Like every other writer scrambling to put out words on the recent indie release Gone Home, I too will have to warn that you should probably play the game before reading anything on the matter. That is unless you want to be spoiled and simply figure out what the excited chatter is all about. If so, by all means hit ‘Continue Reading’ and…well, continue reading.
I don’t write about issues that don’t affect me. That might sound a little callous but it’s simply because I try and steer clear of making opinions when my opinions can’t possibly grasp the full picture. I pay attention to social issues, I support them, I just don’t really input too vocally because I don’t have much to say on the matter. I don’t fully understand them. Objectively I can figure out the situation but the reality is I’m not a woman in a male dominated world, I’m not a homosexual in a straight world, I’m not…well I am a minority but the fact remains that there are things in this world I have no authority over so I choose not to make any dramatic statements about them.
So imagine my surprise when the game Gone Home, something I heard about for the first time two days after its release, was not at all what I expected. Gone Home not only subverted my assumptions based on its atmosphere, but also forced me into a position where one of the things I didn’t really understand was shown to me.
First, and here’s the spoiler, Gone Home isn’t the sort of horror game I assumed it was based on its synopsis and trailer. It was a coming out story where the character I was in control of slowly had revealed to her that her little sister is a lesbian. The game, an exploration only game, just features walking and reading and listening for about two hours. To be completely honest I found myself a little disappointed because 20 dollars was a little expensive for something that was left intentionally ambiguous. This is in no way myself trying to equate monetary value to the narrative experience.
Now, I say “show” because I wasn’t put into the shoes of the younger sister, but rather the passive older sister who has the revelation told to her. The game cleverly sidesteps making me the younger sister who is clearly the focus of the story.
I’m the secondary character.
Thinking in probabilities, not everyone may be able to relate to the issues and troubles the younger sister, Sam, reveals as the game progresses. But far more people can probably relate to the older sister character. No, I’m not saying that more people can relate to having someone close to them come out, but that in the larger scheme of things, almost everyone has experienced watching someone close to them deal with a life-changing experience while we can only offer words and condolences and emotions but ultimately know that their trials are exclusively their trials, while our troubles remain decidedly ours.
So what else can I say, other than it was surprising? Was it effective? Yes. Was it moving? Yes. I opted out of reviewing the game based on the fact that I wouldn’t been able to put a score to it. It’s not so much a game as it is an interactive glimpse into the lives of others. If I was to say anything “objective” I’d say that the game runs fine, the environments, sound, and controls are all in working order. It’s just I’ve never played anything like this before and at the same time, I have.
Video games transpose us into the lives of others and by that logic I’ve been a soldier, a mercenary, a robot. Yet I’ve never been a 20 year old woman who’s had her younger sister come out and tell her that she is a lesbian, and that life is hard, and confusing, but that she is in love, and she is sorry for leaving me.
And so how did I feel about it?
I wanted to tell her that everything was going to be alright, that I’d always be there for her, that she didn’t need to feel alone as long as I was there.
At the end of the day I would say the real payoff of Gone Home is that the game actually revealed two things: One person’s very intimate struggles, and my own honest responses to them.
I can’t make any critiques of how this will affect the industry wrought with sexism and various phobias, or how it will change the way stories can be told. Dropping any attempt at social commentary, all I can say is that I came away from the game with some personal responses that I’ve decided to share with you all through this article.
Gone Home is currently available on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux.