In a few weeks, I’ll be participating in a fantastically fun event with an even better cause called “Extra Life.” It’s a 24-hour video gaming marathon to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.
I’m in the process of getting super excited about it, so I’m reminiscing on some of the greatest video games I’ve ever played and ones that I’m considering revisiting for the event. So, I’m a bit behind. I just played “Gone Home,” released in 2013, fairly recently. Here’s my review: as a writer, I’m a sucker for a good story — and this game delivered.
“Gone Home” is a first-person point-and-click adventure. The game takes place in a small suburban town in the 1990s. You play as a college-aged girl, Katie, who has just come home from a year-long study abroad trip to an empty house. You’ve got to figure out what happened to your family by rummaging through drawers, reading notes to and from your sister’s high school crush, finding keys to locked parts of the house and uncovering hiding spots you wouldn’t expect to be there. In short, it’s a puzzle game.
It’s strange to play a game where you don’t interact with other characters…
It’s strange to play a game where you don’t interact with other characters, but where the characterization comes across strong enough to bring tears to my eyes by the time I’ve finished the game. It’s honestly very impressive for the creators to reveal little details one by one until I feel immersed enough in their story.
Once you find objects related to Katie’s sister, Sam’s story, a voiceover begins revealing more context to the object you found, like the story behind a band t-shirt or the story behind a detention slip in her trash can; Sam is talking. However, you never get a voiceover of Katie’s parents, even though you find notes written to and from your mom and an old school friend of hers and pamphlets in their nightstand giving you clues to where their disappearance led to. Parents don’t play as big of a part of the picture as Sam does—admittedly, I kind of wished they did.
While you’re wandering the house, there is a thunder and lightning storm outside; the sound of light rain hitting the window sill plays throughout the whole game. Like many other old houses creak, so does Katie’s; it’s difficult to tell if it’s normal creaking or if someone is wandering the house with you.
It is rumored in the neighborhood that the house Katie lives in is haunted because her uncle passed away while living there. I wish I might’ve witnessed the paranormal happenings in the house, but the anticipation is part of the game because you’re always waiting for it, but it never comes. “Gone Home” is not classified as a horror game and seeing a ghost—if it’s not done right—might come off as cheap.
You can complete the game without finding every note from Sam, which is a bit upsetting because that means you might not necessarily get the full story. However, if you’re connected to “Steam,” there is an achievement titled, “Letters to Katie.” If you’ve gotten it, then you know you’ve gotten every letter from Sam—but there is a secret journal entry from Mittens, Katie’s old cat.
Kirsten Magas is a third-year English major with a journalism and creative writing minor. KM867219@wcupa.edu