Gone Home is a short, gameplay lacking game. It can almost be called a “Walking Simulator”, but what keeps it from being one is its story. Now the story itself isn’t revolutionary, but the way it is told is beautiful. A lot of games seem guided in their stories, feeling very linear. Others are filled with cutscenes, giving most of the information in a non-interactive way. Gone Home instead incorporates the story into the gameplay itself, making you the player discover the information. This is why I called this article ”Story Showing and Telling”. Gone Home tells its story through a collection of visual clues and textual discoveries.
In Gone Home, you never talk to anyone, nor see anyone. The only connection you have with people is a multitude of audio journals, notes, and memorabilia owned by the player’s family. You are Kaitlin, a girl returning home after several years of disconnection from her family. This in itself sets the scene for the story, as you must start the story by walking around the house alone, looking for these clues. No prior knowledge is given, forcing you to discover it for yourself.
Without trying to spoil much, you follow the story of your teenage sister Sam, who is trying to find her true self. She has left evidence around the house, which once connected, reveals Sam’s journey through her teenage years. Now if this were a truly linear story, all the clues would be in Sam’s bedroom, creating a quick and obvious story line. But in Gone Home, these clues are scattered throughout the house and are separated by information needed to find them. One clue may be in the basement, leading you to a safe that when unlocked gives you a key to a bedroom, leading to more clues. These little stops make each clue more memorable and important.
The audio journals by Sam are the most notable of all the clues. They are played after you find certain notes or objects and reveal the relevance of those clues. For example, a discipline note will play a log of Sam talking about her cutting class. Since they are Sam’s audio journals, you can hear her emotions when she is telling her story. This further immerses the player into the story, as you feel much more connected with it. Whereas you might just see a report card with C’s and D’s on it and expect her to be upset, Sam might be thrilled that they were the best grades she has gotten so far.
What I like even more is that there are “sub-clues”, like concert tickets and homework. They give you hints about what may be revealed next in the story. I definitely took my time playing this game, and read almost every note I could find. I found several notes throughout the game, that lead me to discover one of the main conflicts before it was told in the audio journal. That’s what I think the fun part of this game is. It’s almost like a criminal investigation. You go in blind, look for clues, and uncover the truth. Sure, it’s not complicated or long, but guessing a bit of the story and finding out later that I was right was rewarding. The audio clues ultimately immersed me into the story and drove me to find out more.
Gone Home is nothing revolutionary in terms of gameplay, but it’s storytelling mechanics shine brightly. The game immerses you into the story, in a search to find out what is going on with your sister Sam. Because you must discover the story for yourself, you feel more connected to it. You read or hear each piece of information like it is extremely important. Other games should take note, and connect their stories into the gameplay mechanics, to increase the immersion. You should feel like you’re in the story, not just reading or hearing one. Gone Home made me feel like I was the part of the story myself, and I will remember it for a long time to come.
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If you are interested in playing Gone Home yourself, check it out here