What parents need to know
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
Language & Reading
- cultural understanding
- perspective taking
Health & Fitness
- body awareness
Engagement, Approach, Support
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.
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.
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'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?
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?