My first exposure to “Gone Home” was in watching “Is the FPS [First Person Shooter] Dying or Evolving?” on the PBS Game/Show Youtube channel. Jamie Warren, the host, defined the core mechanic of first person shooters as a two-step process. Look at an object and interact with it. In a typical FPS, the player looks at an object through a gun’s sighting lens and then interacts with that object by pressing a button that sends a bullet racing towards said object in that hopes of causing damage.
This episode looked at “Gone Home” as a game that utilizes this “look at and interact with” mechanic but in way that challenges the typical destructive goal of a FPS. And indeed the player plays “Gone Home” by exploring a house and looking at and interacting with objects to piece together a story. A constructive goal. Considering “Gone Home” as a FPS marries well with the ideas expressed in “A Game of One’s Own: Towards a New Gendered Poetic of Digital Space” co-authored by Tracy Fullerton, Jacquelyn Ford Morie, and Celia Pearce. These critics discuss the typically violent FPS as a type of game that is overtly geared towards a male audience and masculine sensibilities. Specifically the “masculine impulse” quoted from Charlotte Perkins Gilman “to scatter, to disseminate, to destroy” (Gilman, 1911). Fullerton and her co-authors point out that traditional FPS are geared towards these masculine sensibilities in how they design their game space. The spaces are “designed for battle.” Players eliminate opponents and forcibly take the space to advance to the next level. “Gone Home” is a game that works against these destructive goals and challenges the expectations of what a FPS can be. Fullerton and her colleges’s state their intentions to promote the construction of an “androgynous” game space. One that is not “strongly gendered towards male constructions of space and play,” nor one that is “exclusively female.” I believe that “Gone Home” is a successful example of this androgynous game space in how it uses the FPS mechanic, that is so strongly associated with male orientated games, as a tool of exploration and re-construction rather than dominate and de-construction.
The game space is fragmented when the player begins. Physically the space is incomplete. A noticeable element of the space is all of the moving boxes that need to be un-packed. The family still needs to work towards creating their living space. The house also has structural issues. The electrical wiring is poorly done and this causes lights to flicker occasionally. Emotionally the space is fragmented as well. Through clues, the player learns that all the relationships in the house are strained. Kaitlin’s parents are having a difficult time in their marriage. Kaitlin’s father is having a difficulties professionally. His books are not selling well, the magazine he writes for is frustrated with his inability to produce quality work, and the large number of empty liquor bottles are suggestive of an alcohol problem. Kaitlin’s parents are also having difficulty with Sam. This seems to be the reason why Sam has run away from home.
All of this information is learned within the first thirty minutes of game play and establish the goals for the player. Essentially the player must explore the fragmented space to learn what has transpired. To put together a fragmented narrative. The implied goal being the re-construction of the home and family unit. “Gone Home” uses a core mechanic of games that are typically defined by their destructive nature and places it in a context where the goal is to re-construct something already damaged. In this way “Gone Home” is a compelling example game developers can create androgynous game spaces out of already established game mechanics.
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.
Warren, Jamie. Is the FPS Dying or Evolving? prod. PBS. Youtube, 2014. Film.