The gaming media have salivated over Gone Home since its initial release in August, with critical acclaim coming from every news outlet I read. Being tight on money, and having the game never come down in price until the Christmas sales meant that I didn’t get to play this until recently. I’m glad I did get around to buying and playing it, as I feel this is a landmark game for our industry, and one that changed my GOTY list instantly.
You play the role of Kaitlin Greenbriar, a 21 year old who has just returned home after a year of travelling abroad across Europe. In the hallway of your house, you notice that no ones home, which is surprising considering how long you’ve been away. A note is found on the side in the porch explaining to Kaitlin that whoever wrote the note is sorry that they’re not there to see Kaitlin on her return, and that Kaitlin shouldn’t try to find him/her. This is your premise: an empty house with a warning not to find out what happened. Fantastically short and to the point, but enough mystery and intrigue to keep you hooked for the duration of the story.
You are free to explore Greenbriars home as and how you’d like, from switching on lights to enter a new room, or picking up and examining a box of tissues, the house gives you free reign (within reason) to take every room in your own time. Each room is uniquely original, allowing for both indirect (the way books are organised or what occupies each space), and direct (notes which literally explain what happened at a given time) story telling and characterisation. This really adds to the atmosphere of the house, giving you the sense that this house is used and lived in like your own home now.
As you pick up items that relate to the main story/narrative, Sam, your younger sister, talks to you through speech logs, explaining her journey and what has happened in her life whilst you’ve been away. Each log gives enough information to give you an idea of whats happened in the house, whilst also withholding enough to keep you pressing on for more.
The story is short, and the whole game can be completed within 2 hours. There was a lot of backlash around the time it was released that reviewers weren’t mentioning the length of the campaign tied to it’s £15 price tag (due to the vast majority of them getting a free press copy). I can understand why some people would be annoyed, they may only buy so many games a year and £15 is a lot of money to spend on 2 hours of entertainment (that’s almost twice the price of a film). But this game is art, it’s pushing the boundaries of how a game and story can be so intricately connected, and you can’t put a price on forwarding the medium we so love and cherish.
It’s hard to go too much further into Gone Home without spoiling things for the players. It’s an explorative game where there’s no re-playability due to there being no more mystery in the story. The confines of the house are small enough that you manage to explore every nook and cranny within the 2 hours you play the game.
The only thing I can say is, I enjoyed every minute that I was immersed within Kaitlins world, and wanted to know everything there was to know. The story was the game mechanics, with the two being so intertwined that it’s hard to have imagine Gone Home in any other capacity. It’s taken storytelling in video games a whole new direction, one which Movies or Books can’t even begin to compete with since they’re passive mediums. I’d hugely recommend everyone to give Gone Home a play to see the direction the games industry is heading, and what fabulous and amazing things developers can do with story telling in an interactive way.