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  • Writer's pictureCarrumba

Games I Missed 1st Time (Gone Home [PC])

Last night I streamed playing 'Gone Home', the exploration adventure game I gained free through my Prime membership, and completed it in three and a half hours. You can watch the VOD here or read through my following musings but, be

warned- !!!SPOILERS!!!!

To be fair, the game was released August 2013 by Fullbright Company to critical acclaim so, unless you are like I am, you've probably heard or read about it already. So... that enough warning about spoilers now?

The game is an exploration adventure, utilising the PC gaming staple setup of W,A,S,D and mouse. There are no other physical characters in the game other than yourself - I say physical because you get to know many others throughout the game by the memories they have left in books, on scraps of paper, letters or calendar entries. You've arrived back at your family home in the 'ole US of A only to find the place devoid of your parents or younger sister, Sam. Warning, flouncy-arty-observation time: the atmosphere generated by the constant thunderstorm, creaking house, music and throwable objects is a character in it's own right and anchors the whole game with a slight edge of trepidation. I've studied art before you know, don't get me started on Cézanne's apples and cherubs!

Hints and clues build up as a "journal" from the aforementioned Sam as you explore through all the rooms of the large house. You soon come to realise that the main characters at play are Sam and Lonnie, seemingly mismatched friends who become so much more. You encounter notes they have passed to each other in class, writing to each other in different coloured pens. The language, style and inclusion of whimsical or angry sketches is spot on and had me smiling ruefully as I remembered...well...similar experiences. But there are enough side-long hints and secondary characters to make you wonder if you are about to encounter the results of a failed ouija experiment, a Shining-esque fallout between a failing author father and his 'distracted' wife or something more heart-breaking as your parents struggle to deal with discovering Sam is gay.

The mid to late 90's is captured perfectly in the mix-tapes (there's a link for younger viewers that might not know what that full of punk/grunge 'grrrrrl' bands that I genuinely loved listening to in the rooms they were found in. I was very much a kid who listened to L7, Hole, Nirvana, Blondie, The Breeders, Skunk Anansie (etc etc) in the late 90's which probably engaged me with the game even more. I grinned like an awkward teen seeing his favourite childhood cartoon after a long absence when i picked up a magazine with Veruca Salt's name on the front (Seether...such a great track!). SNES cartridges, CRT televisons and the art of making your own fanzine will strike a chord with anyone from that era- the art of trying to find out who you were in this big old world before the internet could cough up a YouTube opinion on every option.

I never had any friends who were openly gay when I was growing up and it's easy to forget that, although UK laws and society are as liberal as they have ever been, at that time we still had Section 28. This Act was introduced in 1988 and made it an offence to promote homosexuality- teaching of equality in schools was a non-starter and you can imagine how that had a knock-on effect to the perception of "being gay" in growing minds of the time. The Act was a ticket to shut-down anyone looking for gay rights and was probably fuelled by a heady concoction of post-eighties excess remorse and the (incorrect) assumption that AIDS was a 'gay thing'. Thankfully, there were enough good people to realise this was a crock-of-shit and the act was repealed first in Scotland in 2000, then England and Wales in 2003. I was lucky to have brilliant, liberal minded parents who taught me about gender and race equality but sexual orientation... I admit I find it difficult to recall their attitudes.

Thankfully my kids (pre-teen and teenager) are well rounded and as open-minded as can be reasonably possible but I would love them both to play this game. Thirty years ago, I was becoming a teenager as the society I was in descended into intolerance and the recent rise of populist agendas around the world makes games like Gone Home an important relection on when parents really did watch programmes about so-called gay conversion therapy (a particularly heart-breaking clipping to find in the game). If you've played Life is Strange/Life is Starnge: Before the Storm, you'll definitely recognise that game owes Gone Home a chunk of it's DNA from a story-telling point of view. It's a moving game, especially if 1995 is your era- I challenge anyone of my age playing it to not reflect on the thrill of first love, music, friendship and heart-break... at least once.

Phew. Glad I played it at last!

If you have a game from the past you want to chuck my way to play on then feel free to drop me an email.

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