Gone Home – Horror, or Exploration at it’s finest?

Had to take a break from our game development. Sometimes you just get in a rut or run into a problem, and the only way to get around it without settling for something less than what you really want is to get some air. I have a bunch of installed games never even touched waiting in my steam library, (I often buy them on discount and play them later) and nothing was more intriguing to me atm than a game called Gone Home.

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(…oh yeah, it’s a totally creepy game to play btw.)

I don’t want to spoil anything, but here’s the plot:

On June 7, 1995, Kaitlin Greenbriar returns home―a mansion in Arbor Hill, Oregon willed to Kaitlin’s father by his uncle, Oscar Masan―not long after midnight on a stormy night after a yearlong trip abroad. She spots a note on the door from her sister, Samantha, telling her to not go looking for answers as to where she is. As she enters the house Kaitlin realizes nobody is home, not even her parents, so she investigates the house to find out where they all are. Players guide Kaitlin through this process, learning some things known to Kaitlin along with new facts about her family and their experiences over the past year. 

So you find this note at the front door right in the beginning and that’s the big opening…Image

(Note: “Please, please don’t go digging around…” Sure, no problem, that only involves like… 100% of the game…)

The game uses sound, flickering lights etc. etc. to make it very horror-esque, but it’s not really a horror game. Don’t get me wrong; it’s totally creepy and may make your heart jump now and again through exploration. But it’s not really a horror game like all The Last of Us, for example.

But yeah, Gone Home is filled with creepy shenanigans. Like this Family Photo you can’t miss on the wall in the foyer.

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(Despite this picture, I assure you, it’s not really a horror game.)

The game involves you, as the older sister, rummaging through everything – and I do mean everything – to figure out what in the Kurt Cobain is going on! You’ll search through Journal Entries, Books, Letters, Notes, Crumpled Notes, and Mix Tapes (‘Cause it’s the 90’s, and the whole plot would be really dumb if Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter, and MyInstaTwitBookSpace or whatever kids are playing with these days, existed.)

What started out as a full blown horror game (An Amnesia mod) ended up being just as the title of this entry suggests: a game about exploration – detective work if you will. Just look at this screenshot of the prototype of the game using a different engine with the intended horror side of the game.

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( I’ll let you guess which is the demo and which is the one I played. One says your hear to die, the other says…well, you might die, but hey take a chance)

Overall I love this game. There’s something about nosily investigating ordinary, every-day things and people’s stuff, I guess. Or maybe it’s the thrill of the exploration itself, trying desperately to piece the story all together. Along the way you’re constantly putting together your little theories of what must of happened, or what went wrong.

Gone Home, to me, is very unique. I’ve never really played anything quite like it. The closest being Amnesia, but that’s a truly crap-your-pants brand of scary that doesn’t warrant the “Horror or Exploration?” question.

IMO, I’d say it’s a game that demands you search every nook and cranny for the answers and doesn’t require any real immediate threat to scare you. You’re alone, it’s a rainy dark night. Forcing yourself to walk into the next dark room and look for the light switch is it’s own monster I suppose.

I hope I didn’t spoil anything, and I certainly didn’t want to, so I haven’t gone into much detail about anything else. Yes, the game can be creepy but you’ll find it has its happy moments too. Like finding this Nintendo Cartridge!

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(Adventurous the cat 2! Oh boy, I can’t wait to plug it in, then take it out and blow on it!)

All in all, it’s a great game. It’s only about 3 or 4 hours max I’d say, but I also picked it up off of steam for $10 on sale. Gone Home is worth the play through if you’re into exploration with a dash of, omg-I-don’t-wanna-die. It’s also worth a play if you’re the kind of person who is constantly wondering what’s in your neighbors basement. Creeper.

 

-J

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The Importance of Realism in Video Games (or lack thereof)

Quick! Name some of your favorite video games!

Some may stick with the good ol’ stand-bys of long-gone days when life was simpler and games were simpler and your joy in playing was simpler. Mario. Classic Zelda games. Pokemon. Ah, the good ol’ days when you could be fully healed by walking into a town or finishing a level. When your Pidgeot would fly you from Cerulean to Pewter, or whatever. Realism wasn’t the focus. Living a fun little fantasy was.

Others may favor the hyper-realistic games of now, like Bioshock or Skyrim, with beautiful graphics and a detailed, textured world. The Amnesia series takes it to another level by being completely first-person, monitoring your character’s vital signs, and mechanism of chase by the monsters.

Still, even some of the more realistic games feature the fantastic: Diablo 3, PoE and many others have waypoints to save the player the frustration of running over the same terrain every time he dies or completes a quest. Several games don’t have a night/day system and even more, make you plant several vital shots into your enemy before he dies. Or one of your party dies… and then your throw a potion on him and he recovers. Save points. Guards that lose interest in chasing you after three minutes.

But wildly cartoony video games can (obviously) get away with a lot more. Super Meat Boy, for example, is the story of… a little slab of meat… that runs, jumps, and sticks to walls to avoid landing on giant, rotating saws.

Does the style of our video game aid or hinder our intentions with it?

Really, having throw-back graphics is pretty great. It enables us to focus less on the visual graphics and more on the story. We can make more visual jokes – and even the unrealistic aspects of gameplay can feel overall more authentic than an ultra-realistic game can with the same aspects. We more readily accept the game-logic bits – just as we accept cartoon antics more when drawn than when acted.

Still, we have real-world features. We have metered time. Weather conditions. Medicine. Player choices. But overall, the game is focused less on making you feel like you’re living in the real world with events that could actually happen and more like you have your own little open-world map to explore.

Anyways, what kind of games do you prefer? What are some of your favorites?