It’s hard to discuss Gone Home without using spoilers because the very nature of the game requires that you explore and discover all these things yourself. I’ve tried my best, but if you play games for the story and the experience – as opposed to fast-paced action and visceral combat – then Gone Home is surely something you will appreciate.
Go play it first, then come back. The words below the jump can wait for you.
Intellectual Response (Fewer Spoilers).
Emotional Response (More Spoilers).
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It’s strange to realise how well we’ve been trained by games over the years. As I play Gone Home I know what to expect from it – a methodical exploration of a normal family home to find out why no one is there – yet the dark rooms, rain on the windows and occasional flash of lightning adds tension to the scene.
Where is the monster hiding? When will the blood start coming out of the walls? What room will hold the dead bodies? None of these questions are relevant to Gone Home, but we are all Pavlov’s Gamer.
The lights are off because nobody is home, it’s as simple as that. No scares, no horrors awaiting us, just a family home with some faulty electricals.
After a few minutes you’ll be able to put these horror game expectations out of your mind and begin to pay attention to the storyline. You’ll start wondering why the house is referred to as ‘The Psycho House’ when it was occupied by a well-respected local doctor – but that’s an obvious hook that’s there to get people’s attention, a red herring even.
Beyond that, you’ll find yourself intrigued by the mundanities of the family and their life. You’ll care about the father and his awful writing, the younger sister’s troubles at school, about her new punk friends… I won’t say any more about the story than that, but I will say it’s a compelling story because it is so mundane, so normal, so real.
It is not my life and it is not my house, but it is a series of events and feelings that I remember, perfectly formed into an area for you to spend a few hours in. Fuck zombies, fuck aliens, fuck war and killing and braggadocio. Gone Home is a thoroughly human and humane game, and a superbly crafted one at that. It is a sublime story, and will hopefully inspire others to make games with the same level of charm, depth and humanity.
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I cried. Twice. The game is over but I can’t stop thinking about the story of these two girls. The Fullbright Company have done a perfect job of capturing the awkwardness and uncertainty of adolescent love. I cried when it seemed like they were breaking up, and I cried even harder at the very end. Tears are still coming to my eyes thinking about it.
If Gone Home is set in 1994 then I want to know where they are now; did they make it? Did their love survive adolescence? Does Lonnie still song, does Sam still write? I care about these people that don’t even exist, but they still feel like people, not just characters.
To say Gone Home is magnificent storytelling for a game would be to do it a massive disservice. We humans write about relationships a lot, but I don’t think I have ever read a novel, a story, or even correspondence from a friend about a relationship that affected me as much. It is a beautiful story, fantastically told, using the unique language of games to tell the story in a way that no other media could manage.
I worry that we’ll never have another Gone Home, that it is too singularly special and beautiful for us to ever see its like again. But I sincerely hope I’m wrong.