I suppose it is a bit jarring that I had nothing better to do during mid day than drinking tea, but life had always been a crazy bird, so what do I know?
Anyways, I decided to pull out Gone Home and played through it entirely this time. I had my opinions already, and voiced it quite many times, but I’ve never actually finished it. With so much backlash from people on the internet, I know that’s a poor metric but I’m also one of them so who am I to judge, I decided to go through with it. Maybe there was something I missed. Maybe there was a point somewhere that I did not get the last time. Just maybe…
It turns out I wasn’t wrong, funny how that works.
It’s as bad as I played through it the first time; in fact, I personally resent the game a bit because I’ve wasted that much time on it. Tea time was supposed to be peaceful, if anything else, not frustrating. The game, as it was, basically belongs in the category of Dear Esther. If anyone had read my review of that game on Steam, you know what I’m going to say here. Indeed, Gone Home is a terrible game. However, it’s actually even more terrible. The problem with Dear Esther was that while its setting is gorgeous and its storyline at least intriguing, it tried too hard to be a movie and thus fell flat as a video game. In Gone Home’s case, they tried to do the same thing, only this time the plot went from The Chinese Room’s mystical thought-provoking scenery meant to evoke your own emotions, to The Fullbright Company’s pretentious bullshit. I don’t even say pretentious that often, and I don’t even mean that the developer intended it to be that way in the process, but it simply is.
Essentially, the plot is about you discovering aspects of your sister’s life, that presumably you are gleefully unaware of, by walking through your parent’s house. You sometimes interact with objects and read things, and that’s as far as mechanics go. The storyline continues with, spoilers, your sister realizes that she’s a lesbian, went through hardships, and ran away from home with her lover as a result. That’s literally it. We are supposed to feel emotions, and there’s nothing wrong with those that do, but my gripes with the game goes much further than that.
Firstly, this is what people call an “art game” or an “interactive fiction”. The developers themselves refer to it as a “Story Exploration Video Game”. As I said before, all video games are art, which makes the term “art game” completely meaningless. Art means nothing. A stack of red bricks can be art, and it wouldn’t be any good. “Interactive fiction” is completely false classification in this case. Interactive fictions are those choice-driven literary pieces you see on writing forums as a joke or bad fanfics. “Story exploration video game” is actually the best tern to describe it, like the same way the color brown is used to describe shit. It’s quite obvious from the get go that this game has essentially missed the point of video game itself. The game is essentially a movie, with terrible expositions and you actually have to click at things instead of just watching it and eating popcorn. Again, this makes it a terrible game. It’s a set piece, and instead of being the player, I was playing the key. I was opening scene to scene with nothing notable to speak of. It is boring, unless you happen to like the story, but that’s my next point.
The game is obviously trying to be a movie. However, the problem is a plot like this would never fly with any movie critic. It’s only because gamers, or even worse reviewers, felt the need to hype this piece of literature so badly because they’re not used to seeing good ones. It’s a niche, basically, and would explain why this game was so critically acclaimed. It receives good will because it’s about suffering, also gay people are involved. That’s it. I’m not trying to be mean, the plot simply is just that shallow. People resonates with a character who does nothing but open doors, which is why I call this game pretentious. Every praise it received was for its plot, and its plot was unimpressive, but simply is “edgy” in a market such as this. It’s new and it hasn’t been done before, and apparently that caused most game critics to throw their quality check out the window. I would not be surprised if SRS would be up in arms about this if this post had any exposure, not that they’re anything more than a bad joke. They’re going to call me homophobic (and they had already, mind you) for not letting a plot pass my standards just because it involves suffering of a less privileged individual. There’s a great irony there, but that’s for another time.
Out of all this, there has been great games with great story, and a great way to tell said story, in the past. These include The Walking Dead, Bastion, The Last of Us, LIMBO, Amnesia, and even Hotline Miami. They are great because they found an engaging and suitable way to marry their story-telling with the game mechanics, taking advantage of all that video games are capable of. Gone Home, in no way belongs amongst them. Neither are any of the “art games”.
Still, what do my opinions matter? They are probably just not sophisticated enough.
Picture property of the Fullbright Company