Hello. Hope you’re all keeping safe.

Regular readers, if any exist, may recall that last year we exhumed our discussion format in order to take a look at a modern indie title, Her Story. (Caution: there are spoilers ahead in that link!)

Well, I’m back, along with FFG’s unofficial third correspondent, Jo, in a belated follow-up, as part of what may become a semi-regular feature [careful with all that hype – FFG reader].

This time we’re looking at Gone Home (an appropriately-named game, under the circumstances), the acclaimed 2013 adventure from Fullbright (formerly The Fullbright Company).

As with Her Story, it’s the kind of game that you probably should play without knowing anything in advance – exploration and discovery being all part of the overall experience – but, broadly, it’s the tale of a young woman returning home from a year away, finding her family’s new house abandoned, and uncovering what has transpired in her absence.

This discussion covers pretty much all of the game’s major story details, so if you haven’t played Gone Home already, we’d advise that you do so first. We liked it, and it’s not a long game, so we’ll just leave you with this trailer at this stage: if it looks like it might be of interest, do check it out.

Otherwise, be warned: unless you have no intention of playing this game, or for some reason prefer for two strangers to paraphrase what happens before heading into something yourself, Gone Home is about to be spoiled for you.


Final ***SPOILER WARNING*** here!


Gaming retirement

Rik: So, this is the second in our not very regular indie discussion series. How did we arrive at covering Gone Home?

Jo: Er, well my fault really. I’ve been quite keen to discuss it, because playing it sort of got me back into playing games.

Rik: When did you first play?

Jo: I played it Autumn 2017. I know that’s weirdly specific, but it was just after we moved house, and seeing as the game is set in a recently-moved-into-house I’ve always connected the two.

Rik: I wrote about it, briefly, on here…[*performs half-hearted search on FFG*] Ah, it was 2014. Probably the last time I had my finger vaguely on the pulse of modern gaming. Did I recommend it or mention it to you or did you just come to it on your own?

Jo: Either I saw a trailer for it and asked you about it, or you told me about it and I watched the trailer. I can’t remember which way around it was, but I wanted to play it as soon as I watched the trailer, which is weird because I don’t think it really gives that much away.

Rik: I was dimly aware of people raving about it. Probably the first time I was aware of ‘indie’ gaming. Picked it up in a sale and (unusually for me) played it pretty quickly afterwards. So, you say it brought you out of gaming retirement?

Jo: Our PC was in bits from the move, so we kind of pieced it back together so I could play it. [Mr Jo] was working late a lot, so I had quite a lot of time to kill during the evenings and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get stuck in. I kept rushing home from work, getting a snack and then holing myself away to play it. Kind of felt like my adolescence…probably the last time I properly played any games. How about you? We’ve often discussed your impressive catalogue of games yet to be played…

Rik: Ever-growing…

Jo: How did you decide to give this one a go over and above the others?

Rik: I think I bought it knowing it would be short. And with the express intention of getting into it straight away. Unlike the usual rationale of ‘oh this might be good to play one day’. I follow (or followed at the time) a lot of game-y people on Twitter, many of whom they were raving about it. And then came some pushback from macho gamer types that it wasn’t a Real Game. Which sort of made me more determined to give it a whirl.

Jo: Yeah, I hit upon it some years later post-backlash. I mean, that stuff still really grinds my gears, honestly.

Rik: So first time around, I played it, I liked it, I recommended it. But I don’t have particularly strong memories.

Jo: It was quite a big deal for me. For one thing, it made me feel excited about gaming for the first time in absolutely ages. I’d played through the likes of Heavy Rain, Fahrenheit and L.A. Noire on console. But the first time in a while that I’d done a solo play through a PC game, shall we say.

Rik: Those other games are fairly lumbering beasts. This is a lot leaner…

Jo: Yeah, in the David Cage games, there are laborious, button-hammering bits. Fahrenheit has parts where you’re stuck for ages. Heavy Rain was also a bit stressful at times.

Rik: I do remember reading something where David Cage had been saying, if you’re hiding in a cupboard in a game, the controls to do that should be uncomfortable, like actually hiding in a cupboard would be.

Jo: The ‘choose your own adventure’ element kind of feels like, if you do something wrong, the story just crashes on regardless. Like I’m pretty sure I haven’t played 90% of Heavy Rain owing to the choices I made.

Rik: I haven’t played Heavy Rain. But there are moments in L.A. Noire too: you’re not sure whether you have actually mucked up or you’ve done okay but the narrative demands that things go wrong anyway.

Jo: That’s one of the things I liked a lot about Gone Home. I never felt “stuck”. I guess you could maybe argue that there’s no challenge there, but it wasn’t really about that, because I was just invested in the story.

Rik: I think there is a gentle challenge there, in the exploration, and uncovering the story meticulously.


Ring-binders and The Prodigal Brothers

Rik: But let’s go back to expectations. I don’t think I had any sense about what the game would involve.

Jo: No, me neither.

Rik: And the setup: no-one is home, the house is a mess, rain and thunder outside, it all creates an unnerving vibe.

Jo: There’s definitely an eerie feeling about the whole thing.

Rik: Even though I knew zombies weren’t going to jump out (or whatever). But I did think, am I going to find something Quite Bad here.

Of course there’s an inventory, Rik, you dummy.

Jo: Yes. I mentioned this to you at the time, but my PC speakers had broken, so the only way I could play it with sound was to wear headphones. Which just kind of upped the intensity really – especially for the one jump scare in the first secret passageway.

Rik: I felt better second time around, knowing what wasn’t going to happen.

Jo: I felt a lot more involved that first time than I did playing it again with speakers. It definitely felt more intensely creepy through headphones.

Rik: So I guess we should probably say, it’s extremely simple to navigate. You basically move around like in a first-person shooter.

Jo: Which, I have to be honest, took me a little while to get to grips with. But I say that as a person that almost exclusively plays ye olde point and click adventures. But this approach is more commonplace in adventures now (I’m discovering).

Rik: But there’s only one kind of interaction. Pick up or put back. Or open door. You don’t have an inventory, you don’t have to use items with other items, it’s a process of exploring the house, uncovering the story of the family, by picking up various bits and pieces.

Jo: I think there’s an inventory of sorts isn’t there? For when you pick up keys.

Rik: Ah, good point.

Jo: Yeah, it’s together with the map and journal entries.

Rik: But you won’t be using the weasel repellent on the doorknob. Or anything like that.

Jo: No, it’s literally basement key unlocks basement.

Rik: I thought it was quite clever the way it was a house move, which explained the mess. And the fact [your character] Kaitlin doesn’t know her way around.

Jo: You start with Kaitlin’s passport and plane ticket which is all you have to get an idea of who your character is. I’m going to say something really pretentious here (I’m sorry) but the house is almost like another character in the game, because you’re exploring the stories of each of the characters in the family, but also how they came to arrive at this house, the history of the house, and how that also connects with each member of the family.

Rik: I hadn’t really thought of it like that. But you’re right I think. I was going to say that you don’t find out much about Kaitlin. She’s probably the only one who doesn’t get much uncovered, perhaps because she never lived there.

Jo: For Kaitlin, it’s totally foreign. She’s been away since the move. For [sister] Sam, it’s a new strange place known as the “Psycho House” to the locals. And for [father] Terry, the house has the most meaning, but we’ll get to that.

Rik: I was also going to say the house move doesn’t *quite* explain all the mess.

Jo: Yeah, I think more so towards the end of the game you’re a bit kind of like “why haven’t they unpacked in here yet?” but I guess maybe it’s representing a transitional period for each person in the family. But I also think it’s probably mainly weird to us because we grew up in an exceptionally tidy house with a zero tolerance policy for clutter.

Rik: I do have to say the amount of ‘dummy’ objects vs ‘important’ objects was about right. I again thought of L.A. Noire and all the beer bottles.

Jo: A surprising amount of ring-binders knocking about here though.

Rik: Yes. Although there were lots of ring binders in the 90s. Which we all had for some reason. (REVISION FOLDER 1995 DO NOT TOUCH)

Jo: Ha! They were kind of a big deal. Mine was more like “JT and CJ best friends 4evs” and maybe some Green Day lyrics or something. But just when you thought “ugh, another pointless ring-binder” you’d pick it up and there’s be something of significance beneath it.

Rik: I remember having pictures from the Britannia Music Catalogue cut out and stuck on mine.

Jo: No, really?

Rik: Like, of the CDs. These tiny bits of album artwork.

Jo: [Our mum’s oft-quoted conflation of the names of two mid-90s dance acts] The Prodigal Brothers?

Rik: Indeed.

Jo: Shall we talk about the 90s nostalgia element?

Rik: Seems like a good time to talk about it. I thought it was pretty much spot on.

Jo: Me too. I think these things always run the risk of seeming a bit tacky, but, for me, it was really authentic.

Rik: Even the computer game references felt very natural. Everyone was obsessed with Street Fighter II. Even if you couldn’t play it. It wasn’t shoehorned in – that’s what it was like!

Jo: Yeah, I think I had a Street Fighter sticker album… But we didn’t have the game or a console to play it on.

Rik: And when you find the note from your neighbour’s mum that calls it a tape.

Jo: YES! I wrote that down. “Daniel’s Street Fighting tape”

Rik: One of many moments that made me think about our mum this time around playing.

Jo: Yeah exactly. There’s a book somewhere with a note on about how to make friends. It just reminded me of those types of books from back then.

Rik: Even little things, like the notebooks with cartoons and silly messages in them. Mucking around from the pre-digital age.

Jo: It’s kind of the way I felt watching Freaks and Geeks, which is set in the early 80s, but made me feel nostalgic to my own adolescence even though that didn’t take place during that era. It’s like the nostalgia is only one part of what you relate to, because what you really relate to is the experience of growing up.

Rik: I found all the stuff about the neighbour Daniel quite real, particularly as described in the ‘Default Friends’ journal entry. The whole thing about having to be friends with your neighbour: all those feelings about wondering whether you’d be friends if they didn’t live nearby, but then they get a cool new game that you could borrow or go round to their house to play…

Jo: That’s what works well in this game. It’s these relatable experiences. It doesn’t just depend on the 90s nostalgia.

Rik: I was glad that bit sort of had a good resolution. They kind of reconcile. Which maybe wouldn’t have happened on real life…

Jo: No.

Rik: That’s kind of the grown ups writing the game saying “ah, if only we hadn’t been such dicks when we were kids”. Or when you misremember something from the past in a way that paints you in a slightly better light.


Interviewing Blackstreet

Rik: We mentioned a journal entry so should probably say that’s how the story is uncovered. The main dialogue is from absent sister Sam, who tells the main story. The other stuff is sort of unspoken.

Jo: Yeah, I guess each character has a story (except maybe Kaitlin, as we’ve said). And you discover each character’s story via the objects you find in and around the house. But certain objects prompt a journal entry from Sam. So I think the journal entries tell the main story, but the other things you find around the house flesh that story out.

Rik: The house felt like a 90s house. Kind of huge. But they sort of are in the US, aren’t they?

Jo: Yeah, it feels like a mixture of the house we grew up in, the houses of our friends, and the houses on 90s TV shows we’d watch. For me it’s all kind of blended together.

Wouldn’t Airplane/Moonraker be Airplane II: The Sequel?

Rik: I liked all the films and shows videotaped off TV. I feel like our own home tapes were similar.

Jo: Each one had a different family member’s handwriting. Sam’s were all X-Files. Terry’s were things like The Fugitive, Bridge Over The River Kwai etc. [mother] Jan’s: The Sound of Music.

Rik: Did you ever watch X-Files?

Jo: No.

Rik: Me neither, at the time. It was definitely a thing that people at school watched though. Cool kids!

Jo: I heard it was scary, so that kind of put me off. I think it was on quite late as well…past my bedtime!

Rik: Another thing that struck me was the notes about going to see Pulp Fiction, and they don’t really know anything about it. Just that it’s a big new movie that’s out. Which again is sort of what you did in those days.

Jo: Before Tarantino was a big name and going to the cinema was a real event.

Rik: But also, pre-release info about films was limited.

Jo: Things like going to the cinema would be a Friday night/weekend thing that you’d have to arrange in advance. Quite late on in the game you find a cookery magazine and on the cover it says something like “Pizza? On a weeknight? Yes!” and it’s just so on the nose because you would never have a pizza on weeknight back then, pizza was a Friday night/weekend treat. There were so many little nods like that. Like with the sleepover…they have that massive house, but they slept in the living room, to make it more like an event.

Rik: Yes.

Jo: It’s kind of how I feel about not being able to rent films any more. Going to Blockbuster felt like a real end of the week treat and now we can just watch pretty much whatever, whenever.

Rik: I had more of an emotional response to the game this time around. Perhaps it’s because of recent Bad Events [Jo and I sadly lost our mum to cancer in 2019]. But I had a real sense that those times were so far away, this time. When we all used to live in a big house together, and there was this safe family unit around us.

Jo: It almost feels like a different life. I had more of an emotional response to it first time around, strangely enough. When I finished it, I was very sad that it was over. I guess because it felt a bit like taking a little journey back to adolescence and our old house – even though we didn’t live in a haunted mansion or anything.

Rik: First time around I think I found that nostalgia very gentle. But it all hit me a bit more this time, which I wasn’t expecting. I focused on some of the details more: so, first time around I was slightly dismissive: ‘oh wow, the mum is bored and fancies a man at work’ and ‘oh, right, the Dad’s a frustrated writer’. Like each character just had one thing to ‘discover’ about them. But this time I saw it more in the context that your parents are flawed humans living their lives while shielding their children from it.

Jo: Some people have argued that Terry’s story is the main narrative…

Rik: Hmm…

Jo: I don’t agree.

Rik: No.

Jo: But I definitely felt like I paid more attention to Terry’s story the second time around.

Rik: Me too. The cold, disappointed note from his father, and finding his portrait…

Jo: “You can do better”

Rik: You think, what were our parents’ parents really like? And how did that affect them?

Jo: For me that was more poignant second time around.

Rik: Both times, I was really keen to explore the full story. Not just in a rush to find out what happened with Sam. And not for ‘gamer 100%’ type reasons. But actually because I was interested.

Jo: No, I definitely wanted to be thorough both times. Second time even more so having discovered things, like that letter from Terry’s father, that I somehow missed first time around. There’s definitely no kind of drive to achieve, to “win the game”, but that’s not to its detriment, because you’re not even conscious of trying to achieve something. You’re just invested in the story.

Rik: There’s no filler. You know there’ll be new stuff in every room. And it’s clever the way the story is drip fed through to you. Not just Sam’s journals but everything.

Jo: I wrote down about how it’s so seamless how your journey through the house is also how you journey through the story and that works really well. Because, apart from the locked doors, you’re pretty much free to roam the house however you’d like.

Rik: Obviously you are herded through it. But it still feels enough like you’re poking around freely. The journal entries are probably the most ‘gamey’ thing about it, because they’re kind of like the gaming equivalent of found footage films. The developers worked on one of the Bioshock games, which sort of makes sense.

Jo: I’ve never played Bioshock.

Rik: Me neither…well, I played the demo. But otherwise, it’s in the backlog. But there are lots of games where you go somewhere and find that something’s gone wrong, and you only find out how and why through these tapes that are dotted around everywhere. Bioshock‘s predecessor, System Shock, was another one.

Jo: Bioshock is another thing that seems too scary for me.

Rik: The only other thing that was a bit weird here was a tape player in every room. I was like, how many frickin’ tape players do they have?

Jo: Yeah, I think those tapes were a nod towards the Riot Grrrl music of the era but possibly a bit before my time so the references kind of went completely over my head.

Rik: I thought, this is a little weak if it’s just to shoehorn in some licensed music.

Having a little look at Terry’s novel while listening to some Riot Grrrl.

Jo: I have to say, both times I wasn’t really bothered about the tapes.

Rik: I got annoyed you couldn’t listen to both sides. I was turning them over and hoping there’d be something different on the other side. Although again it was authentically 90s in that cool people would listen to bands you’d never heard of and you’d never be able to find out more about them because you didn’t have the internet.

Jo: And that sometimes your only option was to listen on those teeny cassette players like the ones we’d use to make our “radio shows”.

Rik: Or recording yourself interviewing Blackstreet. [Ahem…through skilful manipulation of a ‘bonus’ interview track on their album]

Jo: HAHAHA! I had completely forgotten about that. [To be clear: Jo, not Rik, did the Blackstreet ‘interview’]. Or recording quiz questions and then recording myself as various contestants ringing in with the answers.

Rik: It was the YouTube of the day. Who knows what fucking awful embarrassment I might have posted to the internet as a teenager.

Jo: I’m glad it wasn’t around during that time… Like, I am genuinely thankful.


Sibling relationships as depicted by Nickelodeon, and the ‘pillow incident’

Rik: Right so should we talk about Sam’s story a bit more. As it is the main thing really.

Jo: I think it starts off as a classic coming of age story: new student in a new school, she’s got this reputation that precedes her because she lives in the “Psycho House”…

Rik: There’s that horrible note from someone that you find.

Jo: I don’t know about you, but I read that almost as if I was Sam reading it. It felt very real. I mean, nothing that specific ever happened to me, but I could relate for sure.

Rik: I had ‘cool girls’ pretend to fancy me…a couple of times.

Jo: Kids are so horrible.

Rik: Once it was just mucking around, trying to be funny. Another time there was a new girl and the other cool girls didn’t like her so they pretended she fancied me. Which I can only assume was the worst thing they could imagine. Of course I got incredibly embarrassed both times.

Jo: I miss the 90s, but I absolutely would not go back to school for anything.

Rik: No, you’re right.

Jo: I had footballs kicked at my head. Maybe that’s why I really hate football now. And someone told me that they felt sick every time they saw me. It was just awful. Kids are the absolute worst.

Rik: It’s not even like we were bullied and they were bullies.

Jo: There’s just a huge chain of people being horrible to one another. You just have to kind of find your own group of people that you sort of fit in with.

Rik: Even outside of actual, full-on bullying, everyone is kind of being a dick to each other all of the time. And you just sort of have to brush it off or deal with it the best you can.

Jo: I just meant that I could relate: it was quite authentically done and for me I kind of empathised with Sam at that point, which is quite early on. I think after the first journal entry I was a bit eye-rolly, “ugh who’s this annoying narrator”, and then by the time I had read that note I was on side.

Rik: There’s just the right amount of narration. I’m glad it’s mixed in with the bits of story you read and uncover yourself.

Jo: Yeah, I feel like the journal entries complement and flesh out the story.

Rik: I mean the central story is coming of age and a love story. And a coming out story. But I also recognised all the teenage angst.

Jo: It seems like Kaitlin is the A* student whereas Sam is a bit more rebellious, perhaps?

Rik: Is there any mention of that specifically? It’s definitely implied.

Jo: I mean, I think that’s most clear with the reproductive system worksheet where Sam has written a full story about a Polish couple during the war, and there’s a ‘see me after class’ type comment from the teacher, and then later you find Kaitlin’s copy of the same assignment that’s been completed properly and got full marks. There are a lot of other little nods to it: Kaitlin’s trophies all over the place, while Sam has that detention slip and that mark sheet from “metal shop” about an assignment she’s messed up.

Rik: I got the impression that Kaitlin is baffled by the whole thing. Like, they get on, but there’s a feeling that Kaitlin doesn’t ‘get it’. But maybe they never talked about it. And the parents don’t know what to do. You can tell their exasperation.

One of Kaitlin’s trophies. Looks like she *American accent* “runs track”…

Jo: I mean it seemed like a classic sibling dynamic of the studious one and the rebellious one. [Prepare yourself for 90s Nickelodeon overload] Tia and Tamera, Alex and Annie Mack, CLARISSA AND FERGUSON…

Rik: Ah the classics…

Jo: But also the parents at this point are also dealing with their own issues. Terry is kind of having a breakdown and drinking. You discover that Jan is spending more time alone because Terry is AWOL…

Rik: No wonder Rick the park ranger held some appeal!

Jo: So, I kind of got the impression that the high-achieving daughter is away on a European trip, and is pretty much out of sight out of mind. Meanwhile, they’re kind of oblivious to Sam because they each have their own situations going on, but it’s only when Sam starts getting into trouble at school that things start to turn sour. And then she comes out to her parents only to be met with their dismissive reaction that we hear about via her journal entry (“A Very Long Phase”) – I thought that was very well done, it was quite heart-wrenching. Because she’s going through this turbulent, emotional time and while she expects her parents to not have a great reaction, she doesn’t expect them to be entirely dismissive. By the end, you can kind of understand why she chooses to flee the nest completely.

Rik: I was thinking about this a lot second time around. Is the ending a permanent ending, or is it a moment that they can come back from? Might the parents regret their reaction, when they find she’s gone? Might there be a reconciliation?

Jo: I know what you mean. It seemed very set in stone to me, though. Just with things like Sam saying “You can use my room, I won’t be needing it any more”

Rik: Might Sam’s relationship fizzle out, when the hard realities set in?

Jo: I mean, I think that’s the line her parents are taking.

Rik: Yes. But then I was also thinking. If this story is saying the parents are bigots, then do they deserve their own semi-happy endings? Terry getting rediscovered as a writer, and them going to couples therapy? Or is it saying, everyone has to go their own way. I couldn’t quite puzzle that one out.

Jo: There’s that journal entry, “The Nunnery”, which is prompted by you finding a TV listing for ‘Inside Edition’ – some documentary about a camp that deals with homosexuality and ‘deviant behaviour’ and Sam worries about her relationship being discovered.

Rik: I didn’t *necessarily* think that meant her parents were the type to send their daughter to a conversion camp. I guess it could. But if it does, why should we care that they sort themselves out?

Jo: I mean, I kind of got the impression that she was dismissed on age. The whole “you’re just a teenager, you don’t know what you want”…

Rik: Yes. It could be taken different ways I think, but that’s more how I read it.

Jo: But Sam is saying that she does know, and that she just kind of goes for it. And with [girlfriend] Lonnie, too. You know, aspiring to be in the army for what seems like her entire life, and then deciding “Actually, I want to be with this person”. I mean, for me it’s kind of admirable. Because I can imagine having been dismissed by my parents, like feeling mad at them, but also feeling like ultimately they were right and know what’s best for me. So, even though there was a part of me that was all “oooh I hope they don’t regret this and that they can work it all out some day” there was another part of me that was kind of impressed/admired the fact that they were so sure of themselves and so sure of what they wanted that they just went for it. I mean, I can’t imagine doing that even now, never mind as a teenager.

Rik: I guess I felt like Kaitlin in the story, a bit like, I understand what you’re saying, but, have you actually just up and gone? And left a note saying ‘see you sometime’?

Jo: It’s interesting that you felt like Kaitlin. Because I felt like Sam.

Rik: Yes, well we’ve sort of been dancing around that!

Jo: Yeah, Ferg-wad.

Rik: I definitely had flashbacks to mid-90s ANGRY JO.

Jo: Oh no. We’re not going to talk about the [semi-legendary sibling scuffle] ‘pillow incident’ are we?

Rik: No.

Jo: I mean, the angry note to her parents definitely resonated. Especially use of caps and underlines…

Rik: Kaitlin just thinks everything is fine because she’s fine. It’s not that she’s unsympathetic.

Jo: Yeah, I think that comes across in the postcards from her you find lying around, whereas back in the house things are falling apart. I kind of get the impression that things were different when she left and the move was maybe a catalyst of sorts.

Rik: She’s missed a lot. I guess that’s why perhaps it feels more sudden. Did you want to talk about Terry and Uncle Oscar?

Jo: Yes. I don’t know about you but I didn’t get that Oscar was a child molester the first time around. Only when I read reviews afterwards I mean, I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t really make that connection.

Rik: I think first time I thought, maybe he’s a murderer. But no, I don’t think I got it either.

Jo: There’s some kind of connection between the books that Terry is writing and the thing with Oscar. Something about the character in the books travelling back in time to stop the assassination mirroring him wanting to go back in time to save himself.

Rik: There’s that returned letter to Terry’s mum, where he talks about regretting actions.

Jo: Yes. And the hidden letter in the drawer to Terry after he gets married. There’s also all the stuff with the hi-fi reviews and him ‘ruminating on his childhood’ as the angry editor says.

Rik: So poor old Terry. No wonder he drinks.

Jo: I definitely felt second time around and armed with that knowledge, that the Terry story was more poignant.

Rik: You just think about how your parents treat you, not that they’re people who had lives before you.

Jo: I felt the journey through the house echoed Terry’s narrative journey the most. Like, you start off and it’s all dark, and there’s his drunken hi-fi reviews all screwed up in the bin, and empty whisky bottles and then by the end…

Rik: He’s in the conservatory where he’s found a better place to write…

Jo: His old books have a new audience, and he’s penning a closing instalment. Now, Uncle Oscar…it’s hinted at that he was a big part of the town’s history with his pharmacy.

Rik: Oh so maybe he was some kind of serial abuser? Hence the “Psycho House”, I guess.

Jo: I mean, yeah I think that’s what it’s suggesting. And then he just sells up and holes himself away in his big house. But then there’s all the syringes and drugs locked away in that safe, and there was also something about that first hidden passageway you find with “all Oscar’s creepy stuff in it”. I felt like I should have learned more from that, but I didn’t. Also, Sam and Lonnie are so invested in having this connection with Oscar’s ghost, so… they obviously don’t know the history of Oscar and Terry.

Rik: It was the least interesting part of it to me. The ouija board stuff was quite 90s. But not really something I was that interested in.

Jo: I feel like I kind of want to know more for closure, but also don’t want to know more because I know it’s horrible.

Yeah, “Rick”, you totally already have a girlfriend and you definitely told her about this concert.

Rik: Why did Terry move his family into the house?


Rik: Was it for Jan’s job?

Jo: Maybe – I didn’t think of that. The only rationale I could think of was… free massive mansion. But, it definitely seems like an odd choice to have moved into the house of someone who abused you and is the source of a much emotional distress.

Rik: But maybe that generation repressed these things a bit more.

Jo: I mean maybe he’s just not made that connection? Or maybe Jan doesn’t know. I feel like we’ve not really talked about Jan, but I think she had the least amount of story really, apart from Kaitlin.

Rik: Jan only went off the rails because of Terry. Although it sounds like she was good at her job.

Jo: And was attracted to sexy Ranger Rick, with his spare Earth, Wind and Fire tickets!


Every story has an ending

Jo: Is there anything you didn’t like about it?

Rik: No. I mentioned the tapes, and the journal storytelling, but those are only very minor thoughts. I was glad to play it both times, and there’s definitely lots in there to think about. I like a short game that knows what it wants to do. Do you have any other thoughts?

Jo: One of the main criticisms of Gone Home has been (and I think mainly by big boffin 100% achievement gamers) that it relies heavily on story but unfortunately there isn’t one. But I really don’t think there’s any argument for there not being a story here.

Rik: All it is is story. It is literally a story. There aren’t any cut scenes where a big gruff man smokes a cigar before threatening an alien with a gun, I’ll admit that.

Jo: Maybe it’s a story that doesn’t necessarily resonate with everyone, but you can’t argue there’s no story.

Rik: I think there are universal things in there. I don’t identify with someone who runs away from home. (Being the dozy Kaitlin type myself).

Jo: HA HA!

Rik: Everything’s fine isn’t it mum? You and Rick are just friends from work?

Jo: He just happened to have a spare ticket to Earth, Wind and Fire.

Rik: The silly people might try to characterise it as a story about [Jeremy Clarkson voice] ‘teenage lesbians’. As some kind of ‘right-on’ tale. But it’s pretty straightforward stuff really. The love story bit may speak to certain people some more, particularly as they aren’t well-represented in gaming, but it has a lot of universal themes.

Jo: Yeah, it’s a love story first and foremost, but there are so many other things going on too.

Rik: I’m going to have to be really careful how I edit this otherwise I will look like a terrible centrist dad. I was wearing a polo shirt earlier as well.

Jo: I mean, there have been some very dismissive things said about Gone Home, and Life is Strange got the same treatment, sadly.

Rik: Maybe that’s another one we can cover. But as for this one, I think it’s fair to say we both loved it?

Jo: Oh yeah. It’s by far one of my favourite games.

Rik: We’re talking about something that got you back into gaming. It made me cry, and it’s over in an afternoon.

Jo: It made me cry too. Both times. I just think it’s very cleverly done.

Rik: It asks for little and gives back plenty.

Jo: I think that’s why I get so defensive about it because to create something so simple to play, that’s so intricate in detail and story, is actually very difficult.

Rik: After 2014 I stopped following quite so many gaming opinions, especially any knuckleheads. I didn’t even look at anything in preparation for this – I figured, let’s you and I just talk about it.

Jo: I had looked at a lot of reviews after I played it the first time and was surprised to see so much by way of backlash.

Rik: Maybe I did at the time, but not since.

Jo: My only criticism…and it is very, very minor, is that I had trouble opening and closing cupboard doors and drawers. But that could be down to my poor FPS-style control skills.

Rik: They won’t open if you stand too close, is that right? I chucked things on the floor instead of putting them back, by accident. I felt bad especially when there’d been an emotional bit, then ‘wang’ on the floor with it.

Jo: Yes, she does tend to just kind of toss them away. “Right well, that’s that” *toss*

Rik: When Terry and Jan get home from their weekend away they find all the lights on, the house even messier then when they left, and their youngest daughter gone. Back to marriage counselling for them!

Gone Home is available on Steam and GOG (and other places too) for around £11.