Gone Home (Steam Store)
When Katie comes back from college at midnight, she finds the house empty. Where has everyone gone? Explore the house as Katie and find out.
First, I’m just going to tell you that spoilers are unavoidable. The entire game is about you going through the house and reading people’s letters, journal, notes and so on. Many trailers will fool you and claim that it’s a horror survival game. Even the beginning, where the house is up on a hill and empty on a dark and stormy night, will fool you. I’m just going to tell you, it’s a story about Katie’s sister, Sam, learning who she is, in more ways than one.
All the horror elements are little more than red herrings. For those of you who don’t know, a red herring is a plot device meant to mislead the reader. Take Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. When you read the book the first time, you think Snape is out to steal the Stone. Then you find out at the very end that it’s Quirrell.
The game takes place in the 90s and it shows. For instance, there’s a plot element in the game about Sam’s girlfriend, Lonnie, wanting to join the army despite their Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. Just in case some of you aren’t familiar with the nineties, the army once employed a policy forbidding anyone to ask about anyone else’s sexuality. Therefore, open homosexuals couldn’t serve in the military. Thankfully, the government repelled it in 2011. Lonnie is the rebellious social misfit always getting into trouble and wants to join the army one day. As Sam points out, this clashes with everything about her. Sam is even the one to point out how unfair the policy is. Another instance is the marriage of Katie’s parents, Terry and Jan, falling apart because he won’t join Jan in activities such as couple’s bowling and ballroom dancing. However, Jan wanting to have an affair with a co-worker didn’t help matters. It even goes as far as mentioning shows such as Boy Meets Worlds on prime time.
Despite Terry and Jan’s marriage problems, the former stuck in a dead-end job reviewing technological appliances while mourning over his failed career as a writer and the supernatural elements about a possible ghost in the house, the game is really about Sam and her relationship with Lonnie. I should tell you that Sam’s parents don’t approve of her lesbianism, even going so far as to suggest that it’s a phase. However, there are hints that Lonnie is a bad influence on Sam. For instance, Sam skips school on Lonnie’s suggestion. Some fans speculate whether Terry and Jan not approving of Sam and Lonnie’s relationship is due to homophobia or Lonnie’s influence on their daughter. Personally, I think it’s both. I think that Terry and Jan always imagined that both of their daughters would be straight and it’s shocking to them that things didn’t turned out as they planned. However, if I told my mom I was a lesbian, she’d just be happy I wouldn’t be getting pregnant. I also feel that, if Sam had boyfriend they regarded as a bad influence, they would’ve been able to handle it better.
I will admit that Terry and Jan are right about Lonnie being a bad influence and my reasoning is the ending. In it, Lonnie backs out of joining the army and asks Sam to run away with her. Sam then proceeds to sell all of the major appliances in the house and drive off to meet with Lonnie. Let me summarize, Sam and Lonnie throw their lives away so they can be together. Neither one of them has any clue how to live on their own nor do they have jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of teenagers filing for legal emancipation, but that’s only because the parents are so dangerous the child is better off alone. Terry and Jan might be self-absorbed and prejudice, but there is no sign that either one of them is dangerous. Sam also had a promising career as a writer and she’s throwing that away for Lonnie. Don’t say that Sam can still make a living as a writer because she’ll be too busy working job after job to make sure she and Lonnie can still afford food and a place to live. My only consolation is that Katie will immediately drive out, pick up Sam and talk some sense into her. I’ll admit, this ending is horrible and the writers actually think it’s happy. I just have one question. Would they have gone through with it had it been a straight couple?
There’s not much to say about the game play, since all you do is look around the house for clues. You pick things up, use them and you read various documents lying around to discover what’s going on.
I’ll admit that using the mouse can be difficult since I couldn’t always get it just right. I can say the same about using the keyboard. You can also hear diary entries from Sam as you progress further and further through the game. Occasionally, you can see Katie’s thoughts about certain things in the house, such as her getting disgusted by her dad’s condom in the drawers.
The game is intriguing, but expensive. I give it 7 out of 10, great plot but not sure if three hours of game play is worth the price.