At the beginning of Dear Esther your character is standing near a ramshackle, old house with multiple paths laid out around them. The question is which path do I follow? There is a tall signal tower in the distance with a blinking red light on it, do I want to go there? Where should I go? Presumably all the paths lead to the same place, but each has different details. After exploring the house and noticing the empty paint cans on the floor and the phosphorescent structural formula for ethanol written on the wall I elected to take the uphill path. I wanted to see if I could get an idea of where I was or where I needed to go by proceeding to the highest ground and doing a quick survey. Curse my curiosity! I got sidetracked from my task when I noticed a cave and after some further exploration I lost focus and managed to walk straight off the side of the hill. After I took the plunge down the hillside I attempted to make the most of the situation by exploring the beach. After coming across a diagram in the sand that resembled the Fibonacci sequence I doubled back up the stairs. I figured that if I made an effort to seek out man-made objects then that would guide me down the right path: I was right to a certain extent. I definitely get half credit for trying.
I kept trying to follow man-made objects. I thought that those were my trail that I should follow because it’s what is out of place on the island. The caves and coves and beach are all naturally occurring so I made it my mission to seek out every artificially manufactured object I could find. After drowning one too many times while desperately attempting to swim out to an old shipwreck in order to investigate I stopped and rethought my path-finding strategy. I looked back at my notes and looked at the list that I had compiled of the items I had come across and roughly cross referenced them with where all of the narrative stories had popped-up. That is where I finally found my pattern, the one that I would follow until the end of the game. I didn’t need to chase after all the inorganic entities on the island; I needed to follow the light.
I stopped trying to swim out to the shipwreck and invested some time looking at the glowing symbols in the cave—one was a brain cell, one was another type of biological cell, and I couldn’t identify the third. After passing by a rock formation reminiscent of Stonehenge I found houses on the hillside. There were more glowing symbols written on the walls of the homes, which meant I was following the right path. After climbing down to the beach the next signal appeared in the form of a lit candle at the mouth of a cave. The cave was aglow with the phosphorescent paint and bioluminescent fungus. As I explored the cave every once in a while I would come across another candle. After wandering through many tunnels and falling into more underground ponds than I can count I exited the cave and came face to face with the path, the light from a trail of candles illuminated it. From that point on all I had to do was follow the candles to, what is ultimately the most prevalent and significant source of light throughout the game, the signal tower. That steadily blinking red dot in the distance, constantly beckoning. Light was the key to finding the path, I just needed to orient myself toward the signal tower and start walking.
anonymous from thiscageisworms.com
I had never been charged with choosing an accurate virtual representation of myself so it was weird for me to try and find myself in a picture somewhere on the internet. I looked around for a while but decided that I should just stick to an actual photo. So I browsed through old memories of days gone by until I found the one photo that, I felt, could describe me best. To me my avatar represents who I am as a person, because in that instant I felt like I was the best version of myself.
This specific photograph was taken on a hot summer day at a showcase tournament in Lancaster county, only 10 weeks before I sent in my first round of college applications. The team had done great all day long, and I was having a wonderful time behind the plate. It was the last game of the day, we were in the lead, there was a runner on first and I had just been given express permission by my coach to throw her out. I always hated having my picture taken while I was playing or practicing. I’m an athlete, I’m there to play, not have my picture taken. But just this once, the photograph was taken and it captured what I think means to be me. For better or for worse this is who I am: I’m a happy person, a kid at heart, I’m always up for a challenge. And I love to play in the dirt.
After playing the game Gone Home for three hours straight I found the ending completely unsatisfying. Expressing my frustration to another classmate he posed an extremely important, and eloquently worded question: Why? Sadly, in my state of irritation, I never stopped to consider why I despised that ending so much. Kaitlin was home, Sam was pursuing her happiness, and her parents were making an attempt to fix their marriage, case closed, story over, the end. Still, it wasn’t right. When I picked up that journal in the attic after hours of wandering around and reconstructing a timeline of what happened the ending was hollow. I tried expressing this to my friend and he responded with “were you hoping for a resolution?” No, I got my resolution, which was fine; it just didn’t sit well with me so I decided to dedicate this blog post to investigating why.
The game starts with the front edifice of the house illustrated in dark, cold colors—black, grey, varying shades of purple—giving the mansion an empty and haunted looking exterior. However once the game commences and you begin moving around and exploring more rooms you realize the house becomes a brighter place to be. The cassette tapes and records you can play make the house less spooky and the lights you are able to turn on and the doors you are able to open make the house less confusing and cold. But the empty feeling the setting creates lingers through the entire game. This is one, beautiful allegory relating to Sam. Sam was at first isolated, confused, a pariah amongst her peers. She struggled in her new high school and clearly was not a fan of the house. When she met Lonnie she started turning on lights, she grew into herself and began to understand her feelings and began learning who she was as a person, which is fantastic but there was still emptiness there. Sam doesn’t tell her parents where she is going; she lies to them and isn’t even accepted by them.
I don’t know about others but I was expecting to be relieved when I finished playing Gone Home. I felt that I would be rewarded after hours of investigation and attention to details, but I wasn’t. Her parents are gone. While trying to rebuild their relationship with each other they left their daughters behind. Sam is gone. She left to live as the person that she truly is, the person she felt that she needed to hide from her family and the world. In an attempt to pursue her ultimate happiness, which could not be satisfied by her own family, Sam left her sister behind. Kaitlin is all that is left. By the end of Gone Home both you and Kaitlin have the complete story of what has happened at home over her 11-month trip abroad. In the end, in possession of heartbreaking information about her sister, Kaitlin is left alone in an empty house with only echoes of the people she loves and it is the hollowness of this that supremely irks me.