Home is where the heart is.
Developed and published by The Fullbright Company, Gone Home first released on PC in 2013. The game has now arrived on Nintendo Switch, and what it lacks in gameplay it makes up for in both, storytelling and heart. Gone Home may be a brief experience (a playthrough takes about two hours) but it is likely to leave a lasting impression.
From the first-person perspective, you play as Kaitlin Greenbriar, a girl in her early 20s who returns home after backpacking around Europe to find no family members waiting to greet her. The gameplay is simple: walk around, and examine objects. You’ll find notes, letters, and books scattered around the house as you try to figure out where your parents and sister are, and what they’ve been going through while you were overseas. Light puzzle-solving, realistic visuals and ambient sound add to the overall experience, but the true star is the storytelling, which includes elements of the environment, voiced dialogue, and a variety of written texts.
You can rush through the game and discover the main story, which is told largely through your sister’s journal entries, but you would be doing yourself and the game a disservice. Carefully searching the house sheds light on the previous owner of the house, your father’s career, and your parents’ marriage, among other things. A crumpled up piece of paper in a garbage bin could reveal a painful truth; the contents of a cardboard box in the closet might help you better understand your parents’ past. Saying more would spoil what makes Gone Home so special: discovering and piecing together the stories hidden throughout the house.
When I first played Gone Home five years ago, I remember sitting and staring at my computer screen for a long while after completing the game. I didn’t want to move or speak. I just wanted to think about what I had experienced over the course of an evening. The Fullbright Company knows how to tell a story and they succeed at making the player feel that he or she is part of that story. If you want a narrative experience that demonstrates what the video game medium is truly capable of, play this game, but do so slowly. Gone Home is not a game to hurry through, but one to savor and remember.