They say that “home is where the heart is”. Every single house has a story to tell and every room is a chapter waiting to be added. If you ever visited my bedroom, there are different chapters of my life in every corner. On top of my dresser there are small trophies that I won when I was at summer camp, handmade pinewood derby stock cars that me and my Grandpa used to make when I was a Cub Scout, and photos that celebrated my past and current success. You would also find a small Chicago Bulls locker that I got during the glory years of Michael Jordan and is filled to the brim with old gaming magazines and Yu-Gi-Oh cards lost between the pages.
In Gone Home, you are given a home to explore and a story that is seriously one of the best I have experienced for how heartfelt and genuine the house feels and its callback on 90’s nostalgia. The only piece of story that you know right away is that you play as Kaitlin Greenbriar coming back home after traveling abroad. No hand holding tutorial, no shocking twist, just a note on the front door from your sister telling you not to go looking for her. As you’re exploring the house your family as occupied since being away, you find small journal entries written by your younger sister and what she has been through not having her older sister around.When you pick up a certain object, you hear your sister’s diary entry like in every other audio log you find in games nowadays. However, Samantha’s voice and writings make you feel more and more invested in the story and want to find out what happens next up till the very end. You walk into the TV room and find a TV Guide page showing the next time X-Files is on so she could record it, a cheat sheet under some pillows for all the secret moves in Street Fighter II, and the scribbles of your sister’s creative writings. When I was playing this, I couldn’t help but think back to how my house would tell my family’s story. What might I find again if I look in the basement again? What might my old scribble look like if I ever found it again?
Most games today have an emphasis on showing the player everything and never make the player figure it out for themselves. Games like Call of Duty have on-screen button presses for something that is basically a cinematic. Gone Home ditches those concepts and harkens back to older games like Myst where you have to figure out how everything works with little to no instructions. In writing, there is the phrase “show, don’t tell” which basically translates to “make your reader figure it out on their own, don’t tell them what they could have solved on their own.” That phrase perfectly encapsulates Gone Home and how effective it could be done in video games.
If you are interested in purchasing Gone Home, you can find it on Steam for $20 and it is worth the price of admission for a 2 hour long experience.
With all this in mind, Gone Home gets 5 VHS tapes out of five.