Interview: Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago discuss “Journey” as it ventures into beta today

Interview: Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago discuss “Journey” as it ventures into beta today (photo)

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How would you act if you came upon an unfamiliar face in foreign lands? What if you couldn’t talk to them and neither person knew who the other was? Would you help them? Walk away?

Indie dev studio thatgamecompany poses these questions in “Journey,” an experimental game due out for the PlayStation 3 later this year. TGC remains best known for their moving 2008 release “Flower” and fans of their work have eagerly been awaiting the studio’s take on multiplayer game design. In “Journey,” players wander a series of sandy, craggy abandoned landscapes as mute avatars wrapped in flowing robes. With no spoken dialogue and no text, you’ll only have movement and distance as means to communicate with others. The game will throw challenges–windstorms, creatures, slippery summits to climb–in your way, all of which are better tackled with companions. But, the gameworld won’t be a bustling virtual city like the New Marais of “Infamous 2.” No, you’ll go miles walking through the desert sands of “Journey” before encountering someone. That way– unlike other games where there are partners aplenty–it actually means something.

Sony’s launching a limited beta of the game today on the PlayStation Network, to help test out how the groundbreaking title will function once it’s out in the wild.

“Journey” makes everyone a stranger. It takes away the chatter and other customization identifiers common to online games to try and get at truths about human interaction. I spoke with TGC’s Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago about “Journey” and what they hope players experience in the game.

Jenova, I saw your talk at IndieCade where you and Robin Hunicke ran through various early prototypes of the game, and it was fascinating to watch how “Journey” has developed from those initial stages. What would you say is the kind of emotional vector that you’re aiming at with “Journey”?

Jenova Chen: It was a lot easier for “Flower” because it is a single-player experience. With “Journey,” we created an emotional arc for two different scenarios. So, if you play alone, it’s a good game. You have what we think is a complete emotional arc. You will feel, I guess, a sense of transformation in the single-player. Because it’s a hero’s journey.

But, if you play multiplayer, there is a different feeling we are trying to accomplish. It’s hard to describe. We had an experience even in the earliest prototype. It’s those moments where you know that the thing on the screen was just a dot, just a vessel. It doesn’t have any body language and can’t really emote. But there are moments where you understand that person controlling it completely. That’s magical to me.


You mean when you come upon somebody and even the fact that you can’t read anything or hear anything, you feel like there is a moment of connection?

Jenova: Uh-huh. And that’s one thing I really enjoy. You certainly hope that there are more moments like this. As the density of players increases, so will the frequency of encounters and we might hear of these moments happening more.

The other thing we had in mind is just changing the impression of online play now. the impression that, if you think about playing with a stranger online right now, there’s some kids, you just don’t really want to play with them. And also, most of the games are competitive. And even, let’s say, “Left 4 Dead,” where it’s co-operative team play, people do bad stuff.

Kellee Santiago: It’s super-stressful.

Jenova: Because you have a gun in your hands. If everybody only had a medical patch, it would be different. So I hope that after people play “Journey,” if the game can make you have a better faith or belief or trust with online strangers, that would be a great accomplishment.

thatgamecompany Shares Journey’s First Trailer – PlayStation Blog
– Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

That’s a very lofty goal. But it’s interesting because you can’t communicate with other people in the game. So, if they’re annoying you, you only have one option, which is to walk away from them and hope they don’t follow.

Jenova: Or press pause.

Or press pause. Yeah, yeah.

Kellee: You can communicate. I mean what you just described, in “Journey,” is someone communicating to you that they don’t respect you and they really don’t want to spend time with you. So, the way you communicate is through your actions by walking towards someone, calling to them softly, trying to help them complete something. You communicate that you’re willing to play with them, just the same way that kids communicate on a playground before they really know how to talk to each other. I think that’s very important.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.