Gone Home is a game I had no prior experience of, but after hearing much about it, was pleased to have the opportunity to play.
My entry into the game made me wonder if this was a horror story in the making due to the atmospheric storm and flickering lights within a seemingly empty house. I liked it from the offset; the game is set in the mid-1990s, which is a very familiar timeframe that resonates with me. I liked that I was playing a female role (which was apparent immediately) and I enjoyed the ability to set my own pace and have the freedom to navigate this virtual environment as I wished. As an avid reader and film fan, the concept of an interactive story with a gradual unfolding narrative appealed to me.
There is undoubtedly a voyeuristic appeal to this game; you are given the opportunity to explore a house devoid of people but full of personal effects which you can handle, read or listen to. These objects are placed to give the player clues to solve the puzzle of what has happened and where are the inhabitants. I found the game to be very immersive and engaging despite being in a room with other people and many distractions.
To answer the question if playing Gone Home helps to develop the player’s investigative skills, I believe it does. In the game, you are aware that every detail is intentionally included to add layers to the story and you naturally assume that every object encountered may be significant in some way or another. Therefore you have to focus your attention on some details whilst disregarding others in your systematic examination of the house and contents. As there is much to draw on, the player has to critically analyse what information is useful at each stage to help progress the narrative and succeed in the game. By doing so, the player’s investigative skills naturally develop along with their critical thinking.
Communication was also apparent within the game. The game communicates information to you – as the player – in various ways using different mediums. The contents of the house from the family photographs, artwork, music, videos, games, journal entries and recordings communicate information about the inhabitants to the player in order to tell their story. The objects communicate in a similar way our own possessions do, as everything we own or use can help express who we are as individuals. The type of communication within this game may be more subtle, but it still exists.