Designer: Steve Gaynor
Developer(s): FullBright, Majesco Entertainment
Platforms: PS4, Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Xbox One
Gone Home is perfectly set-up to be a first person exploratory horror. As you return from a year long trip overseas, you find an empty house where you expect your parents and your 18 year-old sister to be waiting for you. As the storm rages on outside and the light in the foyer flickers on ominously, you try to piece together what has happened. See, perfect. Instead and to the dismay of many, Gone Home presents us with a coming-of-age story told through clues found within the empty house.
There is reason to be scared, first-person games like this are generally terrifying (maybe just to me?) and I can never get a hang of the controls as well as I would like to. It’s hard to navigate and the map system is not as good as I thought it could be. The house is old and bland and so are the characters. The nuances of both were surprisingly brought to the attention of the player through the items, books, music and decoration left by the characters.
First, we’ll introduce the Greenbriar family. The player is Kaitlin, a 21 year old who has just spent a year travelling around Europe. The father is a failed writer and the mother works in State Forestry. The younger sister, Samantha has just started at a new school and is the focus of the story. They are a typical middle class white family that live in Portland, Oregon. I thought this would be annoying or dull, but as you begin searching around the house the notes left around hint at underlying problems. The personalization of everything in everyone’s respective spaces, is what creates the characters and stories. A good example of this is Samantha’s room, where she has plastered teenage angst everywhere in the form of Riot Grrrl tapes, hand written notes, stickers, badges, pizza and soda. The father has boxes of copies of his failed books pushed into spare rooms or under tables.
There is a lot of backlash towards this game in response to the short gameplay, clocking in at around 2 hours and it being to expensive. I would like to point out that we pay $18 to go watch a movie once in a cinema. So if you take it as it is which is an interactive story, I think you will be very pleased.
Another point was that it was a boring story, but I would personally say that the detail is what brings the story to another level. This game is pushing the boundaries of immersive and thoughtful story-telling in gaming as well as creating empathy in storytelling using a new medium.
Even if it felt like a walk through at times, because of its lack in challenging puzzles and limiting game controls: Putting together the pieces of the story through personal items and journal entries made the game feel entirely real and unpretentious. Gone Home was engrossing and unique in character.
Watch the launch trailer here: