I just finished playing Gone Home yesterday and I feel compelled to write about it. It's incredibly impressive when I come across games that try something different. That try to say that playing a game can mean something that you're not used to.
Developers certainly have a long way to go, but when something like Dear Esther comes along and its hard to define what it is, I feel anyway, that you know the medium is growing.
In the same vein we have Gone Home. Going in really you know nothing about what's going on, and that is truly the beauty of it. Do not spoil yourself on this one. Honestly, if you like a good story and the act of discovering the pieces as you go, go ahead and check this game out now. Don't read about it any further, and certainly don't watch someone else play it (well you can, but I feel that may diminish the impact a bit). When you're done all the blogs and articles about the game will still be there- as will the videos.
I know this probably seems pompous, or incredibly hyperbolic, but I feel this game is really important- at least as a way to tell a story in a game. I have never played a game that left me feeling any connection to its story on such a relatable level- much like a good film. I have liked a lot of games stories for certain reasons, some have even made me cry, but how often can I truly relate on some level to what the story is saying?
Sure, it's been incredible seeing what people can do with the apocalypse and zombies, and there have been amazing choices to make in games around that, but while you can ask yourself "what would I do in this situation" can you truly ever understand it? Can you ever really know what it feels like to shoot a child? While some may say yes this is a very small amount of people. It doesn't diminish the impact by any means but its thankfully a question we would not normally have to answer and most people never will have to think about it beyond whatever amount of gaming they do. I just bring this up because I found the story of Gone Home one that many can relate to- even me in a lot of ways.
Really, all you're doing is trying to find out why there is no one home when you get home from a year long trip and your rummaging through the house to find clues or answers to the questions that keep piling up. At it's core, though, it's a love story. A fairly simple one, too, but very effective.
It's fascinating to me the things I learned about myself when playing this. For one, there is never really any danger yet at the beginning you have this sense of foreboding. I don't know why. Maybe it's the sound of the rain, or the old creaky house, but I felt more and more as the game progressed that something bad happened and I am marching towards a terrible scene. So much so nearing the end I had become deeply worried that things would take a terrible turn and I was hoping so much that it wasn't what my mind was thinking it was.
It also brought me back to high school quite a bit. I was surprised by that.
Maybe it's because it's set in the 90's around when I was in high school, or maybe the attention to detail on the thought process of people, but while Sam's character certainly goes through something I have not I can relate to how out of place in the world she feels. I did as well in high school and often still do sometimes. We learn as we get older that is fairly normal, but in high school we believe it's just us. Really, everything feels so oppressive when you're in high school and I can remember this sense that if I just got to do what I wanted everything would be better. Of course, that is much more difficult than we understand at that age.
It's a really touching story that I would recommend. Much like Dear Esther it's not your standard game play but I have less problem calling this one a game as you do interact with the world beyond moving forward and you discover things about the story by interaction so there is a sense of engagement at the player level.
I found it really fascinating what they did with the story here and anyone looking for something different should definitely check it out.
See how many lights you leave on (or don't if you're like me and have to turn them off when you're out of a room). It's actually quite insane how many lights this house has.