by Sean Gallagher
One of the first things that crossed my mind with my experience with Gone Home is it’s aesthetically resemblance to the 2014 game, Murdered: Soul Suspect. While that game dealt with the supernatural, the heads up display, where the player mouses over an item and a ghostly representation of the object they are looking at hovers around is very similar, coupled with the drained atmosphere the house gives off. Within minutes, the eerie emptiness, white noise and flickering lights gave off an ambiance that made me wish I did not come home. But it wasn’t a haunting or evil feeling, like Resident Evil’s infamous mansion or Soul Suspect’s rendition of Salem, this was rather a sad loneliness within the space that was once populated, now void of life for some mysterious reason. The tone here is not horror or suspense but with the chosen aesthetics the developers have chosen to give the mansion, they can convey a mood and a “prehistory” of the environment.
Most games I play have a clear and precise goal that the player must achieve in order to progress. Gone Home does not have any goals whatsoever yet through exploration and letters left by the protagonists sister, Samantha, Kaitlin (and the player) gets a full backdrop of story. This method of storytelling is called “narrative storytelling” by Provost Professor Henry Jenkins, which he explains how the spatial backdrops of a narrative can be the vessel for the story itself and that in fact story does not need to be passed down to the player via cutscenes and character interaction, as we have come to expect from most games, especially AAA titles. So in Gone Home, even though we play through the eyes of Kaitlin, the house itself tells the story of Samantha, not Kaitlin. Kaitlin, like the player, is slowly being given these pieces of information, if the player so chooses the find them. The player could choose not to interact with the story and simply explore the detail of the mansion, where just about everything is intractable from the doors, lights, cupboards and beyond. But if the player does, Kaitlin will learn all about her sister’s relationships, academics, interactions with friends family history (such as her father’s novels) and the circumstances of the mansion and her great uncle, who left the mansion to her family. By the end of the game, we end up learning so much information about Samantha and oddly enough, almost nothing specific about Kaitlin unless the information pertained to the whole family or the interactions between Samantha and Kaitlin. This certainly is not Kaitlin’s story, but rather her experience of the spatial story of her sister that is scattered around the environment.
Polansky, Lana. The Poetry That Created Space. Bit Creator. 2012.