Gone Home

Common Sense Media says

Terrific narrative game tackles tough teen identity issues.

Age(i)

2
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5
6
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8
9
10
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13
14
15
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17

Quality(i)

 

Learning(i)

What parents need to know

Positive messages

This game explores the complex emotions and relationships of a small family and the people in their lives, focusing mostly on one of the daughters, a high school senior discovering her sexuality. It's about love, acceptance, and the hard decisions teens often face, especially those who don't necessarily fit within the mainstream.

Positive role models

The player's character is an adventurous young woman returning home from a trip abroad. She is intelligent, well-rounded, responsible, and caring. Her younger sister embodies these qualities as well, though she makes some decisions parents probably wouldn't agree with, such as staying out all night with a friend.

Ease of play

Players simply walk around the house using the WASD keys and click on interesting things with the mouse. There aren't really any traditional puzzles, and there's no way to lose -- though if you don't take the time to read all the notes you find, you may end up missing out on some subtler elements of the story.

Violence
Not applicable
Sex

Although there's no nudity in the game, there is frank discussion about sexuality. Players will find and read high school Sex Ed assignments that discuss in detail the male and female reproductive systems. Plus, one of the main characters writes and speaks about love and sex. Players also will find a couple of "gentlemen's magazines," though they can't flip through them, as well as an unused condom.

Language

The words "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and "hell" appear in text and can be heard in songs. 

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Players will encounter bottles of alcohol, empty shot glasses, a package of cigarettes, and light discussion of drinking. 

Privacy & safety

No privacy or safety concerns.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know Gone Home is less a game than an interactive story. There is no action, no combat, and not really even any traditional puzzles. Players take on the role of a young woman who explores her family's empty house after a year abroad, piecing together details of her family's activities during her time away. During her search she experiences several revelations, many to do with her sister's budding sexuality and sexual orientation. There is no nudity, but players should expect frank discussions of sex, as well as some strong language, mostly heard in background music. 

What kids can learn

Subjects

Language & Reading

  • reading

Social Studies

  • cultural understanding

Skills

Emotional Development

  • empathy
  • persevering
  • perspective taking

Health & Fitness

  • body awareness

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

The controls for moving around the house and examining objects are instantly intuitive, and the high-quality writing is deeply engaging. It's a bit like stepping into a great book. Kids will gobble it up.

Learning Approach

Lessons are baked in to the story. Players learn about dealing with emotions and personal problems by reading about people experiencing them, then judge for themselves whether they acted appropriately.

Support

The developers let the game speak for itself. For kids interested in exploring further, meaningful commentary about the characters and the obstacles they face can be found on many websites.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Language & Reading

  • reading

Social Studies

  • cultural understanding

Skills

Emotional Development

  • empathy
  • persevering
  • perspective taking

Health & Fitness

  • body awareness

Kids can learn about emotional development, diversity, and overcoming obstacles in this breakthrough interactive story that puts players in the shoes of a teen discovering her sexual orientation. Players experience a story in which the primary character is a high school senior dealing with authentic high school problems in believable ways. Her methods of coping should prove relatable -- perhaps even helpful -- for kids in similar situations. Gone Home is a revolutionary piece of digital storytelling that could go a long way toward helping high school kids become comfortable with who they and their schoolmates are.

This Learning Rating review was written by Chad Sapieha

Parents say

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Kids say

What's it about?

GONE HOME puts players in the role of Katie, a 20-year-old woman returning home after a year spent traveling around Europe. But the home she returns to isn't the one she left. Her parents and sister have moved into a mansion once owned by her uncle, and it's empty. The entirety of the game's three hours is spent exploring this giant house, wherein you'll find notes and artifacts that combine to create a tapestry of the lives of Katie's family. It's clear that the parents are going through some personal issues, but it’s Katie's sister Sam who eventually becomes the focus of the story. A high school senior having trouble making friends at her new school, Sam has left her personal notes and stories (she's an aspiring author). Players also get to hear Sam's voice as she confides to Katie her emotions and experiences, especially those to do with one friend in particular.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Gone Home is the sort of game that validates the video game medium as one capable of expressing ideas and emotion. It's puzzles aren't literal but instead are locked within the narrative. Your objective is simply to be a careful explorer, finding and digesting every clue and bit of writing you come across to put together the many seemingly disparate pieces of this complex but believable -- and perhaps even relatable -- story.

And what a story it is. Despite never actually seeing any characters, players will come away feeling like they know the family that lives at the house on Arbor Hill. The characters are deeply authentic, especially the teenager Sam, whose beautifully written notes and stories and movingly acted voice dialogue are about as heartrending as anything you'll find in a game. Some of what players will see, read, and hear is certainly mature, but it fits perfectly -- naturally -- within the narrative context. It's not a stretch to suggest that no other game better captures the mindset and emotion of a senior high school student.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about sexuality. If you have questions about sex, to whom do you talk about it? Do you feel comfortable discussing your own sexuality? 

  • Families also can discuss storytelling in games. Have you ever played a game whose focus is storytelling rather than action? How did this experience make you feel? Was it as compelling as other games? 

Game details

Platforms:Linux, Mac, Windows
Price:$19.99
Pricing structure:Paid
Available online?Not available online
Developer:The Fullbright Company
Release date:August 14, 2013
Genre:Adventure
Topics:Brothers and sisters, Friendship, High school

This review of Gone Home was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written bySawybean August 27, 2013
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

A Beautiful Example of Magnificent Storytelling in the Video Game Media

As I stood in front of the door to the house which you explore throughout the game, baggage to my right, I expected a horror game. Little did I know that what lay beyond the door was a facinating study of the family that lives there. Gone Home is also one of the best exploration of sexuality in games that I've ever seen. The puzzles are not litteral, in the sense that they present themselves to you too obviously, (a la Portal) but the puzzles are living and breathing in the world that the developers have created. Everytime I could piece together some event in the life of the family, I felt like a detective. The game allows the player to move at their own pace, as there is no combat to speak of. Never before have I wholeheartedly reccomended that anyone just pick up a game immediately, but this is an exeption. I believe that anyone could play this at any time, and that the messages delivered through this game's stellar narrative are important concepts to grasp.
What other families should know
Great messages
Kid, 8 years old October 7, 2013
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

Gone Home

Good game, but a lot of issues with this family's identity.Kids probably won't get it,but they probably would just screw around wandering through the house,doing nothing but saying POOOOOOOOP
What other families should know
Safety and privacy concerns

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