Et Cetera

The Words & Writings of Sean Richmond

Gone Home

The house is unfamiliar to you, strange and mysterious in its grandeur. Lightning flickers in the windows, the panes shaken by the accompanying thunder, briefly drowning out the constant patter of rain drops on the glass. You approach the door, and on it is a note from your little sister, Sam, warning you from exploring the house too thoroughly. She's gone, and she doesn't want to be found. Thus does Gone Home, a new game by the Fullbright Company begin.

It's hard to really describe the game without going deep into spoiler territory, for the game is at its best when being explored for the first time without any real prior expectations or knowledge. The storytelling presented within this gem of a game is almost unparalleled in the way it is able to construct full and rich lives for the three people that you left behind, using nothing but post it notes, scribbled letters, and concert ticket stubs. Aside from Sam's occasional narrated journal entries, the story is left entirely up to the player's own abilities to discern through the items scattered about.

And then there is the time period that the game takes place during. For anyone who grew up in the 90s, it's a trip back in time as you search through the family's collection of VHS recordings of the X-Files, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Airplane! The music is pulled from mid 90s punk banks like Bratmobile (and others, which admittedly I'm only familiar with in that they existed), and as you find cassettes and play them as you search through Sam's bedroom, it sets the tone for the story unfolding before you. 

Gone Home is a story that really could only be told through the lens of interactive media. While there is a certain order that the game must unfold, it is cleverly hidden enough, and still loose enough in the discovery of specific clues that you feel that you really are just returning from a long journey abroad, and are desperately searching for the fate of those you love. The connection that you make in the scant couple of hours that it takes to play through the game (not much longer than a movie would be) is astounding, and allows for a beautiful and staggeringly personal story to be told.

Gone Home is a unique storytelling achievement, one that should be praised for its accomplishments, and held up as a prime example of Games as Art.