Thatgamecompany, cofounded by USC students Kellee Santiago and Jenova Chen in 2006, is a video game developer based in Los Angeles. Their mission is to "create timeless entertainment that makes positive change to the human psyche worldwide," and by prioritizing things like feelings and emotions over traditional game mechanics, they've created a handful of truly unique and magical experiences.
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With no intentions to produce big budget titles, thatgamecompany has instead delivered four visually stunning experiences unlike anything you've ever played.
Released in 2005, Cloud was completed as a research project at USC. Described by fans as a "childhood dream simulator," the game has you step into the shoes of a young child in a hospital, daydreaming about flying through the sky and manipulating clouds to "clean the world." It's a whimsical experience intended to evoke your own fantasies about clouds, flight, and nature.
Flow, released as a free flash game in 2006 and on the PS3 in 2007, originally started out as Jenova Chen's master's thesis. The game has the player pilot an aquatic organism through a surreal underwater environment, consuming other organisms, evolving, and descending into the abyss. With five different creatures to play, each gets their own unique biosphere for the player to explore and lose yourself.
With Flower, released in 2009 on the PS3, the player explores the vivid landscapes that usually act as a backdrop in more traditional games. These landscapes are brought forward and become the main "character" as you fly through and explore the worlds that are presented. The game deals with the tension between urban and natural worlds and it's intended to stir positive feelings in the player more so than creating a "challenge."
The latest game to come from thatgamestudio is Journey, a title for the PS3 that is their grandest adventure yet. Accompanied by stunning visuals and haunting music, the player journeys through an interactive parable that represents life's path and the intersections we have with others on their own path. Either on your own, or together with a stranger, your ultimate goal is to get to the mountaintop, but really the game is more about discovering who you are, what place you're in, and to what purpose.
Thatgamecompany gets bolder and more confident with each new endeavor, and it's no wonder they've helped stir up the debate on whether video games can be considered art. They've created truly unique worlds and they let us use our imaginations to explore them, while hopefully discovering a little bit about ourselves in the process.