There are very few games that I have played that, upon reaching the ending, caused me to slump back into my seat exhausted and overwhelmed with emotion. Gone Home left me breathless with emotion and started a flame in my heart to not only share, but encourage the creation of games that combine the interaction of first person control with a deeply personal story that you dig up through exploration.
The title of the post could be laughed off as a joke, but I’m starting to really believe that we are entering a New Wave of video games lately. I mentioned this briefly in my Stanley Parable review, but I want to reiterate on the impact of the increasingly accessible technology and interest in our generation to create new forms of storytelling media. I believe that Video Games are that new form. What Fullbright Company, the studio behind Gone Home, has done here is take their personal vision and crafted it into a beautiful experience for us.
Like Stanley Parable, Gone Home is a different kind of game. Games aren’t just “shoot the thing and win” anymore. This is a first person, non-combat oriented, exploratory experience that is drenched in heavy themes and a deeply personal family story. I don’t want to spoil the game obviously since the whole point of the game is to find the puzzles pieces of the plot by wandering around your parents’ house. So before you go buy Gone Home $10 or $15 (whatever the current price is) and complain it’s too short, know that this game is short form.
Enough explaining though, let me tell you why I thought Gone Home was one of the best games to happen this year. Or maybe even in the past several years.
To me, video games have always managed to capture my sense of curiosity; to reel me in by my own desire to explore a space I haven’t seen before. Gone Home does just this–It starts you off at the front door of a house you have never been in and invites you inside to dig around for whatever it is you’re looking for. There is no combat, no jumping, and no inventory. You just scrounge around a giant manor in Oregon set in the 1990s and, using your observational skills, learn more about the people who live in it and what the situation is.
If you grew up in a suburban area or lived in the 90s or even visited a friend during the 90s, you will feel a warm feeling of nostalgia when you dig through the old house and see what sorts of things you find. There are all sorts of allusions to the culture during the time and I smiled so many times learning what kinds of things the family had or enjoyed that I could relate to.
Gone Home is simultaneously warmhearted and disquieting. It will bring you many chuckles as it does sorrowful frowns as you learn more. At first it feels a little funny rummaging around a house, even if it is a virtual one, that isn’t your own. There’s something very thrilling yet dodgy about digging up things that “weren’t meant to be seen”. After I played through the first time and discussed my experience with my brother, we shared experiences and realized we both had missed some things that the other saw!
Gone Home is a heart-wrenching story game that is real, raw, and will punch you in the heart. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get a few tears out of me. Heck, I impulse bought the game simply because I knew it was a first person story exploration game! But what I got out of it in the 3 hours I play touched me so deeply that I wish everyone I knew would play this game.
So please, channel your inner scavenger. Go be Katie Greenbriar for 3 hours and act like you’re a part of a family that you don’t know. Go find out where your sister is.