“GoneHomeArt” Forbes Magazine
To me, the game Gone Home first presented itself as a linear horror game. From the very beginning, the notes and exploration created an unsettling uncertainty in which I did not how to process. As I played the game, I slowly realized that this game did not follow a linear plot, and that the exploration served as the core essence of the game itself. In an eerie fashion, the openness of the game added to its melancholy feel that continued to make me uncomfortable. I half expected the damp overtone of the environment to fade out as the game progressed. The unsettling aura of the game positively reinforced the message. By exposing the audience to such an intensive immersion, the developers of the game were able to drive forth powerful messages and problems in an effective manner.
As someone who grew up nearby Portland, Oregon, this game struck a familiar chord. It was interesting to see how controversial discussions such as affairs, homosexuality, and intrafamilial tensions were treated back then. The Portland that I know today has evolved so much over time. The entire microcosm presented in the game seemed so strikingly different. It was an interesting experience, as I was able to compare the Portland of today to the Portland of back then
View of Portland via Shuttlestock
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In the midst of the pitch dark and an ominous note posted on the front door, Gone Home begins leaving the player with insatiable curiosity. The game starts out quite scary, as darkness and lack of direction follow the player. However, quickly the absence of missions becomes more frustrating than intriguing.
The character development is quite interesting in this game. Given that the player takes on the perspective of the sister, Kaitlin, we discover information at the same rate as the family, making it feel like the player is on the inside. The player acts as a pseudo detective, rummaging through the house to get hands on anything he or she can find in order to learn more about Kaitlyn’s family, specifically her sister Sam, as she went through the troubles of coming out to her family. This is useful in not only learning about each individual character, but the family dynamic as well. Also, the fact that the player takes on the role of Kaitlin makes it easier to relate to all the problems the family faces.
Gone Home is a game with an intriguing story line, but once you lose your interest from the opening hook, and before you start to unveil information about the family, there is a disengaging middle part where you are aimlessly walking around the house without quite knowing what you are supposed to be doing.
Knowing that it was important to truly immerse myself in the game, I waited until 2 a.m. and put on a pair of headphones to begin the adventure that was Gone Home. Set in a dark, large house with continuous sounds of thunder and rain throughout the course of the entire game, it is no doubt waiting until 2 a.m. to play the game was a mistake. I had a weird feeling during the entire game that something in the game was going to attack me.
It was interesting to find about the characters little by little by reading letters and different objects found throughout the house. Even the slightest detail, such as the songs on the tapes found throughout the house tells us about the characters personality. I found that to be a very interesting way to introduce us to the characters and the actual plot of the game, not by just handing the information over to us but making the player work his way around the house to find out what comes next.
To be honest, it was kind of a bummer that nothing really happened at the end. I kept on waiting for something to happen or for some kind of revelation to come my way that would permanently affect my ability to sleep but nothing like that ever came and I was able to sleep like a baby that night.
Overall, it was a great game that plays around with your senses and emotions to deliver a solid experience.
Gone Home was one of the more intriguing games I’ve played so far. Right from the start, I felt a mysterious and eerie vibe just from reading the letter from Sam taped to the front door. I thought this was a great way to start the game because the player is immediately hooked by the ambiguity presented in that letter.
The game takes place in the aftermath of Sam’s escape from her unwanted reality. This reverse chronological structure is the first I’ve experienced in a game and its effects on the gaming experience is monumental. All I was thinking of was where’s the next clue or hint? The fact that there were also multiple locked doors at the start of the game pushed me to keep playing so that I could somehow discover what was being hidden.
The series of Samantha’s journal entries or letters addressed to Kaitlin also provides a unique narrative experience. Each letter exposes some kind of detail pertinent to the big picture, especially those messages that uncovered the mother’s affair and the father’s terrible childhood. This also ties into how the player must explore the house and find those clues that reveal crucial details about what happened while Kaitlin was absent. The freedom to roam around and make one’s own decisions during this game enables the player to take one’s time and absorb everything. In conclusion, Gone Home was a tragic but complete video game, one I won’t forget.
“Where Dear Esther invites the kind of textual analysis at which students of literature excel, Gone Home demands something more akin to source comparison.” What distinction is Bell drawing between these two games — between literature and history — and do you agree with his distinction? What similarities do you see between the two games?
Exploration is a core concept in both of these games: “Dear Esther” and “Gone home”, however they target different goals. In Bell’s article, the author draws a main distinction between the two in the sense that while “Gone Home” requires the gamer to have a skill of a historian when piecing the clues together, “Dear Esther” is based on “a single ambiguous narrative voice”. As a result, “Dear Esther” is mostly based on a literature analysis whereas “Gone Home” projects the reader in uncovering the story on his own. I agree with this distinction as I had the same feeling when interacting with both games.
Similarly, the player feels involved on a personal level in both games. In “Gone Home”, the fact of incarnating Katie and investigating her house and uncovering personal objects from each member of the family makes the reader feel also a part of the story. In “Dear Esther”, the player had the access to what is comparable to journal entries or letters from a man to his wife. As a result, the player has access to emotions which allows him to sympathize with the narrator.
-Richard Bell, “Family History: Source Analysis in Gone Home”. Play the Past, accessed 13 Sept. 2016.
The Chinese Room, “Dear Esther“, 14 February 2012
Richard Bell describes “Gone Home” as a game with a historical narrative and as a means from which we can learn from the past. On the other hand, Bell portrays “Dear Esther” as a literary source where the player must learn through the poetic literature presented in throughout the game.
I agree with this distinction having played both games and I find both ways to be effective because both games try to convey different techniques of gameplay. Although it was difficult at times in Dear Esther to know exactly who was narrating, that in itself was motivation to finish the game so that I could find answers at the end. Unfortunately, I was as confusing, if not, more confused after the conclusion of the game.
Both Dear Esther and Gone Home are slow paced games which allow you to explore the setting around. The games do this in different ways. Gone Home allows you to examine the objects in the Greenbriar’s middle class home and use them to make assumptions about Katie Greenbriar, her family and her friends. You take the objects and learn what each character is going through and the history of that character. In Dear Esther, you are more guided down one path. You can explore the setting, but there is really only a few different paths you can go in each level, and every step to the next level is the same for everyone. Also in Dear Esther, there is only really one story. A man is hurt and stuck on a deserted beach and is trying to escape. In the end, he can’t take the pain anymore and frees himself from it by committing suicide. It is more simple than gone home because the clues to explain the plot are told to you or directly in your path.
My game play of Dear Esther consisted of exploring and finding clues, much like Gone Home. It’s undoubtedly similar in the sense that I play with a first-person view, through the eyes of another, looking for random notes and objects to observe. While the similarities hold true, Bell’s depiction of both games shines a new light on the purpose and class of the games. I, myself, think both games were similar enough to overlook the differences, but then again my opinion on my play through can be vastly different than another person’s.
Despite the medium commonalities of Gone Home and Dear Esther, the carefully guided rhetoric constructs of the two games allow for some interesting insights that would be normally elusive. Whereas the “literary traditionalist” might dismiss the use of video games as a method of conveying rhetoric and message and deem video games an unworthy comparison to the conventional literary counterpart, Dear Esther and Gone Home pervades through the preconceived boundaries of alternative media to convey an unique literary experience. In “Family History: Source Analysis in Gone Home“, Richard Bell compares Gone Home to a historical archive and Dear Esther as a more classical comparison to literature.
I found it absolutely necessary to play this game in broad daylight in order to avoid the mini heart attacks that would have occurred if I had played this game alone at night. As you can probably tell, I am not a fan of anything that falls into the horror genre. Personally, I did not enjoy eerie music and melancholic environment even though some people may think otherwise. I can see how the creators of the game utilize the background noise, such as the lightning and faint footsteps, to build a sense of anticipation and suspense. I desperately sought a light switch or lamp the second I entered a lightly dimmed room.
In terms of the structure of the game, I enjoyed being able to pick engage with the inanimate objects in the room. Even though most of the things we were able to pick up were completely irrelevant to the game, I still found pleasure in scoping the area and making some sense of the documents, stationary materials, cups, condoms, books and other random items. I felt as if each item played its own part in helping the audience piece together all of the information. We can assume the intimacy between Sam and Lonnie through their scribbled messages and drawings. From Sam’s first meeting with Lonnie to her first kiss with Lonnie, the audience was practically living her journey through her diary entries.Unlike a book, we found pieces of the story and we had to make our own interpretation of what is happening through the accumulation of clues through searching every inch of the house. It excites the audience and stimulates a sense of curiosity that is completely different from a book or movie feeding viewers information. The locker combinations for Sam’s locker and the filing cabinet as well as the key to open the darkroom were clues that the audience had to patiently find in the house. We weren’t watching Katie peace together the information; we were the ones who had to take a course of action.I feel that this gives the audience a more engaging first hand experience rather than a one-sided narrative text.
It was such a unique experience getting to know the characters through a game simulation. Even as minor characters, the mother and father had an interesting storyline as well. We can piece together the story behind the mother’s affair with the ranger and the father’s writing career in shambles. We can also assume that Katie is a very intelligent student whereas Sam seems to be quite the opposite. Through the narratives and little notes in the game, we can tell that she is a rebellious, strong-minded and resilient young woman. However, her diary entries also revealed a more vulnerable and timid side of her. In the late 1900s, someone coming out as homosexual would be unconventional, sometimes even shameful. Her parents were even in denial when she came out to them. Sam even doubted herself at first, but she learned to accept and love who she has become because her love for Lonnie proved stronger than traditional standards.
All in all, this game was definitely the highlight of my week. The excitement and curiosity that grew as I discovered additional information engrossed me until the very end. Homophobia and molestation were definitely touchy subjects at that time period, and it made the game all the more interesting. I enjoyed reading the short messages between Lonnie and Sam as well as hearing Sam’s voice in her journal entries because it added intimacy between the audience and the characters. The sound of her faint and sorrowful voice in her entries give the audience a sense of sympathy towards her, but in a different way that a book or a movie would do so. When Sam said that her heart was beating faster and faster, I felt as if my heart wanted to do the same. At the end of the game, I felt more of a stronger connection to both Katie and Sam.