Going in the game with no prior knowledge, I initially thought Gone Home was a horror game based off of the atmosphere. The rain and thunder and creaking floor added to my own sense of dread. Although, this dread immediately faded when I found the cassette tape in the TV room and played music. The 1990s music and the magazines with Kurt Cobain death as the headline really set the 90s feel of the game.
The establishment of the 90s setting and time was certainty thorough and the development of the characters was also thorough. While the game was technically very linear, discovering the private details of each family member, especially the private matters of the wife, Jan, who had taken note of coworker Rick, came across like a side-quest of sorts and felt like very casual yet providing interesting personal details nonetheless. I believe including dialog with other characters in the game would have been negative in the development of such private issues that were revealed about specific characters.
I did have a few issues with the execution of the game. The disparity between the details of Sam’s life and the life of everyone else made the game feel very artificial and two dimensional (no pun intended). The ending felt unfinished. Sam just ran off with Lonnie after Lonnie deserted the Army. And that was the end. The narrative had momentum toward the ending and then it abruptly ended with no resolution at all. Yes, the parents were getting counseling and Sam was getting the relationship she wanted with Lonnie, but the main conflict between Sam and her parents wasn’t really addressed in the end. The development of the narrative was interesting and really drew me in, but the conclusion was poorly executed in my mind.
I just completed playing the game Gone Home by The Fullbright Company. In terms of previous experience with gaming, calling me a novice gamer may be giving me too much credit. I owned a Playstation 2 that I received as a gift in fifth grade and then bought an Xbox 360 from a friend who did not want it a couple years ago. However, I have for the most part only ever played sports games such as Madden and Fifa. Playing a first-person interactive storytelling adventure game was definitely a new experience for me.
For starters, my old run down computer seemed to only be limping along after I began to run the game. Then add on top of this the fact that I did not understand the concept of having to turn on the lights and I had quite a rocky start to my Gone Home experience. After aimlessly wandering around the outside porch with barely and visible objects in my sight, I finally found a lamp and was able to turn it on. I then eventually found the house key allowing me to enter the house.
I felt quite lost while playing the game. It was unclear to me what my objective was. Like I said above I’m mostly used to playing sports games where there is a clear objective; beat the opponent. I found a locker that required a code to open it. This seemed to give me more structure in my quest and I navigated the house looking for any numbers I could find.
The character development in Gone Home was unlike any other game I had played before. I took the role of Kaitlin Greenbriar. The development of Kaitlin’s character is unique because she is mostly developed through her relationship with her sister. We first see this relationship when we arrive at the front door outside of the house. Samantha, Kaitlin’s sister, has left a note on the door telling Kaitlin not to go looking for her. We then learn more about Kaitlin and the events that have occurred in Samantha’s life through journal posts that are read aloud on the screen when you pass certain check points in the game.
Gone Home largely is based off of the character’s scrutiny of objects. Several of these objects have little to no meaning, but are still extremely detailed and often led me astray. After discovering a secret room, I found a satanic altar table. I thought that possibly if I placed the Holy Bible that I had found upstairs on this altar table there might be a reaction. However, I was wrong and found that nothing happened. The objects are able to help develop narrative, because what you find in someone’s house tells you about them. The satanic table told me that there were some weird things going on in the house that were not ordinary. I also found newspaper clippings and pictures that helped to shape Kaitlin’s backstory more.
Overall I enjoyed Gone Home. However, it was difficult to understand what my goal was in the game.
At the beginning of Gone Home, based on the dark house, flickering lights, and the obligatory thunderstorm outside, I expected a horror game full of jump scares and the like. I found quite the opposite.
Gone home begins its story by dropping you at the entrance of a mansion, left to figure out who and where you are. A little exploration quickly introduces the setting (including who you are) through strategic placement of notes, labels, birthday cards, diary entries, voice mails, etc. near the entrance. Your motivation is made extremely obvious from the very start, with a mysterious note revealing your sister is gone.
Your sister is in a pretty classic discovering love/”I’m in love and everyone disapproves” story that, despite the tropes, still draws in the player (just like your grandfather’s note found in the basement says about your father’s book. One wonders if the creators of the game are getting over personal issues as well).
This game contains a very deep set of stories that do not easily give themselves up. It is left to the player to put in the effort to check every small detail to piece together the backstories of the side characters because it is quite possible to complete the game without learning much about any character other than Sam: The books in the background reveal that your parents are in a somewhat struggling but intact relationship, the difficult to read notes (Damn you cursive) reveal the troubled past of your father and the life of regret lived by the house’s previous owner, and letter to your mom reveal a possible emotional interest of hers.
It seemed this game was focused on the inevitability of loss and how much the past could hurt you, but in the end almost every character manages to recover what they are losing. I think the predominant message of this game is that people cling to what they hold dear and no one really moves on.