I’m not usually someone who enjoys video games. Gone Home, recently released by the Fulbright Company, however, is no ordinary video game. In fact, it’s more like an interactive story than anything else. I first read about this game in an NPR technology blog, and its description of the game’s exceptional craftsmanship—its “clever and subtle writing, as well as the environmental details, create a living and breathing setting. It feels like people live in the house. You can almost smell the empty pizza boxes and laundry detergent”—immediately caught my attention. But it was the emotional depth, and the connection to the piece that Steve Mullis (the NPR blogger) felt, that ultimately convinced me to try this game. Mullis claims that Sam, one of the main characters of the game, embodies a lot of the feelings that teenagers experience—”the alienation, the confusion, the excitement of a first love and the battling with parents who just ‘don’t get it'”—and that “exploring the house and reading the scraps of paper brought back memories of that time when I knew everything but understood nothing. I felt close to the characters, like we might have even been friends once.” After playing the game myself, I can’t help but echo Mullis’s claim. In only a few minutes the game had me hooked, and after an hour I cared so much about the fate of these characters that you couldn’t have pulled me away from the computer if my life depended on it. It was like reading a really good book or watching a really good movie, I needed to know what was going to happen next. But it was more than that too, because I was Katie, confused and worried about the family that wasn’t there to see me after my return from Europe. I was Sam, exploring love and relationships and trying to figure out how to be myself in a world that doesn’t always accept me. I was Lonnie, trying to make sense of the world and my conflicting emotions and loyalties. This game made me cry, not out of frustration or because I couldn’t reach the next level, but out of empathy and love for the characters. I cried for them, but I also cried for me.
This game made me think about video games in a new way. It showed me that video games can be just as emotional and beautiful as a novel or a film. Gone Home is also, as Mullis mentions, unique for it’s almost completely female cast, and the way that it does not, in spite of this, have a gender bias. This is a story about people, for people, regardless of their gender. Gone Home is an engaging, delightful, and challenging video game/story, and I can’t wait to see what the Fulbright Company creates next.