I finally played Gone Home, and I want to talk about it some. However, as I went into this game with the ending spoiled, I’m going to be looking at this through a very different lens than I perhaps would be otherwise. This probably means I will have a very dissenting opinion from the norm.
Gone Home is one of those games that came out during my gaming hiatus, and as such, I kind of missed it. I’d heard all kinds of praise for it though once I re-entered the gaming sphere, so I knew I’d probably give it a spin at some point. Maybe.
However, I’ve also never been one to shy away from spoilers on things that have been out awhile. After all, I missed it in the appropriate time frame, so who cares, right? Well, I probably should have in this case, but too late now. Either way, the ending of Gone Home was spoiled for me months ago, but the way I see it is that a truly good game shouldn’t matter if the ending is spoiled. I should still be able to garner some joy out of the process of playing the game, and I’d seen everywhere how Gone Home was such a great game, so no worries, right?
I picked up Gone Home recently as it was one of the PlayStation Plus games of the month. Having now played it, I don’t think it stands up. The story was decent, and I can see how if I hadn’t known the ending, I probably would feel very differently about it. However, knowing the ending, even though I found the story okay, as a game, it’s not great. While definitely more interactive than something like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, I don’t see it having much replay value. I wound up playing this game all the way through more out of an increasing feeling of obligation than any real joy, which is just such a shame. It had moments of potential. It had moments that were even honestly good. I loved the eerie feeling of isolation and loneliness. That was spot on and great on a gameplay level, as well as a thematic one. Ultimately though, I feel like the game very much was trying to portray itself as something it’s not, which fine and dandy if it was actually fun, but… It’s not?
I’ve taken the steps back and thought about all the interactive dramas I’ve been playing lately. After all, I had high praise for Firewatch. I thoroughly enjoyed Layers of Fear. I abhorred Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. Gone Home? It falls squarely in the middle. I didn’t love it; I didn’t hate it. However, is it fair to make that call when Firewatch could technically fall prey to the very same complaint had I had that ending spoiled? I think it is.
I said in my review of Firewatch that even knowing the outcome and that there really is no different ending, I was definitely looking forward to replaying it. That hasn’t changed. The game mechanics were honestly fun. The branching dialogue options give me something else to experience, even if the end remains the same. The game itself is just beautiful and fun to explore. In short, it has something Gone Home just doesn’t – replay value.
Gone Home has none of this. You play through once and you’ve experienced basically all there was to experience. There may be slightly more to uncover – I’m sure I missed a few things – but over all it’s so inconsequential. Besides, it isn’t fun to just go through a big empty house again where nothing really happens. Add that to the fact that there is very little to actually puzzling out the game, and you’re left with something that could very easily have been a movie.
I’m not saying Gone Home isn’t a wonderful story, because it does have a very good one. I’m all about my LGBT+ love stories. I’m all about coming of age stories. This is both.
I’m also not saying that Gone Home isn’t an important game. It has definitely gone down as an important part of gaming history, if all the praise and hype and love are anything to go by.
What I am saying is that as an actual game, Gone Home does not stand up well. It is 100% all about the story. Which normally, I’d say I’m all about, too. However, I feel that for a game that I’ve heard so many good things about, spoilers or no, it should have left more of an impression on me.
I’m thankful for what Gone Home did for a genre, but I’m also thankful that that genre is growing into something a little more like an actual game with replay value instead of just a one time experience I am passively watching while pushing a joystick around. I don’t need platforming or boss fights to love a game, but I do need a little more than just walk through an area with narration and the occasional combination lock.