An ominous abode bathed in a gloomy overlay of purple and magenta along with ambient sounds of brass and strings instruments exhibits the main menu; already I am provided with an eerie experience to the game ‘Gone Home’. Once we click ‘new game’, we are presented immediately with the opening scene: Big, white letters with the words ‘Gone Home’ fade into the screen while a voicemail from the protagonist, Kaitlin, plays in the background. She is letting her mother know that she will be coming home late tonight from her travels, but little does Kaitlin know that she is in for an adventure. The opening visuals of the game are scarce, but with compliments from the sounds of crackling thunder and pouring rain, we are presented with a dark and brooding scene (unless you had shifted the brightness to the maximum because you did not want to have to maneuver through the game in the dark.) My first and only runthrough lasted about 4 hours. Maneuvering through the game in a pitch black setting with faint glimmers of light for the first hour frustrated me beyond belief. (I enjoy the simple things, like having the ability to see for one.)
After initializing the option of having the brightness shifted to the max, I had encountered an element that struck me: The surprisingly realistic detail of the visuals. The game only takes place in one location, and that is the house. For starters, this house is huge, and it is filled with an abundance of minute details (post-it notes, line paper, pens, highlighters, etc.). But, the striking force of these visuals is the portrayal of what a house is. Nothing here is in pristine condition; there are ruffled papers, magazines, and pens/highlighters in almost every drawer of every cabinet. This is a real house.
Now, what makes this game unique is that it is a visual novel. It is a game with an interactive, non-linear plotline that reveal snippets of the storyline without being incredibly explicit. (The only impression we get of a narrator is Samantha’s recounting of events that lead to her disappearance). Samantha is the imposing voice that drives the story forward. What is more interesting is that it is a story of self-discovery, but played out through the eyes of Kaitlin, who is just as much of a stranger as we are in regards to this suspenseful design. The subject matter, however, of this story is the real driving force of this game. The topic of queer-sexuality and gender stereotypes is an incredibly sensitive subject, and to tackle it through a video game is an ambitious feat. The story is not presented delicately, in fact, it’s quite brooding, just like the atmosphere. It might be hard to listen to a story of an angsty teenager going through a ‘phase’, but this is reflective of more important social issues. The story is artistic and innovative; it is a female-oriented approach to subject matter that is not ubiquitous in the gaming industry. This also is not just about getting the ‘message’ out there. It is also about how we can use subject matter like this and still keep our audience engaged, regardless of how irregular it may seem. These cutting-edge tropes and newfangled subject matter that defied the mainstream, combined with a poetic drama, provided for an entertaining gaming experience.
Fullerton, Tracy, Morie, Jacquelyn and Pearce, Celia. “A Game of One’s Own: Towards a New Gendered Poetics of Digital Space.” Proceedings of perthDAC 2007: The 7th International Digital Arts and Culture Conference: The Future of Digital Media Culture. 2007. http://eleven.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-074-a-game-of-one%E2%80%99s-own-towards-a-new-gendered-poetics-of-digital-space/