Narrative Done Right
Telling a complete story in a game is hard. It used to be that games simply had cutscenes between levels almost as a "reward" for clearing out a mission. This was ok for a while but sometimes it just broke the pace of the game and sometimes made the story a convoluted mess ( aka final fantasy and metal gear solid ). Eventually as games progressed they began to include other elements to flesh out the narrative such as interacting with other characters and game "events" as you progress. I rememeber when I first played Half Life 2 I kept wondering "where are the cutscenes?" then finding out, "Wow, I am the cutscene!". One common design choice that game developpers use to create a narrative are text logs(letters notes newspapers etc), audio logs (recordings), and objects that the player can pick up and observe. These elements are becoming more and more common in AAA games because it gives the player the choice to further expand the game's universe if they want or have them ignore them and just play through the game. Some examples of recent games that include these elements are Bioshock Infinite, The Last Of Us, and Tomb Raider. The inclusion of them are great because they let you fill the blanks in the story but are not the main focus of the narrative, making you sometimes forget or ignore them. Gone Home on the other hand wants you to focus on these story elements, making you look every nook and crany of an empty, creaky house for clues on the story. Every little piece of paper, note, letter, bill, journal entry. Is a further look into the life of this seemingly normal family in the 90s. There are little to none puzzle mechanics. The game gates and guides you into different parts of the story as you start to flesh out what has happened in this house. This is quite ingenious because each reveal via a letter or a journal entry makes your imagination run wild on this family's histroy as you discover a new room in this house. It also subverts your expectation on this type of game, hinting at what you expect from a game where youre all alone in dark rooms ala slender or amnesia. Sometimes a game story can be just about a high school girl growing up, making friends, and figuring out her life and be a million times more meaningful than the classic " the universe/world/country will be taken over by Aliens/terrorists/zombies ". Gone Home wants to resonate with people who grew up in the 90s and it does so beautifully.
Gone Home takes the textlog/audiolog trope of hundreds of other games and perfects it to craft a meaningful, well rouded, deeply personal story, in a retro 90s backdrop with a dark ambiance that will subvert your expectations and your imagination.