We’ve been pushing the boundaries of what video games are and can do for quite a while now. More than explosive power fantasies, games utilize the unique positioning of their audience to tell their stories, fan the flames of their minds and hearts, and ask potent questions. Video games let us explore and experience worlds like few other mediums can.
When I first picked up Gone Home, all I knew was that it was by a company made up of four game designers that had done work I really enjoyed. Unfolding with a voice message, this quiet and potent game of exploration, set in 1995, puts you in the shoes of a young woman just returning from a trip abroad after graduating from college. She arrives in an empty house and a haunting note from a beloved sister pleading you not to look into what has happened.
I love exploration games. I love exploring, and I love good characters - and Gone Home has both. While there have been a fair number of video games that have brought me to tears, few games have made me put down my controller (mouse, in this case) and just put my head on my desk and think. This did that, on more than one occasion.
It’s a quiet, potent experience. Just about everything is experienced alone: old notes, voice messages, journals and the like, and the devastating power of it all is enhanced for that crowded loneliness.
This is a story that was relevant in 1995 (when the game is set), 2013 (when the game was released) and now. If you can handle WASD and mouse first-person UI, and you’re at all interested in game about people, get this one and play it.
P.s. Fullbright Games, who made Gone Home, famously turned down a booth at PAX (a major gaming convention) in 2013 to showcase Gone Home. Their statement about it, here, is a powerful and important one, and one that is worth reposting.