Last night I found myself staring at my computer monitor, watching some credits roll by and smiling with tears running down my face. It felt like I had just run an emotional marathon; a tale so warm, rich, and at times heartbreaking that I couldn’t help but feel pained towards the story unfolding before me.
This is why I love to game. Yes, I adore those moments of absolute exhilaration and adrenaline inducing combat moments but it is these moments, the ones that punch you right in the feels that I will carry with me for the rest of my life and remember fondly as in some way the slightly change you as a person. I’ve read the rare book like this, even a piece of music from time to time but rarely if ever a game.
It was of course Gone Home, the interactive, point and click adventure game by the Fullbright Company that for some reason I actually feel awkward placing into such a category. Sure its mechanics may have been influenced by the genre and even companies like big point but it is so far beyond those in terms of engaging the player in the experience that the comparison is meaningless. It is just so much more in every single way.
The Game takes place within a dusty old mansion where you, the oldest child have come back home for the first time in several months after travelling overseas to find the house deserted with no knowledge of where your family has gone. Through the course of it you find bits of information that slowly piece together the story of your mother and father’s fragile relationship as well as that of your sister Sam.
This house though has an astounding amount of attention to detail that you just can’t help but feel attached to it from the onset. Lights and draws open and close. All manor of everyday items litter the house like stationary, cups, plates, pizza boxes, and books which can all be interacted with. It feels very much like a home, and one that is remarkably lived in. You really can imagine the history of the people who inhabit it and how they are going about their lives.
It’s also the many details that have gone into crafting the various spaces: the library full of books, the media room with a collection of taped vhs movies and vinyl records, piles of cords strewn around and cassettes containing some rather fabulous pieces of grunge girl rock. Sam’s room in particular is just a perfect reflection of the personality you glimpse through her writing and audio diary pieces.
Each and every note and scrap of information relating to the family is just so well crafted with a meticulous vision for detail that the fit perfectly within the time period and bring sense to the world. The many details like name tags, magazines and work correspondence create a lived in space and a way of learning the basics of this family. There are the seemingly random items strewn around that when looked at in isolation are meaningless but as you learn more they further reinforce the stories being told.
Finally it is the correspondence between the family, friends, colleagues and the personal kind that gives you an intimate understanding of this amazing and heart wrenching human tale. A tale so normal, so frequent but re-enacted so well that you somehow feel connected to it. All this creates an environment where you feel familiar with the people you are learning more about and immersed in the role you have taken.
Warning. I may have some minor spoilers here although I’ll try not to spoil the key points to the story of the main character.
It is the quintessential coming of age story of a young girl who feels lost and alone within a family who is more wrapped in their own dramas to notice and when they do, don’t understand in the slightest. It is a failure to connect with peers, popular culture and the stereotypical restrictions young people face… magnified to a point where it is painful to watch and hear.
I’ll be honest here and say that the odd duck story was very much me in high school. What I was supposed to be never really interested me in the slightest; I wasn’t interested in make-up, hair tips, dieting and flirting with the boys; all I was interested in was being me and fuck that was hard at times. The pressure from every single source is enough to send you insane at times when you are young. Near everyone out there is out to tell you what and who you can or should be but, unfortunately that path is kind of soul-destroying.
I also remember being the rebellious child against authority, against parental forces, against peers and even against myself at times. It was a hard an emotional period that I’m glad is done with and while there are still those pressures even in adulthood I can thankfully now abide by Murf’s so eloquently put inspirational phrase “Fuck it” and keep on with who I enjoy being.
That is the story of Sam and though her talk is more orientated around the difficulties with being gay it is still a story of acceptance, finding oneself and being true to that image. It is a story that can relate to many others in similar situations due to a range of environmental and social factors. It is this story I connected so deeply with.. and I’m sure others will.