February 15, 2016
By Matt Petras
Video games have changed a lot since Asteroids and Pac-Man.
Gone Home, made by the independent development studio The Fullbright Company, is a first-person adventure game that is a wholly story-based experience. While many parts of the game could be described as puzzles, none are challenging or involved enough to distract from the narrative of the game, which tells the sweet and funny but mostly tragic tale of Sam Greenbriar.
Sam Greenbriar is a lesbian whose sexuality was not embraced by her parents, which created a lot of obstacles throughout her childhood. The player doesn’t take on the role of Sam, however. Enter Sam’s older sister Kait, who flies in from a trip abroad to meet her family at their new house they inherited from a relative who passed. The house is empty when she arrives, which begins the game. The player is prompted to explore the house at their own pace and, through notes and other objects strewn throughout as well as journal entries left by Sam, the player learns about Sam and the rest of the family.
Many parts of the game are incredibly heart-warming, like when the player discovers the journal entry detailing Sam’s first kiss with her childhood sweetheart. Other parts are funny, like when the player, controlling Kait, finds a scrap of paper Sam wrote describing her first sexual experience with her girlfriend that Kait refuses to read because the idea of her younger sister having sex disgusts her.
The tale, ultimately, is a tragedy, though. Some of the most chilling parts of this tragedy are subtle, like the multiple bibles scattered around the house, which imply something about the reason Sam’s parents are so unaccepting. Others are blunt, like the journal entry Sam wrote about coming out to her parents.
Exploring this house is a fascinating way to experience this story. Papers and other objects tell a pretty clear story, but it’s a story that forces the player to use a great deal of imagination. This is sort of the genius of the game, because like great literary works like The Raven, Gone Home makes its tale more harrowing by forcing the player to fill in the empty spaces left by the already sad pieces it provides.