I just finished playing an indie game from The Fullbright Company called Gone Home and it’s worth mentioning on this blog, because of the subject matter. Basically, you (the main character — Katie) come home in the middle of the night from a trip to Europe. You’ve been gone a year. You discover the house locked up and nobody home, with an ominous note from your younger sister, Sam, stuck to the front door warning you not to tell anybody what you find inside.
As you make your way through the house, you discover more notes, pictures, receipts, music tapes, and sticky notes from your sister and your parents that eventually help you piece together what happened not only during the past year, but also during the years you were away at college. The atmosphere is creepy and you keep expecting to find a corpse or something equally horrifying in one of the rooms.
I don’t want to give too much away, but what you find is basically a love story between Sam and her female best friend in high school, as they discover how they really feel about each other. The parents are less than understanding, and there are problems at school, among other things trying to pull them apart. There is a sense of foreboding as you wind your way through to uncover the final outcome, hidden behind the locked attic door….
This doesn’t really meet my definition of a game. It’s interactive — you pick up things and examine them, and you uncover combinations to locked cabinets, and find keys to locked rooms — but you’re a ghost (figuratively) in the house. You can’t change anything that’s happened. You’re just uncovering it. And you can’t affect the outcome of the “game.”
So it’s more of an interactive story. This has sparked outrage among gamers, especially those delightfully misogynistic gamers who think the entire idea of Gone Home is stupid and pointless. My favorite recurring quote is “It’s been done better.”
On the other hand, I’ve come across an accusation that the game is kind of a “bait and switch,” and that does have some validity. I think the biggest problem is that everything is just too creepy. The designers played that aspect up a lot and it builds expectations the game really doesn’t deliver on. You stumble across journal entries about a ghost in the house, about the possibility that the previous owner went insane. You find ouija boards and other occult paraphernalia. The father seems to have been struggling with his writing career, and you wonder just how stable the guy was. All of these things lead you to expect some kind of horrific revelation, and… well, you might be disappointed in that regard.
However, as a story, I would still recommend the game. It’s short, and people have pointed out that it probably isn’t worth $20 for the amount of game play. So perhaps it would be good to wait for the price to drop.
You can purchase the game through Steam or the game website: http://www.gonehomegame.com/