Gone Home by the Fullbright Company was the Indie darling of 2013. I was finally able to play the game right after the New Year. I’m sure there are many blog posts on the internet regarding other’s reactions towards Gone Home, and yet here is mine. Just like we discover in the game, we all have something to say. At least, that’s what I took away from my experience. We all have a story. Every one of us. Some may be more dramatic, tragic, serious, or happy than others, but nonetheless we all have a story to share. In Gone Home you control a young woman named Katie, who arrives home after a lengthy vacation all over Europe. However, while she was gone, her family moved into a new home. She finally arrives to this new house, and yet no one is there to greet her.Immediately it felt like something was wrong. It was late at night, and there was a raging thunderstorm. Instantly I had questions like: Was the house haunted, was the family kidnapped, or did they just not care Katie had finally coming home? At this moment I believed there was a mystery to be solved. Oh, how wrong I was. As the story progressed — which is presented in fragments via journal entries of Katie’s younger sister Sam — I began to realize that there isn’t a mystery to be solved, and that this isn’t Katie’s story. It’s all about her sister Sam. Even though the story takes place in 1993, this is a sophisticated coming of age tale for the 21st century.
Sam is a teenager who is encountering teenage things. Moving to a new school, losing friends, and finding new ones. For the most part, these are all familiar things I went through when I was a teenager. We’ve all been there; trying to find our own identity, growing up and learning what it means to be an adult. But Sam encounters something I never encountered in my younger years. She fell in love. As I was rummaging through Katie’s family’s possessions I slowly learned about Sam’s true feelings for her best friend Lonnie. And the further I made it through the dark and ominous house the more I learned about their love for one another and their hopes and dreams. Once again, something many of us are familiar with, and this is why the game does such a great job of making us care about these characters — characters you actually never meet.
Enough of the synopsis. At the end you discover that Katie’s parents are at a couples retreat, and her sister Sam ran off with her girlfriend Lonnie. As it closes the story is pretty simple, the characters are less dramatic than was anticipated, and all you actually accomplished was to unlock a few doors. So why is this game at the top of everyones coveted Game of the Year lists? Like I said earlier, it’s familiar. Especially for those of us who grew up in the 90’s, cassette players, VHS tapes. No computers, no smart phones, and no internet. Playing as Katie, I actually felt alone in the house, something that doesn’t happen in 2014. Sure we may be physically alone in our residence, but we are always connected to others through cell phones, and computers.
There is also a bit of trickery by the developers. As I mentioned before, at the beginning of the story I began to think that something was wrong. That something very dark just occurred in the house. This trickery made me care even more for these characters. Every room contains small clues to figuring out what is going on within the family. The answers however, are much less dark than I had expected. Which in part is brilliant. I found a certain note in the greenhouse and instantly I assumed the worse.
After learning that Sam and Lonnie’s relationship had ended, I figured this note indicated where Sam would take her life. Everything I encountered up to that point led me to this belief. The creepy atmosphere of the house, Sam’s journal entries, her parents lack of understanding. I raced through the home to find this secret location only to find it’s where Sam and Lonnie had set up their séance that very night — they too were under the impression the house was haunted. I was wrong, completely and utterly wrong about what I would find, which made the experience even more profound.
The ending was in fact a happy one. I thought I would have found a suicide note, but instead I discovered a note of hope and happiness. It turns out that right before Katie arrived to her family’s new home, Lonnie had called Sam in hopes they would run away together. So in the end the reason the house was empty was not because it was haunted, not because of a kidnapping, and not out of negligence. It was because both Katie’s parents and her sister had found love.
It’s odd that story doesn’t revolve around the person we are controlling. But that isn’t the point. The point is we all have stories, while some may be more exciting than others, and some stories may be more unique, however the common denominator between all of us is that we all want to have a happy ending for our story.