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Flash Sociological Reviews: Gone Home (part 2: personal experience)

This is the second part of my first Flash Sociological Review, focused on my gameplay experience of Gone Home. Check here to read the first part (the media). All what you are going to read in this post was written right after I finished the game. There might be some minor corrections and one or two meta comments but, overall, everything is based on first impressions. SPOILER alert, be careful.

A meaningful experience based on the manipulation of the traces left behind
I've been dragged by a very powerful narrative, the one developed in Gone Home. Not only is it about that narrative, it's also about how it intertwined with the gameplay. The feeling of being myself the one that is unfolding the story that is wrapped in that house is very intense. I experienced a lot of things, I've been making up different stories as I was examining the house and the traces left behind. I thought something terrible happened to Sam, to the family; have their parents got divorced? have her father killed her mother? I also believed that Sam and Lonnie committed suicide! (it seems to be a recurrent thought on other players). 

Why do I get to think all those things? Even though there is sometimes a voice-over that narrates some of the events that happened during Katie's (yourself) leave, most of the time you are picking up pieces of the story by the traces left behind by the family, textual and non. That's the magic of the game. The story is probably quite linear, but I don't know what would have happened if I had not scrutinised every part of the house in the proper order. And that's the incredible thing about this game and video games in general: if I have the freedom of choosing my own pace, what to see and what not (in this case that's absolutely true), why did I follow a way of playing that allowed me to create a meaningful experience? Could I have had a meaningful experience playing in a very different way? Now it's impossible to know! Well, according to this entry posted by Gaynor on The Fullbright Company website, that could have been possible. But as I already know the story as it was intended to be experienced, I suppose it doesn't matter anyway.



It's incredibly well played, though. For instance, one of the first things you do is to listen to two recorded messages in the answering machine (besides the one you left). The second is specially disturbing. You won't know what all that was about until the very last moment of the game. Or when you just see a colourful skull (made in Mexico) but it's not until you advance in the game that you know where it come from (a trip of Lonnie to Mexico). It's that kind of idea of leaving pieces of the story scattered all around the house, without explicitly linking them together, which makes this game so unique. Nevertheless, I have to stress again that the mechanics, the playability, the game experience, the interactivity are essential to the game. It's not just a narrative-driven game. Not at all. It's an exploration game, that's the best description, as proposed by its developers. Essential to the experience is the idea of exploration, touching, seeing, flipping and reading things. There is no narrative without playability. It wouldn't make sense.


In relation to the story, the pieces of "what happened" are just that, pieces, traces, nothing too much explicit. You have to fill the gaps and... well, not only do you just reconstruct the last year's events when you were abroad, but you also get deep into the history of the family, things that happened before you were born, while you can intuit psychological aspects of your relatives and their relationships. And that's the key, you are left with a lot of space to speculate and never is stated in a very explicit way (uncle Oscar issues, the relationship between your grandfather and your father, your father's career, your mother's affairs and career, your neighbour Daniel, your sister's complex process of self-awareness, etcetera.).

Agents and mediators
And all of this is achieved through a list of agents and mediators (this would be a constant in this personal reviews as a way to close the entry): Sam's voice-over triggered after some exploration events; your own descriptions of things before you actually touch them (sometimes is funny like, "barf", "Oh no..", or even refusing to continue to read a letter); the different inscriptions (official communications, personal messages, handwritten, letters, drawings, etcetera.), the objects in the house that can be grabbed and examined; the music; the map; the doors, drawers, and secret doors; the house; the combinations; the keys; the pictures and the paintings.


Also visit: 
Flash Sociological Reviews: Gone Home (part 1: the media)
Flash Sociological Reviews: Gone Home (part 3: video gamers)


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