Gone Home Review
Released in 2013, Gone Home has become an influential and iconic game that is widely celebrated in the gaming community. It was developed and published by The Fulbright Company and released for Windows, OS X, and Linus in August 2013, Xbox One and PS4 in 2016, Nintendo Switch in September 2018, and iOS in December 2018.
Plot and setting
The game starts with 21-year old Katie Greenbriar returning to her family’s new home on June 7, 1995, following living abroad for one year. The new home is located in the fictional Boon County, Oregon. However, when Katie reached the new house, she was surprised to see that it was deserted with boxes of her family’s belongings still unopened. She also finds a note from her younger sister Samantha stuck to the front door, requesting her not to investigate what had happened to the family while she was gone.
The Greenbriar family includes the father, Terry, who is a failed writer; the mother, Janice, who is a wildlife conservationist and recently got promoted to the role of a director; and 17-year old Samantha.
Despite the note from her sister, Katie goes through the house, exploring to find clues so she could figure out the incidents that led to a deserted house and no one to welcome her home. Through the notes and clues, she found that after their move, Samantha had difficulty adjusting to her new high school, but she eventually made friends with a girl named Yolanda “Lonnie” DeSoto, a JROTC cadet.
The two girls became very close, and their relationship became romantic after a night of sneaking off to a concert. Sam’s parents found out about her relationships because of incidents at school, after which they didn’t allow Sam to close her bedroom door when Lonnie would come over. With the parents refusing to believe that their daughter was a lesbian, and with the day for Lonnie to shift out for her service nearing, Sam was left troubled and upset.
On the day Lonnie left to begin her service (which was also the same day Katie was coming home), she got off her bus in Salem and called Sam from a payphone, telling her that she wants to be with her instead. Katie found out through the final notes that Sam had left in her car to find Lonnie and begin a new life with her outside Oregon. Meanwhile, the parents are away on a counseling trip, which they lied about and told others that it was a camping trip.
Optionally, Katie can also find other notes that shine a light on the stories of the family members. Among these is Lonnie and Sam’s suspicion that the house was haunted by the ghost of the former owner, Oscar Massan, who happens to be Terry’s uncle as well. It is also implied that when he was a child, Terry was sexually abused by Oscar.
Watch the Trailer:
Gone Home is a single-player, first-person interactive walking simulator game that doesn’t have much of a gameplay per se, but the protagonist Katie can touch, move, and interact with all kinds of objects around the house. You move from room to room, interacting with the objects in your search for clues and notes as to what happened to your family while you were away. Eventually, you end up in the attic of the house, where you find out why you (or Katie) left in the first place.
The game has no defined goals or objectives, so much as you have to explore your family home from Katie’s perspective. However, you are rewarded when you explore new areas of the house, search for new clues, and find new notes. In order to progress through the game, you have to find certain objects that can unlock access to other rooms in the house.
Gone Home has won numerous awards and accolades ever since it was released, and apart from its commercial success, its cultural impact is also worth mentioning. The game has been praised for addressing LGBTQ issues, which many of the players could identify with.
Moreover, the gripping story of the game is deeply grounded in the reality of family turmoil and drama that many of us face. This struck a chord with the players, who appreciated the game for its realistic portrayal of what life can actually be like. Even though Gone Home is not a horror game, the way it hauntingly tells the story of a family that is torn apart by secrets and personal troubles certainly gives it an unsettling and suspenseful atmosphere.