Polygon's 2013 Game of the Year: Gone Home

Oct 19, 2005
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It's just weird in the case of Gone Home because people are mixing this up with the notion that it has done something new in the sense of the mechanics of interactive storytelling (it hasn't). I think the notable thing here is that we are even having this discussion related to a videogame.
Yeah, I got a little annoyed about this after the game came out but before I played it. A lot of the breathless coverage I saw acted like this game was a tremendously unique, innovative piece of work (the same treatment Journey got, and Heavy Rain before it), which as someone who followed interactive fiction from the early days has always bugged me.

In reality, what Gone Home does isn't innovate -- there's no individual element here that hasn't been used elsewhere. What it does is combine those elements with an impressive display of craft (especially at how carefully and elegantly the story is paced and distributed) and with a fearlessness that many other games haven't been able to match -- the Fullbright Company were perfectly happy to ship this game as it was, knowing how many people would go "nobody died?! no aliens?! 0/10!!!"

I also have a lot of nostalgia for the era and that helped too.
I do wonder how much that's relevant to the reception. I didn't actually identify closely with the situation that Sam was experiencing at all, but the period piece element actually drew me in really intensely. The X-Files episodes on videotape, the notebooks of Street Fighter moves, the crudely drawn mixtape labels -- this stuff all hit the exact note of my own teen experience, and it made it easy to slide into the mindset of the period where the story was set.

If I want to experience a good story about a girl coming out I can get a better and more fulfilling story in a book or a movie, without the added tedium of exploring a big house to find the story.
This is such a bullheaded approach to storytelling, though. The benefit of a story like this isn't in the mechanistic flow of events, it's in the textures and the subtleties. And in this case, the game medium provides the opportunity for quite a few subtleties that would be impossible elsewhere. A movie might be able to spend 90 minutes telling a direct story of a queer teenage romance, but the way it'd have to approach it is very directly -- by showing you what happens, by letting you watch characters interact with each other, by sticking you voyeuristically into the events themselves.

Where a game can shine -- and Gone Home does this quite well -- is letting you experience this from a third-party perspective: learning about events piecemeal, the same way Katie does; picking up on the events happening to the rest of the family in a non-linear fashion, and piecing together how the family have been interacting from the scant evidence provided. There's no equivalent way a book or movie could simulate this -- could let you put on the Heavens to Betsy mixtape while you rifle through a desk, or decide to go back to the basement to check something you missed, or stumble onto a piece of evidence in a room you passed through earlier that puts something you just found into a new context. A movie or book couldn't allow for the level of variable discovery each player has about the other stories in the house -- the mother's, the father's, Oscar's.
 
Jun 10, 2004
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there's a sequel. I don't know how you'd have one but I wish there was one. I want to see what happens with Sam and Lonnie as they go on the road together... do they stay together and genuinely love each other or do they realize all this is rather absurd and say their good byes. Do the parents find a spark in their relationship? Does it sustain itself? And what about Kaitlyn? Maybe the next game in theory you'd play as everyone in the family... I dunno. Its just so bittersweet. It really sucks that the game ends and there's not even a hint of a sequel.

I'm hoping that I forget the story and everything surrounding it soon so that I can play the game like new again. It just has a little bit of everything and besides 999, I feel like the story is really strong and helps push the game to memorable status. Mario 3D World was my GOTY along side Runner 2 and Rogue Legacy but Gone Home is another excellent choice too.
 
Jun 7, 2004
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I believe FullBright has already said there will not be a sequel. Their next game will not continue the story of Gone Home, nor will it be a new story in a new house with a new family. A lot of what's cool and fun about Gone Home really only works the first time.
 
Jun 23, 2007
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Granted, I haven't read the majority of the posts in this thread, but I've read enough. The thing that bugs me about a lot of the Gone Home hate is, that it's not a game for everyone, and it's pretty obvious from the first few moments. If you didn't like it-- fine. It wasn't for you. If I didn't grow up in the '90s as a punk kid, the game probably wouldn't have resonated as strongly with me as it did. The feelings of nostalgia about a time and place in my life I can never relive, hit me hard. Sure the game was short, and the gameplay was nothing special, but I was there. I felt like a teenager again playing this game. When I finished it, I sat in front of my computer dumbfounded for a good 15 minutes. I've played countless games to completion in my life, but none of them made me pine for something I can never have again-- my teenage years. I didn't realize how much I've changed, but managed to stay the same. It's beautiful and depressing at the same time. We can debate the value of a $20, 2 hour game, but I felt it was worth every penny. If you didn't, cool. Everyone is different. I hope you find a game that means as much to you as this game meant to me. We're gamers, we're in our thirties, and we feel our youth slipping away.
 
Jun 11, 2011
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I was so underwhelmed by this game I almost felt duped. When I got to the end I was thinking that there must be something about to happen but nope. Really, it was an interesting concept but GOTY? It's really little more than a 3D engine demo.
 
Feb 8, 2008
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I believe FullBright has already said there will not be a sequel. Their next game will not continue the story of Gone Home, nor will it be a new story in a new house with a new family. A lot of what's cool and fun about Gone Home really only works the first time.
It was definitely in the vein of the 1-city block game Warren Spector talked a lot about. I would love to see Fullbright do another game in this style, or more studios take that philosophy.
 
Jan 29, 2013
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It's barely a game and what game there is, is very short. I find it sad that this sort of thing gets praised so much that people agree that it's GOTY. A reminder, the 'G' stands for game.
 
Jun 7, 2011
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Granted, I haven't read the majority of the posts in this thread, but I've read enough. The thing that bugs me about a lot of the Gone Home hate is, that it's not a game for everyone, and it's pretty obvious from the first few moments. If you didn't like it-- fine. It wasn't for you. If I didn't grow up in the '90s as a punk kid, the game probably wouldn't have resonated as strongly with me as it did. The feelings of nostalgia about a time and place in my life I can never relive, hit me hard. Sure the game was short, and the gameplay was nothing special, but I was there. I felt like a teenager again playing this game. When I finished it, I sat in front of my computer dumbfounded for a good 15 minutes. I've played countless games to completion in my life, but none of them made me pine for something I can never have again-- my teenage years. I didn't realize how much I've changed, but managed to stay the same. It's beautiful and depressing at the same time. We can debate the value of a $20, 2 hour game, but I felt it was worth every penny. If you didn't, cool. Everyone is different. I hope you find a game that means as much to you as this game meant to me. We're gamers, we're in our thirties, and we feel our youth slipping away.
It didn't hit me as strongly as that, but I agree they really did an amazing job of nailing the 90's feel. So many things felt familiar in a very intimate way. Thats what made it special and set it apart from just being interactive house with a couple of very basic "puzzles".
It never really felt like a "game" to me, but it was an experience I really enjoyed having and it's well worth the purchase.
 
Sep 29, 2007
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On some level you almost have to wonder if these people enjoy gameplay. Maybe the older 30+ audience is going to be characterized by short 4 hour games with extremely limited gameplay? With more demands in real life, maybe this is what they enjoy now?
I think this is a level of reflection most people don't even consider when they say stuff like "it's not even a game!". Gone Home is the kind of game I enjoy in my life now.

When I was a teenager, I used to enjoy playing Star Fox until I had gold on every level and unlocked every secret. I had every star in Super Mario 64. I would have fun with over a hundred hours of multiplayer gaming on a single title. I was a completionist and I was basically looking for fun ways to waste my time.

Now, I enjoy games (like Gone Home) that respect my time (and aren't simply there to fill it) and have something to say. If the game is relevant to reality in some way, it's all the better.

I still enjoy gameplay (and I'm sure Polygon does too), but gameplay on its own is a fun waste of time. I'll take something with meaning and purpose over a straight focus on gameplay most days of the week.