Gone Home tickled my curiosity upon its announcement. The game has a very simple premise: you play a young woman returning home for the first time in a year. From there you explore the empty house and the story unfolds. I thought it sounded like the kind of experience that was up my street, ie. all about the story. After playing it I can say that I was blown away. It’s one of the most engaging games I’ve ever played.
Without a doubt, the game is something you should experience fresh, knowing as little as possible. I originally thought about critically reviewing the game but decided against it. If you want a review here’s a very short one: you should play this game. Unless you’re obsessed with adrenaline and can’t stand anything that requires you to think and feel then I wager you will enjoy this game. I feel absolutely compelled to talk about it so I’m putting a warning here. Although I’m not going to explicitly spoil anything, I suggest playing the game before reading any further. The less you know going in, the more there is to discover.
Gone Home is what I want from the future of video games. In fact, I’m going to go as far as to say it is the future of video games. In a sense anyway, in the manner that it represents the potential.
Interactive entertainment folks, that’s all video games are. It’s something I’ve blathered on about for years on various different blogs. Video games are woefully missing their potential, extraordinarily so. Imagine a world where every movie is a comedy or every music CD is disco. Why would a medium limit itself to one genre? It’d be idiotic, but it’s essentially what games are doing with their huge focus on action and gameplay over plot.
Anyway, we’re getting a little off topic. Gone Home tells its story with well placed faith in the player. We’re not led down a linear path. We’re not told what to do next. We’re not even told how to connect the dots of the story going on right in front of our face. It’s an investigation experience that makes you rely on the most interesting and endlessly powerful mechanic available: you.
It’s down to us to dictate the pace of the game, where we go next, if we double back or press on. We’re never pressured to complete any particular task that we don’t feel like we want to. But despite that the game is absolutely littered with tantalising clues that draw us in, that make us want to go through that next door.
The story itself is touchingly human. I reiterate that I won’t spoil it here, but it’s rooted in almost painful realism. No matter who you are you will connect to the story of this game in some way, whether it’s the main plot or one of the subtle story threads being drip fed to us in the background.
These human stories are what I’ve always wanted from games. Saving the world is great and all but who the hell can relate to that? Usually in games the characters are an after thought to the gameplay. They’re tools to deliver gameplay mechanics. Gone Home is about real people. It makes you think in a way that games very rarely do. Only a handful of games have ever crafted truly real characters, Gone Home is one of them.
The best thing about Gone Home’s success is that it will inspire more. The game industry has never been easier to join. ‘Breaking in’ barely exists anymore. Do you want to make a game? Go download Unity and do it. Boom, you’re a game developer. Gone Home shows you don’t need a game about killing people to be successful. You don’t need cutting edge graphics or complicated mechanics. You don’t need to use checkpoints, health bars, ammo or power ups. With a simple idea and well written story you can create one of the most memorable experiences in years.