Game City Prize winner Journey: Balm for the console

No guns, no enemies, no point? Video games have a reputation for violence, but the winner of a prestigious industry award is an utterly peaceful affair, says David Crookes
  • @davidcrookes

There's more to gaming than shoot-em-ups and football (sorry, Call of Duty, Halo 4, FIFA 13 and Football Manager). Or course, most folk with a pulse will know that gaming offers more than guns, gore and on-pitch battles, but there is no harm in hammering the message home, which is why, for the second year running, gaming's version of the Booker prize has taken place.

Europe's largest annual videogame culture festival, GameCity, which runs until tomorrow, has asked Radio DJ Jo Whiley, UK designer Wayne Hemingway, author and comedian Charlie Higson and Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway to risk RSI and cast their opinions on seven shortlisted games, being careful to select judges who would otherwise not be associated with games.

And the winner, they concluded, is Journey, an American PlayStation 3 game which has no fighting, no peril and seemingly no aim other than to explore a vast desert en route to a mountain while discovering your inner self and purpose. Mario and Metal Gear Solid it ain't.

It's refreshing to see. While their detractors would have you believe that games turn children into belching zombies, ready to axe the corner-shop manager to death for not stocking cornflakes, the GameCity Prize shows that video games can be relaxing, poignant and thoughtful; a leap out of reality into a calm oasis of pixels and just the thing to inspire you after sniffing somebody's armpits for an hour on a packed Tube. Anonymous players can join you in this voyage of discovery with many experiencing an emotional connection, again like the Tube but better. If this kind of interactive experience isn't worth celebrating, then we don't know what is.

Gaming is on a journey of its own and it's an exciting one. It may or may not be art but it will surely ignite the passion of the culturally curious and that's what makes life worth living, right?

So, if you fancy trying a game that will lower, rather than ratchet your blood pressure up, here are some other relaxing games to try:

Minecraft: Perfect for creative minds, PC, Xbox 360 and mobile title Minecraft was the inaugural winner of the GameCity Prize last year, giving rise to a certain theme when it comes to picking the eventual victor. There's no story in this building game, just you, pixels and the ability to produce.

Flower: This PS3 game sees players control the wind and blow a petal through the air.

Zen Bound 2: Available on smartphones, this bills itself as a meditative puzzle game in which the player wraps rope around wooden sculptures according to various rules. It certainly does have a calming effect which makes it a perfect play in a queue or when using public transport.