A bit on Fullbright Company’s first game, Gone Home.

In games, articulating simplicity is a gonehomedifficult thing to wrestle with. The more brutality and explosions a game has, the more it’s likely to sell. That’s just an unfortunate reality of a modern gaming industry. Knowing that, a small indie title like Gone Home would mostly be ignored, if it were not for glowing reviews from most game publications. Gone Home has no explosions or guns or any shred of warfare; except, maybe, the war of discovery. Resisting who you were born to be because that is scary.

Kaitlin Greenbriar, a college student returning from a trip to Europe, finds her house empty. Nobody is home either; not her conspiratorial author father, her conservationist mother, or her younger sister Sam. Exploring items of significance throughout the house, Kaitlin happens upon voice-overs from Sam. Like diary entries or personal letters, Sam details her road of self-discovery.

Simplicity in game design is powerful if used correctly. With Gone Home, the Fullbright Company takes a nonchalant approach for the player: over the course of two hours, Kaitlin rummages through most rooms in the house to find out what happened to Sam. Walking alone around a massive house, a thunderstorm roars in the background giving the appeal of horror. There are no jump scares though, just the eeriness that comes with violent weather.

Because I am extremely poor and pathetically trying to save for college, I watched a YouTube playthrough. But that’s the thing: Gone Home can play out like a movie. Headphones blasting, I heard the same ambience and had the same response during Sam’s voice-overs. The experience related me back to Dear Esther, a game featuring similar mechanics (minus the interaction).

In these sorts of games, emotional sustenance is necessary; through Kaitlin, you feel coerced to continue playing, because Sam’s journey becomes your journey. You feel her angst and confusion, her despair, and her shock because of excellent voice acting. Being that Sam’s voice is the only one heard, the residual effect is powerful.

Gone Home shows games don’t need to be bloody and brutal to be effective; in fact, it’s a stark reminder that games are moving away from the visceral to be more about action. A reminder that I think the industry needs to take seriously. Sometimes smaller is better.

You can purchase Gone Home on the website or through Steam.

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