Please read with care if you haven’t already played Gone Home.
I picked up this gem during the Autumn Steam Sale as several coworkers had recommended it to me. Since it was 75% off, I figured why not? I decided to play it last Sunday evening, over some delicious warm food and a cup of tea. I can honestly say that was the best choice I made.
Gone Home is strangely soothing and familiar. The story is told beautifully, and despite the fact that I was constantly squealing, “Aliens!” as I found clues (seriously, The X-Files was circled in the TV guide, and there was an “I want to believe” poster in my sister’s bedroom…) I was genuinely surprised. The game was not at all like I expected. It was suitably creepy, but in a way that made the entire story feel more real. Gone Home is a first-person story adventure, and you play the part of Katie, returning home after a trip to Europe. Your family, however, are gone. You try to find out what might have happened to them, and as you move through the house, you find clues that trigger journal entries by your sister, Sam. Her voice plays as she reads the journal to you, as though she’s left a note just for you.
The game builds in intensity, and you come to learn that your sister had fallen in love with her best friend, Lonnie. The story then becomes about your sister’s self-discovery, as she comes to learn more about her sexuality. The discovery is lovely to witness, and difficult as well, as you learn more and more about their developing relationship and the prejudices they face. My chest hurt when I learned that Lonnie was going to be deployed, leaving Sam behind.
The game finally reached a crescendo; the metaphor of you climbing to the top of the house, up the stairs into the attic to the finale was not lost on me. I remember feeling my heart start to beat faster, and a lump forming in my throat. I didn’t know what I expected to find in the attic now that I finally had the key. When I read the final note from Sam, I fought back tears, and then I looked around the attic and saw the beautiful photos of her and Lonnie: their hands interlocked, the heart-shaped locket she saved up for dangling between their laced fingers; the chest pocket of Lonnie’s military uniform… The ending credits played and I burst into tears. My chest hurt, but it was cathartic. I tried really hard to hold back, but when my fiancé turned to me to ask what was wrong I smiled and the tears flowed freely.
It was only two hours of gameplay, but it was one of the most beautifully written stories, and I felt like I was truly a part of it. The game is a work of art, and it hurts that it’s over. I recommend it to anyone who wants to be emotionally involved in a game. I’d even recommend it to my mum, and she doesn’t play games! Hell, I’d even give you your money back if you didn’t enjoy it. Thank you to the Fullbright Company for letting me experience this masterpiece.