In Which I Find Myself Actually Liking A First-Person Video Game: A Gone Home Review

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            I have followed Gone Home since it’s inception. The game intrigued me because I wondered how it would all pan out. More specifically how it would keep the player interested over an entire story arch. Not to mention I am hugely against 1st person POV video games in general (a topic for another day I suppose). With all of this in mind I set out to buy and complete Gone Home. Click through to read more!

            I was initially perturbed at the idea of having to download and join Steam, but I quickly put on my big boy pants and got over it. I didn’t know much about the plot line of the game; a method I intentionally planned on for I knew the goal was to piece it together. I did know however that I was supposed to search out clues to figure everything out. I tore through the porch like a bat out of hell. The last thing I even looked at was the note on to the door that was so glaringly obvious and calling out to the player. (I do not plan on recapping the entire game and only say the aforementioned to give you an idea as to the type of player I was in the game.)

            What I most enjoyed about the game was its anonymity. You know very little about your own character and are forced to gather out the details of who you are from the postcards you sent home while abroad, of which there are not many of. You never see yourself in a mirror, or through some tricky maneuvering of your first-person camera. The player is essentially non-existent, more a ghost than the family members you are trying to find; so much of a ghost that you understand that you are unwelcome in your families new home. There is one portrait in the entire house that depicts the family. Otherwise there is no way of knowing what anyone looks like. The goal of the game is not to find them, but instead to find out whom they are as people. Every family has skeletons. The point of this game is not to shoot zombies or rob a bank, but it is to find out those skeletons. It’s a voyeuristic look into the life of the average family. It shows our innate nature as humans to want to know about the lives of others. Look at our obsession with the lives of celebrities or our need to stay connected with friends on social media as examples of this. One could argue it is reminiscent to the off-Broadway immersive theatre piece “Sleep No More,” run by Punchdrunk Productions in Chelsea, New York. The crux of the show is that you are on your feet moving through the play’s adaption of Macbeth, as opposed from watching it from an audience. The show is interactive in that the braver you are or the more you put into viewing the show, the more you will get out of it. Just like in Gone Home, you are encouraged to open draws or play detective in order to understand the plot of the wordless play.

            The creators of Gone Home have cited the show as an inspiration to the game and its feel. That feel is one of uneasiness. Constantly feeling as though something bad is about to happen, even though you are in complete control. In short, terrifying. Basements, attics, flickering lights, and emptiness leave you constantly fighting to not cover your eyes or shut your computer off.

            The game is playfully set in the 1990’s. This is a distinctive, and smart, choice for a few reasons. It is right before cellphones were around, so people still communicated by written letters and voicemails. Teens also still kept diaries, sent post cards, and passed notes in class. All of these ideas are being passed to the wayside in the modern era of hyper-connectivity and technology. The 90’s were also the peak or the only time of the grunge era of music and lifestyle. Grunge music just so happens to be the perfect platform for displaying a teen’s angst. Most notably, a teen that is coming to terms with her sexuality.

            What gives me worry is the games replay-ability. How many times can you play the game before you have discovered everything there is to know about the family? The creators were good in including subplots about each family member for you to find, but after that what need is there to ever play the game again? I can only hope for updates, or sequels that will help to expand upon the family. If done with the best and truest of intentions the game can continue to expand without reaching a level of kitsch akin to that of Where’s Waldo? or Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?.

            I highly suggest that you beg, borrow, or steal whatever money you can and get this game. It is refreshing to see a first-person game that isn’t yet another Halo or COD. It makes you actually appreciate the style of gaming. Peer out from behind the night vision scope on your sniper and try playing Gone Home instead. I promise, you won’ regret it.

            An empty house. A missing family. You, alone, surrounded by the lingering question: What happened here? Discover the mystery for yourself in GONE HOME, a story exploration video game in development by The Fullbright Company. Available now in the Steam Store or may be purchased directly.

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