ANMELDELSE - Gone Home
Jeg vet ikke om det er fordi dere ikke har spilt dette spillet eller ikke, men jeg la merke til at ingen har nevnt Gone Home på sin topp-liste i "Topp 10 spill-tråden" jeg startet. Selv om det sikkert har vært en opplevelse noen har hatt, tenkte jeg likevel å spre ordet litt om dette mesterverk ved å rett og slett publisere en anmeldelse jeg skrev om spillet her. Jeg skriver best på engelsk, så det forklarer språkvalget. Håper dere leser, og håper dere prøver dette spillet, og opplever det for dere selv.
Games sure are something inherently special. By giving you control of another character, to live their lives, to experience something so far from your own reality, they can forge some truly unforgettable moments. Of course, until very recently, my own favorite games consisted of situations that is impossible to feel fully “relatable”, for whatever reason that may be. You might play as a hardened killer in a period I didn’t live in, such as in Red Dead Redemption, you play in a post-apocalyptic, deadly environment, such as in The Last of Us or you play in a wholly fictitious fantasy landscape, such as in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. What makes games like that relatable to me, is the characters you experience the narrative with, the themes that are portrayed, and so on. There is something constructive there to tie the game down to a certain sense of believability, if that makes sense.
I never thought a game with no dialogue, no clear objective, no narrative arc, no characters other than the silent protagonist you play as, could end up as one of my new favorite games of all time. The sheer possibility seemed out of the question, even laughable. However, in recent years, I have experienced evidence to the contrary – Journey is one such example, a beautiful game that tells a story without telling you anything, where it makes you feel something without really doing anything other than let you find you own way in a vast, mystical environment. And yesterday, I played one of the strongest narratives I have ever played, one of the most beautifully told stories I’ve ever witnessed in a video game – and it did it with no literal dialogue, other than audio diaries you listen to, and no characters to interact with. Make no mistake – Gone Home is an absolute masterpiece, a truly unforgettable experience that I will cherish for years to come. It is one of the finest video game experiences I have ever had.
I still can’t truly believe how great it was. It took me around two and a half hours, and all I did was walk through a house. That was it. I’m used to games that makes me traverse the most exotic of locales, or make my own story in an open world-narrative, or have loads of information thrown at me, with skill-sets, backstories, cut-scenes, and the like. But this little masterpiece said “good riddance” to all that, and lets the house itself tell a story. And the story is the most relatable of all, because it involves family, it involves love, and it involves the difficulties of living a life, and tackling the challenges that comes along the way. As of such, it was an emotional kick in the gut, and I appreciated the simplicity of its gameplay, coupled with the depth of its narrative.
In Gone Home, you return to the house your family lives in after being abroad. As you enter the house, no one is there to greet you, and so you start exploring. Walk through the rooms, investigating them, picking up objects and inspecting them closer, much like in L.A. Noire. Similarly to that game, you quickly understand what kind of objects that do not hold much relevance to you, but there are many more that hold some sort of meaning. As you progress through the house, you start to piece together a story, and a clear picture of this family is forged in your mind. Much like more conventional games used dialogue and character development to do this, Gone Home uses letters, pictures, various documents, household objects and the like to tell its story. I do not want to spoil much, but what is important for me to say is that as you start to understand this family, you find yourself completely enveloped in this experience, and you just can’t seem to take your eyes away from the screen. You have to keep moving. You must find out more.
Gone Home is a masterpiece because it is about the ordinary. It is about living. The literal gameplay is not – you feel like a stranger as you explore these rooms, find out the secrets of your family members, but the funny thing is this; the more you find and piece together, the more emotionally attached you become to characters that you never actually meet. You only see pictures, you only read their notes, you see their interests through what kind of items they have in their rooms – and you start to get a crystal-clear image of them in your head. Of course, this holds true for one character more than others, but the attention to detail still is most impressive. The creativity on display here by the masterminds at The Fulbright Company truly makes this game. Whether it is showing pieces of a character’s interests from childhood throughout the years, and how they develop, or making you as the player build a relationship to people you never meet by exploring stuff that maybe they don’t want to be found, or even the most ordinary of things. It is a remarkable achievement in video gaming that emphasizes the trivial and the ordinary – it doesn’t shy away from it, but delves deep into it, and explores the challenges of living.
At the heart of Gone Home, however, is a story of love, of finding peace with who you are, and to accept that life is difficult, even when you are the place that should be the safest – your own home. And isn’t this something we all go through? Have these conflicting thoughts about other people, or finding it challenging to keep up with your family at times? I for one have had these thoughts, and as of such, I find a lot of emotional relevance in the stuff I experienced in this game, quite simply. The home you explore in Gone Home is trivial, ordinary, and real – with a few secrets along the way that really makes you anxious to find out more. But it is the central focus of love and hardships that truly hits home, especially for people in my age-group.
I also have to mention the sound and the music – while the game often is completely without music, there is also ambient music that plays throughout, whilst exploring. It adds a heightened sense of emotion, mystique, and even sheer beauty to the whole experience. The music that plays after finding an audio diary also perfectly fits the mood, and truly adds to the whole game. Sounds of rain are continuous, and thunder can be heard, that adds a certain tenseness to the whole affair, and keeps it very atmospheric, to great effect. The sounds of turning on lights, turning on TV’s, flushing toilets, walking on hardwood floors, up stairs, whatever – makes it so real and, well, ordinary! It is a huge success in the importance of sound in video gaming. The graphics are primitive and not up to date, but that is not important. This game was made on a tight budget, and The Fulbright Company put their efforts into what was important – the house itself is designed really well, and there is certainly plenty of rooms to explore, that’s for sure. It all comes together in a game that is not a technical marvel, but the story told through exploring certainly is a marvel to me.
Gone Home is an experience. I would put it right up there with Shadow of the Colossus as a supreme example of video games as art. It is short and sweet – around 150 minutes is all you need, but that doesn’t matter when all of those minutes are so thoroughly engaging. It is sad, uplifting, funny, exciting in a weird way and beautiful in its story and themes. As I sat there, eyes glued to the screen, reading notes and seeing pictures, I put together this family dynamic in my head. And as one character in particular was in focus, I came to care about that person just as much as I have ever cared about a character in a video game – all while never seeing that person, except hearing her voice and seeing pictures. It is one of the most astounding games I have ever played, one that rightfully takes a spot on my top 10-list, and one of the most beautiful stories of love, growing up, and facing the challenges of life. And it did all this by making me explore an ordinary, everyday house, occupied by a normal family, living a normal life. No interactions between other characters was used, no literal dialogue was there, no context, no cut-scenes, no nothing. Just me, a house and the story it told by itself.
And I fell in love with it since the moment I stepped through its door.