Gone Home1

Genre: Exploration
Year: 2013
Developed by: The Fullbright Company
Published by: The Fullbright Company
Platforms: PC, PS4, XBox One
Feeling Like: Thomas Wolfe

It’s not billed as a horror game, but combing through the house of Gone Home reminded me of the dread I felt when my entire family was out and the light switch was located on the other side of the room. Add in the light knocks of rain and the otherwise unwanted silence and you’ve got a home that I wanted to revisit like it’s 1995.

You play somebody who has returned from a long trip, only to find that your father, mother and sister are nowhere to be found. It’s up to you to explore 1 Arbor Hill and find any clues you can. There aren’t any enemies, power ups or levels. However, the strong writing and perfect atmosphere resulted in mountains of praise by critics and swamps of impolite comments on Youtube.

I land somewhere in the middle (plains?). It’s undoubtedly effective at what it’s trying to do, but it didn’t stay with me as much as I would’ve liked. The content justifies the $20 price tag, but I never look at a video game at price/per hour of entertainment. Quality over quantity, and all that.

There’s some voice over narration that helped me relax and delve deeper into the family’s troubles and joys. Looking up invoices, seeing letters from dad’s boss, raiding the liquor cabinet, studying the move set for Chun Li in Street Fighter 2, unlocking the file cabinet and discovering hidden alcoves roused in me a great desire to back to my own house in the mid 90’s. Everything is completely authentic here and it’s clear the designers did their homework.

Gone Home2
I’m assuming surrounded by empty pizza boxes

To pick up a TV guide and see Red Dwarf and X-Files was comforting. Nostalgia hit me like a brick and I was frequently impressed at the realistic doodles and notes scattered on desks and in drawers. Seemingly perfect adults who know everything lose their aura when you discover that their marriage might be imperfect, or see a self-help book about living with a teenager. Why would my parents get something like this? They live with me, so they obviously know everything about my tantrums, sleeping habits and why I need to eat six slices instead of two.

Like with anything new, comfort eventually seeps in and my hesitation turned into confidence. The interior is stunningly beautiful, complete with a giant staircase in the foyer and cozy rugs tying the room together. Of course there would be tape and pens in the miscellaneous cupboard. Doesn’t everybody have one of these? The house really could be my house on Oliver St. in Oak Bay, growing up. I can’t go home again, but Gone Home does enough to grant me a quite respite from modernity and does so through a professionally crafted, quiet story. It makes you earn the story beats, but you won’t sweat much (or long) doing it.

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