Gone Home: Storytelling in Short Bursts

Gone Home is a game made by the Fullbright Company or as steam calls it “short indie exploration walking simulator” since your only actions are to walk, turn on lights, and picking up and examining things, and that is pretty much all you need. It is about your character, Katie Greenbriar, returning home from her year in Europe. No one is home and initially it is your mission to find out why. You walk into a dark house during a storm, it seems like a standard horror game, making you jump a little every time you hear thunder rumble. This isolation and expectation of scares has you on your toes until you pick up something important to the plot, most of the time these are letters or cassettes, and then you hear the sound of your sister Sam’s voice talking to you in the form of a journal entry. Suddenly you are not so alone with Sam telling you more and more about herself as you explore this mansion known as “The Psycho House”. The key feature of this game is to dig through letters, manuscripts, tapes, books, or whatever you can pick up to discover what is going on and when you pick up something important to Sam you get another journal entry. These entries are the main plot, at first it’s her hatred of moving and being the freak of the school, but evolves into her friendship with Lonnie.

All the journals and dates that you can reread

All the journals and dates that you can reread

Katie is not like most other first person game protagonists she actually has a personality as see through the beginning recording, her postcards, as well as some of the flavor text such as her refusal to read Sam’s intimate experience with Lonnie. We even see her face in a painting in the first part of the game rather than a short glimpse at a cutscene like most other games. The main character seems to be Sam because you are looking through her love story and see many aspects of her personality. You see her love of Super Nintendo games, her aspiration to be a writer, interest in punk music (by female artists), and her realization and acceptance of her sexuality. The notes the way her room is and how she talks makes Sam is one of the most relatable and fleshed out characters in any media, and this was all done through such a short medium.

Sam's writing

Sam’s writing

Most people think that it’s just a game where you wander through a house looking for pieces of paper not very entertaining for some, but this game is not about action it is a game all about its story and atmosphere. Those pieces of paper you find do not always relate to the main story. This game has many different plot threads throughout the experience and these stories do not have journals explaining them unlike the main plot. The player finds piece of papers or books and can figure out the stories on their own. For example you see that Katie’s father is a writer who has written two books in a series, “The Accidental Savior” and “The Accidental Pariah” as you find them scattered throughout the house, but they were unpopular so his company fired him. So because of this his confidence was shattered and he stopped writing, but then you find a letter from an underground company that saw his work as a classic and began republishing his book (as you find them with new covers at this point) and you find the manuscript of the third book. This game also never directly tells you why Katie’s parents left, but you can find one note showing that they went to a wedding.

Why her parents left.

Why her parents left.

. The main story is interesting to its very comforting in such an alien and lonely environment and it really intrigued me. Gone Home is a unique short game with a touching mystery story that people should experience, and digging through everything this house contains just flushes out the world so much more.

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