, and if they catch themselves moving down, they may subconsciously detect they are going the wrong way. With those changes all the clear problems should have been fixed, but instead of just fixing problems in Journey, I figured I could take some inspiration from it as well. I noticed that in the third section of the game these cloth homies really helped guide the first test subject through their respective level in a natural way. On top of that Lead Ubisoft game designer Stanislav Costiuc from the wonderful channel Farlands Design Den gave me feedback on the first version of my program and noted that giving the player power ups instead of just having them randomly unlock abilities at certain times could make the game more clear.
So while livestreaming for 10 hours straight I decided to combine these ideas and make a guide that dropped powerups for the player. And in that livestream we did more than just make an accidental thicc mode. Chat really brought our light buddy to life by giving it it’s name, Allinonemovie gave it it’s sunglasses, someone else started a cult, and after a good amount of revisions an artist by the name of Vermiix made the final design and quite a bit of fantastic fanart followed. All of which you can in the official Light Buddy art gallery I added shortly after.
Thanks to all who helped me then, the stream was fantastic. Now this wonderful little creature guides players throughout the program and, because of the love for this little fella, I figured that helping him get home to his space family was a better end goal incentive for new players than getting a gold star. And with the program basically complete I figured it would be best to test it out with new players first before having my next Youtube friend’s parent try it and then Journey. But before I passed the program onto complete non-gamers I watched my somewhat gaming experienced mom play through the project and the only note she had was that I was very mean for making this last jump so difficult.
She kept on jumping past it before calling these tapestries to give her a boost. Which is when I realized I never tested players on making jumps of a certain length. Every jump in the program was able to be made if the player just held jump and forward through the entirety of the jump, so I made these three jumps shorter to force players to let go of the joystick or move it back before landing their jumps, so the skill is learned and practiced for this jump at the end. After that I reached out to you lovely people and some of you test coaches tested the program with your parents. In the very first test, everything went perfectly, and the non-gamer test subject made the previously difficult final jump on their first try, then got confused by what they just did, walked off the edge and then struggled a few times to make the same jump, but we'll just pretend that didn’t happen.
This was followed by another perfect test and one more after that. The final two test “coaches” asked if I could translate the game for their parents, so I added a translation system and got support from these wonderful people to add quite a few language options to the game. Sadly, in the next test, there were many technical difficulties and issues that all culminated at this moment. “ You know I’m probably going to accidentally leave this in and some parent is going to” (parent presses midget button and they are stuck as thicc mode envelops screen) And the parents had to restart the game..., but major major props to Okynaua for translating the
entire 35 minutes of dialogue in both of his parents runs so my uncultured American self could know exactly what was happening and thanks to his parent for enduring said 35 minutes. The final test predicted another extreme outcome where the parent finished the game in 40 minutes because she lost track of her goal and kept on going back to the cloth bridges since she knew they were important previously. Her coach stayed mostly silent for the sake of the experiment and could have directed her but we were both at a loss on how to fix this issue without adding some sort of additional direction system... Regardless, even with that extreme outcome, the final average time for people to complete the revised training program came out to be right at 20 minutes and four seconds. I only had one more step before sending it over to Gyro Gaming. Unlike Deltarune and Portal, Journey is not very open to modification since it can be an online experience.
And if I were to modify the game directly on PC I’d be alienating anyone who is playing the game on the original playstation platforms as well as providing tools that could be used to ruin the online experience for others. Since there were only minor problems I could fix with a mod, I opted to create a printable Traveler's Guide for non-gamers instead. The first rule I mention in the guide is that cloths give you light, and light allows you to jump, which is something our first player couldn’t learn while being focused on the UI prompt that came up in this section. This blip part exists to remind players that tapestries like this give them a boost since it will be a good while until they actually need to use a boost to overcome an obstacle.
I also added a vague map at the bottom which clarifies to the player that they need to cross the bridge in area 2 and they need to reach the mountain to complete that game. I also added optional checkboxes for players to fill out if they want, so they can tell that they’re progressing. So with all that done I sent the program and printable Traveller’s guide over to controls design Youtuber, Jibb Smart, so he could test his parent on both games, but he did so with a twist. In the first test, Socratetris gave his mother occasional hints if she truly needed them to proceed, but to test if my training program taught absolutely everything it needed, Jibb tested both the program and Journey with his mother, while refusing to say a word. And aside from struggling with this jump, everything went well in the training program, and with the addition of the Traveler’s Guide, Journey went mostly better.
Everything was going well after this, but the moment of truth came once they got to the jumping sections. And aside from these issues with confusing what cloths did what things and whether or not you have to hold the button for this cloth or for this cloth, which is certainly an understandable issue, she did really well in the tower jumping sections. The only problem was that she never naturally figured out that being in this rising water meant she could fly.
so on the few times she did fall, she thought she had to make the entire series of jumps from the beginning, when she could have just held the jump button down to fly up to her last checkpoint. Me and Jibb talk about solutions to these issues in the test collection video I mentioned before, but the only feasible one we decided on was just telling the player next to you to hold their jump button down. And there were really no other issues, except of course ( this freaking bridge which is never shown in the game before and she didn’t know what to do and lost 7 minutes, why, why ,why does this exist, who thought tha--) Jibb’s mom finished both games in just 3 hours and 23 seconds, which is less time than movie night. The potential of all players getting this time made me overjoyed, but I didn’t want this to be simply a maybe, so we had to do one final round of testing.
I sent 5 wonderful gamer and non-gamer volunteer duos the training program, and the 5 steps they and you at home need to follow to hopefully have your parents play my program and Journey in just three hours. First! Download my game with the link below and get Journey on a device, if you already have Journey make sure to erase your save data so your parents don’t walk through these post-game level skipping portals in the first stage. Second. Download and print the Traveler’s Guide.
I completely forgot that I had support for multiple languages in my training program so I just made an extra sheet for you to translate yourself if needed attached to the document so you can translate it yourself with a pen cause I am so heccin done with this project. Third. Disconnect Journey from the internet. The multiplayer in this game is amazing, but could be disruptive like it was in Socratetris’s initial playthrough with his mom. Now, It can also be helpful, but that’s a double edged sword that I don’t think is worth swinging in this scenario, so turn off your system’s wifi while playing.
Fourth, select the language and controller you wish to use for your playthrough. If your language is not listed here send me an email at this address on screen or through the contact tab in the training program and if you're willing to translate these words, you can help me add your language to this list of supported languages! Fifth. Run through the training program, and when your new player gets their scarf in journey, give them the traveller guide. Now I hope it goes without saying, but just note that you don’t need to be dead silent like Jibb did, if your new player is stuck just help them out with occasional hints and direction. And sixth as a bonus step, I would greatly appreciate if you could Send me an e-mail telling me how your run of my game and Journey with a loved one went, the key things I’m looking for would be the coaches relationship to the tester whether that be your parent, grandma, or betrothed and roughly how long it took for them to beat the game.
Fortunately due to the 5 final tests that followed these steps we have a rough prediction on that last point. The first test result was from Josh Chandler and his fiance Bethany Bursak, who dashed through both games in a mere 2 hours and 25 minutes and they both loved it. Another couple Weronika and Tomasz finished in 2 hours 45 minutes. Next Gurvir and his Mom Mandeep beat both games 2 hours 47 minutes The Guyman and his Mom Erin finished in about three and a half hours and I ran my very patient mother through the games as well and got roughly the same time. In every single run there were the same basic results, finishing the training program in around 20 minutes, the third stage being their favorite stage, struggling with the jump sections since the game doesn’t remind them how to jump for several stages, and most importantly, they all unanimously enjoyed the experience, which is something that frankly hasn’t happened with any other game tested on this channel.
(Oh yeah, and almost all of them fell off the freakin bridge thing because I am extremely dumb and forgot to warn them about this.) Just tell your player exactly what to do here step by step here or even offer to cross that bridge for them in literally every other scenario have your player get through the game themselves, but here, have mercy on them. With all the runs accounted for it leaves the final average time of the training program and Journey combined to be 2 hours 57 minutes and 25 seconds, or as you can probably pitch it, less time than movie night… if you’re watching endgame, however we’ll ignore that caveat. But Etra! You may ask two and a half hours to three and a half hours is still quite a range. How do I get my players to lean more towards the two and a half hour side of the spectrumthan the three and a half hour side of the spectrum and generally make their experience better overaaaaalllll! I’m glad you totally asked. Consider this the tips and tricks section of the guide video, none of these are really guaranteed to help, but they are patterns I’ve noticed in the very little testing we’ve had.
Starting from the top, first of all you can use a keyboard and mouse to play both my game and Journey, however I recommend you use any of these controllers instead. I was afraid to give new players controllers because they were new and weird to them, but it seems that in general people who use controllers got used to pressing two buttons at once quicker than those who used a mouse and keyboard to move. My guess is that non-gamers are afraid to press two buttons at once on a keyboard because doing so would usually mess up whatever email, work document, or facebook post they are writing. Also abnormal hand and finger placement was a common element found in the community test results from my fps program, but it seems like controllers are much easier for non-gamers to get the correct grip on. Next, finishing the game over the course of a day would be optimal, as noted earlier Journey certainly doesn’t allow players to practice certain skills like jumping throughout the entire game.
Each test that split playing the game over two or three days, even with help of replaying the training program, went over three hours. So if you and your non-gamer can beat Journey within a day, chances are you’ll do so quicker than average. After that learn what FLOW is, you can watch one of these two videos I made for exact examples or google the term to see what it’s about, but in this case you want to make sure to only give hints to player when they are getting frustrated, instead explaining everything to them which can quickly lead to boredom.
Of course experience with technology and experience playing other games before is another factor that will likely help your player get closer to two and a half hours. But The final factor you are probably wondering about is how does age affect the overall playtime? You saw me mention that the couples had a lower time than the child parent duos also tested. However, if my previous program that taught fps games is anything to go by, age doesn’t actually seem to make much of a difference here. In my fps program regardless of age, players finished the game in about 12 minutes if they had no previous gaming experience, instead what made the biggest difference was relationship.
Non-gamer Friends, siblings, parents, and grandparents all finished my previous game around the 12 minute mark, but romantic partners made a consistent difference by beating the program in around 9 minutes or very roughly 75% of the average time. And we seem to see that reflected in the Journey tests here as well. One of the testers, Josh Chandler, pointed out that his finance’s experience watching him play games likely helped her beat Journey in a quicker time than anticipated, and I totally agree that having a reason to watch games and understand them would really help a player if they were to play games later. So if you're worried your parents are too old for them video games, don’t be.
And past all that, I don’t know if there is anything else you can do to change your non-gamer’s experience with this game. As for the overall game, there are a few small things which ThatGameCompany could change to make it better for non-gamers. The main things I can really think of to improve Journey is to go in it, make the cloths a bit more different from one another visually, force the player to practice moving their camera and jumping in every stage, introduce the water, and get rid of this garbage bridge thing.
And as much as I’ve been dunking on that point throughout the video so you remember to help your loved ones out on that section, I have to reiterate that Journey is one of if not the best video game to introduce nongamers to gaming with, there is no massive amount of new concepts thrown at the player, the narrative gets straight to the point, and the environment generally guides players along the right path , there's so much here that I’m certain thatGameCompany tried to account for non-gamers playing their game, but they may not have been able to fund much testing in this very specific minute category. Regardless, the fact that anyone can now beat this game in just three hours while having a great time is something unheard of All you have to do is download my free program and traveler’s guide below, disconnect your system from the internet, and then give the player the traveler’s guide once they get their scarf. That is it. It's taken the efforts of more people than I can count here to make this possible, from every gamer and non-gamer duo who's sent in test results from Deltarune, my FPS program, Portal, and now this, to the translators, artists, gamers who’ve helped me out in my Livestreams, and everyone who’s even just left a helpful comment, thank you all. I could not have done this without you.
And on the topic of thanks please make sure you check out Soctratetris and Jibb Smart’s channels, this wouldn’t have been possible without them. And a final thank you to extra credits for making this whole game literacy problem make sense to me. They’ve been keeping an email chain going with me regarding my projects and I’ll be happy to submit this final video to them to end this chain off.
Yet even though this is all great, and the furthest I think anyone has ever gotten regarding getting non-gamers into gaming, it doesn’t fix the entire game literacy issue. Because we are still left with the problem of Journey not teaching new players enough about gaming concepts for them to jump into something like Breath of the Wild. We now have a solid hook of “this is what games can be” to get non-gamers interested, but I doubt this taste is enough for them to suffer through the excessive trial and error in learning all the unwritten rules and laws needed to play any modern triple-A game today. So my next step in this adventure is to make a full video game that teaches non-gamers absolutely everything they need to know to play any game in a specific video game genre and for that I need your help.
While working on this crazy Journey project I got contacted by a doctoral student from Northeastern University and he has assembled and funded a small team to help me create a complete game that teaches gamers and non-gamers how to play traditional fighting games, If you want to hear more about that project, first of all, follow my Twitter where I’ll be posting updates, follow my Twitch where I’ll be streaming development along with other projects, but then watch this video up here somewhere which is all about that project as well as the future of the channel. If you want more information on the Journey project, before testing it on your parents you can watch the test collection video here And as always Thanks for watching, have a wonderful day and I will catch you all next time!