Thursday, August 22, 2013

Played Lately: Gone Home

  • As an experiment in environmental storytelling, Gone Home is an unqualified success. As a game, depending on your definition, it may pale next to the first person shooters that spawned it. It's not a game that you are going to ever describe as "visceral." But if you ever wondered what it would be like to walk through Rapture or Columbia and take in the world and its stories, The Fullbright Company has served up a dream.

  • Gone Home is the story of Kaitlin Greenbrier, a twenty-one year old woman who arrives at her family's new home after a year abroad. But when she arrives, there is no one home. She must put the story together by exploring an unfamiliar house, seeking clues as to what happened to her parents and sister. But while Katie is the protagonist, her sister Sam is the real main character. Throughout the game, Sam narrates entries from her journal as you dig up clues. Although I was initially thrown by this parallel storytelling, I found that it really paid off in the end.
  • I like what playing the game says about Katie. She is very much a cypher, but your actions actually illuminate the character's personality. We find that Katie is not the type of woman who sits down in the living room, waiting for everyone to return. She is quick to poke around an unfamiliar environment, and even invade her family's privacy if it is necessary. But in some cases, Katie tells us directly when she is uncomfortable with items you discover. She is very curious, upending just about anything, searching every square inch to learn a truth. At one point, you find a find a note from your father dressing Sam down for leaving all of the lights on, "just like Katie." Sure enough, I rarely turned a light off once it was on.

  • Though the main plot line is quite in your face, with Sam reading her journal entries as you explore, there are some amazing little subplots and details that you can only piece together by paying close attention. I loved the strange fate of Captain Allegra's first mate (which I figured out before the big reveal). I really enjoyed watching their father's writing career make some interesting twists, though I did miss the large connection he had with the house.

  • I didn't cry at the ending. I mean, honestly, it's not like this is a Pixar film. But I was very nervous as I made my way to the finale. I had been so drawn into the story that I actually feared what I would find at the end. Not that I'm going to spoil it for you, other than to say that everything in the game comes together by the end. If you can afford to do so (or have access to a friend's copy), you should take the two hours it takes to play through the game. I put that video up there, but don't watch it. Experience the story, one of the best stories in gaming, for yourself.

  • That said, I completely understand why you might be put off by a twenty dollar price tag for what is a two to three hour game. Jayedub and I had a short conversation on twitter the other day about judging games based on their cost. (He tackles some more issues surrounding the game on his blog.) As a work of art and entertainment, criticism of video games should be about their qualities as games. Gone Home is not a lesser game because of its price. But it is valid to make the purchasing decision based on your tolerance for prices. And I understand why that is a concern here. But if you can afford to do so, I think it is well worth the price.

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. There's no doubt that Gone Home does something right based on the positive review it has been receiving from critics and games.

    I can't fault anyone for liking Gone Home or for spending the money on the game, I just personally prefer a little less interactive story telling and a little more mechanics in my games. I hope I wasn't too harsh on my blog about the game.