Dim the lights, stick on a riot grrl soundtrack and play a stunningly eerie indie adventure game with feminism in its very core.
Buy the Gone Home Collectors Edition on Amazon or get it way cheaper on Steam
The ‘I Felt Like I Was Really In The Game’ Bit
In 2002 I gave my younger brother his first all-night gaming experience. He’d never done it before, bidding welcome to a new dawn with a good long huff of video games. We were co-piloting on Resident Evil 2 and it went much like this:
Magda: Are you a bit tired then right? (brother looks tired. Hopefully he is not tired or at least not going to admit it)
Max: No. Well, yeah, maybe
Max: (sees sister’s face) or maybe not, I could definitely keep going yeah
Magda: So we should maybe keep going then and you weren’t forced to and it was definitely your idea?
Max: Sure, I dunno, maybe if I have some coffee, I’ve not really drunk it before but I hear that’s what you’re meant to do
Mum runs downstairs, naked and terrified. She has some kind of weapon in her hand, probably a shoe. She has been woken by the primal screams of her children encountering A LICKER JUST DROPPED FROM THE CEILING GO TO BED MUM YOU’RE NOT READY TO SEE THIS YOU’RE NOT TRAINED
Sometimes I think I am a really good sister.
I’ll never forget this moment, mainly because bonding but also because video games have the beautiful, sometimes terrible power to make you feel like you’re really there. Much like coffee. I still have beef against lickers to this day.
Gone Home made me feel like I was really there. It’s an indie game, not a huge budget (though a whole load of talent behind it – it was created by some of the team behind Bioshock), but HOLY… I WAS REALLY THERE.
The story behind Gone Home, a first person adventure from Merge Games, is that you’ve gone away for a sojourn to Europe and now you’ve come back to America, to your family home, a little early. You are a girl, by the way, and living in the mid nineties. It’s evening and no-one expected you back so soon. You walk around your familiar-but-strange house, picking up clues as to what’s happened since you’ve left. And that’s it. That’s all I’m going to tell you. But the suspense was immense. It was UNNERVING. Having to go round the house, switching on all the lamps… as I lowered myself into the story like a cormorant lowering themselves into an oil-slicked pool it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, going round that house and finding pizza boxes and turning all the lights on. It was my house and yet I’d come home at a strange time and I was all alone.
I was there.
The ‘This Game Is Something New’ Bit
I want to say as little as possible and let you enjoy the game as much as I did. Suffice to say that Gone Home is a subtle, clever game that really understands it’s being played by gamers. You know how if you’re playing the made-up game of Garklevania you’ll kick open all the wooden crates because OBVIOUSLY they’re going to have treasures in them, even though you have no reason, other than having played lots of other games, to believe that the Kingdom of Garklevania welcomes adventuring louts who go around kicking open wooden crates? Gone Home knows you’ll do that. It knows the conventions of gameplay… so it goes and does something different, something subtle and new.
I’m so sorry. I was meant to be telling you why the new approach to adventures is so great, but I can’t do that. What they achieve is groundbreaking and I must not say more.
The Feminist Bit
Gosh. It’s not often video games reviews get a ‘feminist’ section. ‘Gone Home’ revealed to me for the first time how feminism could form the intended in-your-face core of a game without relinquishing a single iota of entertainment or playability. The story’s very bones are feminist. And the little details, like what you’ll find in your bedroom, and the riot grrl soundtrack playing all over the house… there’s just a perfect balance between entertainment and message. I’ve never quite seen that before, so well done them.
The End Bit
If you’ve ever had reservations about playing video games because you feel they might be too misogynist on any level to hold your interest/respect, rest assured you can play this one. It’s perfect for new gamers, too, because the controls are nice and easy and you can take your own sweet time with making decisions; no breathless watching clock-watching here.
Also, if you love adventure games and aren’t keen on the idea of any ‘ism’ or ‘agenda’ creeping in, DON’T WORRY COOL YOUR HEELS THIS IS A GOOD GAME.
Finally, if you’re a gamer who identifies as feminist:
(1) WHY HELLO THERE
2) Play ‘Gone Home’. It’s cheap to buy, if you scout around. It is in many ways extraordinary. I think you’ll like it.
And finally, if you play it at late o’ clock, close the curtains and draw the lights down low…