A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
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 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.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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The words "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and "hell" appear in text and can be heard in songs.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Players will encounter bottles of alcohol, empty shot glasses, a package of cigarettes, and light discussion of drinking.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.