(Warning Spoilers are located throughout this post, if you haven’t finish Gone Home I suggest you finish it before reading)
Gone Home is one of those special games that will stick with me for months, perhaps years to come. Developed by The Fullbright Company, Gone Home provided me with a gorgeous tale that captured my full attention, as it pushed me forward hoping to find every last piece of its charming narrative. Gone Home isn’t your average gaming experience; it is a realistic tale that is grounded so strongly in reality, that you find yourself sympathising with characters you never meet. Though this situation may not reflect an issue I have dealt with in my personal life, the problems showcased in Gone Home are very relatable. Additionally, the beautiful representations of these very problems made me greater understand the hardships some must deal with.
Players control Kaitlin Greenbriar – or Katie for short. After coming home from a long trip around Europe at short notice, Katie returns home to her family’s house completely empty. There are no clues as to where her parents or sister Samantha have gone, and it is here we begin our journey.
Gone Home’s setting is fairly basic. It is just your average mansion-sized house; yet there is an ominous sense of tension as you venture through each room. The atmosphere is created by the randomly generated sounds of a thunderstorm that are ever-present outside. These massive thunder-claps can strike at any time, meaning some players will randomly find themselves experiencing some heart pounding moments as they explore this empty mansion.
The beauty of this design is that every sense of fear and hesitation is created within our own head. There are no creepy ghosts, nor terrifying creatures out to get us; it is genuinely the simple fear of exploring the unknown alone that caused me to suffer from goosebumps and myself hesitating to continue my exploration. This heightened sense of tension is only increased as you continue to collect more information about the house itself, items that are scattered throughout the environment – which not only explain extra details about your location, but also about your family, and most importantly your sister.
Your sister Sam is the main character of Gone Home. The more you explore the house and collect more items, the puzzle pieces to her whereabouts start to form alongside her state of mind. As Katie has been off travelling the world, Sam has been dealing with problems that arise during our growth from teenage years to adulthood. However, her problems are emphasised due to her new school, lack of friends, and her recent discovery of her own homosexuality.
I have always respected those who have declared their homosexuality to the world; it is a tough decision to make simply because some people can be quite harsh and hurtful towards those individuals. The idea of finding out your sexual preferences through high school and having other teenagers aware of it, is a scary thought, as bullying in high school is something we all experience. Gone Home does a brilliant, yet extremely tasteful job of opening the mind of an individual going through these issues. It gave me a new-found respect for those who must suffer from an unappreciative family, and must face those hardships head-on as they juggle their growth to adulthood alongside these problems.
Sam’s narrative is presented through audio diaries which will play after collecting a certain number of items from around the house. These are acted with such sincerity, that it felt like I was experiencing someone’s true journey of finding themselves as a teenager. Even though I am not female, nor am I homosexual, the idea of being a lonely adolescent who cannot find a strong group of friends and lack of a strong family bond is something that resonated with me strongly. These problems are common. However, they are turned to eleven due to her unique circumstances. As we follow these audio diaries, we find Sam has found a friend in a young girl named Lonnie, who, as the story continues, becomes much closer to Sam than just friends.
It’s the beautiful tale of Romeo & Juliet told from a completely new perspective with completely new problems. However, it is as beautiful as ever. Through nothing more than written documents and some superbly acted audio diaries, you travel alongside Samantha as she deal with these issues, falls in love, and ultimately puts everything on the line for the person she cares about. I found myself getting emotional alongside the story, simply because it was so beautifully put together and produced a narrative on a sensitive topic with the utmost class. Gone Home gave me a new found admiration for homosexuals, simply due to the added pressure they receive from the outside. But in the end, they are people like everyone else, and their love is as strong and beautiful as any other love that exists.
Gone Home doesn’t try to be anything other than a beautiful tale wrapped inside a unique gaming experience. It doesn’t try to convey a certain message towards the topic at hand; it just wants to convey a beautiful tale of forbidden love, and it does it with a great sense of sophistication. It doesn’t try to throw in typical gaming features, it simply is what is it; which is what makes it so refreshing.
Some may consider Gone Home’s lack of gaming elements to be a drawback, but it’s titles like this that push the medium as a whole to better and bigger places. Being able to convey an array of characters that capture your attention is no easy feat. However, Gone Home excels at this without ever meeting these characters. It is astonishing to think my personal connection with these characters came from simply reading pieces of writing and listening to audio diaries, only emphasising the story telling genius at work.
Gone Home is an experience I greatly appreciate, both as a fan of great story telling, and a fan of the gaming medium. This journey attests to the intellectual and meaningful narratives that can be explored inside the gaming industry. Though Gone Home may only last for 2 hours, it is an experience that will last with me for a long time to come.