Back in 2013, when I was working as a producer for a very famous free-to-play mobile publisher, my guts started telling me (more like pressuring me, as only guts know how to) it was time to move on to what I loved most: telling stories.
Besides starting to get involved in talks about a project I am currently working on, that was also the same year when Gone Home was launched.
I was immediately drawn to the promo image (the one above) that gave away traces of mystery/occult/retro/artsy art direction. Then, after a few searches, I came across a few reviews in popular web games press sites and got to see the first gameplay screenshots, and even a short gameplay video.
What the f*ck did I just watch? How come something with such an appealing (at least for me) promo art had turned out to be a first person game with graphics that seemed a bit dated (apologies for being completely honest) and did not show any of the atmosphere I was craving for?
Somehow the press and the public were praising it like maniacs. So I decided to give it a shot, someday, when time would allow. I ended up not playing the game at the time, but apparently all of my videogame-guru-friends did and that was a pain because no one cared if I had played it: they just shoved all the important info down my throat, like a BDSM slave being force-fed spoilers while on the rack.
I hate it when that happens. Nonetheless that did not impact my curiosity to play the game. I read what I could about it, while at the same time I was trying to avoid any more unwanted, spoiler-filled information. I really wanted to play the game.
Then I guess “life happened”. For some reason I kept postponing it. Days became months, and months… well let’s just say it was almost two years after launch that I actually played the game, but I will get to that shortly (I promise).
The year after the game’s launch, I went (as I do every year, with the exception of 2015 – with great sorrow) to the best games conference in the world and I knew I that I was going to attend a talk by Steve Gaynor from Fullbright. That thought grew in me (again) the desire to finally play the game.
I went to the talk without ever playing the game, but I seemed to know all about it by then. What it was about, plot twists and weird ways players found to finish the game (aka speedruns). I felt as passionate about it as any other fan that had played it, an already considered the game a brilliant piece of art.
I must say that I had never been in a games talk by anyone as passionate about his/her creation as Steve’s. I could have sworn that, at the end of the talk, his eyes had that special specular reflection, the one you can only have when you are about to shed a tear. I truly understood why Gone Home had the success it was having (and still has): it had been made with passionate love.
Now I was really mad about playing the game! I congratulated Steve (would have loved to have a few drinks with you but Mike took you away immediately after, acting like a freaking bodyguard in a ‘security compromised’ situation) and said to myself that when I got back home I would finally play the game.
Guess what: “Life Happened: The Return!”.
Then, after quitting my job to become a indie/freelancer/consultant/ games adventurer, spending months bootstrapping my career and flying to distant and exotic lands showcasing game design as a tool for empowering youth, I finally played the game, like today, Julian date 15144.
And I finished the game in the same day (granted, it is not that big). And I only wish I had done it sooner!
Gone Home pushes all the boundaries on what storytelling games should be all about. It presents you a solid narrative, with multiple hints throughout the game, that always show you a different side to the story, a possible subplot or even some genius interactivity moments where you are, at the very least, grow a big smile on your face (I even got a nice big scare at one point).
Overall, and in a no-spoilers mood, this is a game about unconditional love, freedom and breaking free from social shackles.
This is the sort of game that everyone should play at least once in their lifetime. This is a game for you to show your children, your parents and your loved ones.
This is a game that makes me feel good for doing what I do, for standing on the shoulders of giants.