It’s 1995. You just spent a year touring the world, ya know, like any fresh-out-of-college kid might if they had an endless supply of cash, and you arrive at your family’s new home- mansion– that you’ve never been to, only to find that they’re… Gone. A mysterious note from your younger sister is taped to the locked front door, and nobody’s home to let you in. What do you do?
Gone Home is an exploration video game that I was convinced to purchase upon seeing that it had no scary scenes, no fighting, no violence. (I avoid most things that could make me feel anxious, and I’m not at all a “gamer.”) Essentially, it wasn’t described as a game, it was described like an interactive book, and I thought: why not? It’s set to a riot grrl soundtrack (Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy headline the soundtrack, with a Portland-based band called The Youngins that play as the game’s fictional band, Girlscout) and revolves around the alternative/punk rock scene of the pacific northwest. Throughout the game, you’ll find flyers for local shows, zines that the main character’s little sister has made with her super cute, pink-haired… Friend, Lonnie. What’s not to love?
But, more importantly, what’s the story?
There are multiple plots that are strung throughout Gone Home. There’s the mother, who has been writing letters to her best friend about her new home, her career’s advancement, and her new colleague who is rather handsome. The father, who published a few books years ago, has hit a wall in his career, and is absolutely fixated on the assassination of JFK. There’s the uncle, who died and left the giant mansion to the father, years after being exiled from the family. And of course, there is the little sister, Sam, who is really, really good friends with a girl named Lonnie, with whom she crafts zines and goes to shows and… Maybe more? (Yes, definitely more, but I refuse to ruin this for you!)
Not only is this game beautifully crafted, it is welcoming to all possible players. It does not include any nerve-wracking action scenes, and though wandering through the completely dark basement is a little creepy, it isn’t a scary game whatsoever. What it provides is an immersive experience for the player, nostalgia for all you 90’s riot grrls, and a beautifully told love story. The sub plots are absolute bonuses, if a bit worrisome*, but they seem to end on a rather uplifting note. I’ve read multiple reviews of this game, and this is pretty much unanimous: you will cry at the end. And then you’ll want to listen to Bikini Kill (but don’t you always?) and watch Rent, or maybe you’re like me and you’ll put on your 90’s Ani DiFranco playlist. Either way, this game will squish right into your baby queer feels and leave you feeling like yes, it was absolutely worth the two-four hours you just spent completing the whole thing. And then, maybe you’ll be like me, and go back for more.
Gone Home is a story told in four unraveling novellas, all through the exploration of a beautifully crafted home during a particularly stormy night. There’s a reason why it is receiving such high ratings: it is accessible, gorgeous, and unique. As a non-gamer, I would highly recommend this to anyone, regardless of interest in video games. It is absolutely remarkable.
Potential Triggers (SPOILERS, Y’ALL):
– *there are strong hints toward sexual abuse in some subplots
– religious and pagan paraphernalia throughout game