During my first college class, I was told it is really hard to define which things were really literature and which weren’t. It’s pretty easy, right? No. We always come up with the most representative examples first and yeah, those are a piece of cake. As I began analyzing less central examples, things got hard.
Are letters literature? What about tweets, billboards, and blog posts? Things lose their tangible limits and possibilities arise everywhere. In the same fashion as it happens with literature, it’s also bound to happen with most human activities, including video games. In this line of thought, Gone Home is a very conflictive and interesting example, and makes for a groundbreaking gaming experience.
When people think about video games, some think about a Mario-like platformer. That’s pretty much the general idea of a generic game. A little dude jumping around, fighting monsters, grabbing objects, and saving a princess. There are other viable examples, and all of them are good enough. After that you get genres, with different points of view and different focuses. Variations include firing weapons, solving puzzles, managing resources, and creating units. In addition, we also have games that focus on action, on the story, on the characters, on items, etc. A huge universe of options.
I’ve had Gone Home for a while now, maybe a year, and was avoiding playing it. I read many reviews and comments, and while some said it was GOTY material, others said it wasn’t even a game. Don’t even get me started on Steam user reviews. The thing is, I finally decided to play it and find out what the whole mess was about.
Why is this a game then? I really don’t know. I just somehow feel it is, like I know a book of Tolkien’s letters to his friends is definitely literature. Some obvious things can be stated: I lived that experience on a PC, I got some choices and freedoms, it’s commercially stated as a game. It doesn’t really matter, this text is not about defining what defines video games. Let’s say it’s a matter of faith: I believe Gone Home is among video games.
Gone Home isn’t a classic game; that can be found out right away. It’s an exploration game with a pace that is mostly defined by the player’s interest, patience, and willingness to get carried away. This clearly means that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I got to walk around an empty house checking rooms and finding items, texts, and even audio that became pieces of the story. Please notice that I am not using the word puzzle intentionally, because there are none. Gone Home only needs you to pay attention to what you find and have a regular-human memory.