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The Night Journey is an experimental videogame that uses both game and video technologies to tell the universal story of an individual’s journey towards enlightenment.

The game begins in the center of a mysterious landscape on which darkness is falling. There is no one path to take, no single goal to achieve, but the player’s actions will reflect on themselves and the world, transforming and changing them both. If they are able, they may slow down time itself and forestall the fall of darkness. If not, there is always another chance; the darkness will bring dreams that enlighten future journeys.
The interactive design of The Night Journey attempts to evoke in the player’s mind a sense of the archetypal journey of enlightenment through the mechanics of the game experience – i.e. the choices and actions of the player during the game. The game design explores a challenging question: what is the mechanic of enlightenment? How can we model such an intensely personal yet archetypal experience in a game?

Visual inspiration is drawn from the prior works of Bill Viola, which provide both reference for the game world and source material for the in-game “reflections.” Textual inspiration comes from the lives and writings of great historical figures including: Rumi, the 13th century Islamic poet and mystic; Ryokan, the 18th century Zen Buddhist poet; St. John of the Cross, the 16th century Spanish mystic and poet; and Plotinus, the 3rd century philosopher.
The team has created a set of custom post-processing techniques for the 3D environment that create a sense of “explorable video,” integrating the imagery of Bill Viola’s prior work into the game world at both a technical and creative level.
Overall, the project attempts to stretch the boundaries of what game experiences may communicate with its unique visual design, content and mechanics.

Recent Exhibits

Vertigo of Reality, the Akademie der Künste, Berlin

September 17 – December 12, 2014

Curator: Mark Butler
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ZKM_Gameplay, ZKM | Center for Art and Media

Karlsruhe, Germany

June 22, 2013 – October 31, 2014

Curators: Stephan Schwingeler and Bernhard Serexhe
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Full exhibit list


The Night Journey is a collaboration between Bill Viola and the Game Innovation Lab. The production is ongoing, though the game has been exhibited as a work in progress around the world since 2007. Currently, the team is finalizing the experience and porting it for home platforms.
Full Team List

Support for the project provided by