Warning: Potential spoilers for Gone Home follow.
If there are eight million stories in the naked city, how many are there in a single home? Look through your own living space. How much does each thing, even down to scraps of paper, mean to you? To the ones close to you? What do you remember when looking at them? What would someone assume about you if these things were presented with no other context?
Gone Home is the story of a family - the Greenbriers. You play as the elder daughter, Kaitlin, who’s returned home in June of 1995 after spending a year in Europe. You came in on the red-eye and caught a shuttle home. It is dark, it is raining cats and dogs, and no one is there when you arrive. A note on the door from your younger sister, Sam, asks you not to tell your mother and father what you find.
From here, Gone Home becomes less of a game and more of a first person story. You walk through your temporarily abandoned house, finding pieces of a family life you’ve missed out on in the past year. There’s the invoice from the movers, the postcards you sent expressing astonsihment as the new familial address, and your mother’s hand-drawn map from home to work. There are the books for parents of teenagers and the book for a teenager on how to make friends, with a well-meaning note to little sister Sam signed “Dad.” For good measure, you also discover early on (depending of course on your own path through the house) that this new mansion is refered to by locals as “The pyscho house.” Did I mention it’s dark and raining really hard?
As you walk through and examine these pieces of the Greenbriers’ lives, you as the player are presented with journals from your sister Sam has left for you. She’s a high school junior struggling to fit in in a new town, struggling with her feelings for the girl she’s drawn too like a human supernova. The homosexual nature of the relationship means that not only is Sam dealing with her own inner turmoil, but there’s bound to be some tension with the family, too. That’s not the only source of conflict in this game though; you learn of your father’s professional struggles, your mother’s triumphs, and how their marriage is changing as they approach their anniversary. These secondary and tertiary stories are all told through otherwise innocuous objects in the house: a book in the master bath, a letter from an editor in the study, a bookmark under a bed, a pamphlet in a cabinet with highlighted dates.
What populates your living space? Are there ghosts of loves past? Would your music collection allow someone to guess when you started questioning authority? Does the family photo beside your bed show your loved ones as they are or how you want to remember them? Play Gone Home. Allow yourself to be Kaitlin Greenbrier, and walk through the lives of this family. It will stick with you.