Is Less More? The Effects of What’s Missing in Gone Home

I established in my last post that Gone Home is a lonely game. This has not changed at all as I’ve continued playing. The game is shockingly devoid of characters and character interaction. We never even see so much as a reflection of the player character Kaitlin. She speak to and encounters no ones throughout the game.

The closest thing to a dialogue or interaction comes in Sam’s journal entries that are read in a voice over during the game. Personal journal entries written to catch her big sister Katie up on her life are read out loud by Sam Greenbriar, but we only hear her voice. Her voice is highly emotional; when she’s happy we can hear her smiling, and when she’s upset we can visualize the pain in her face. The absence of her face and body while hearing these journal entries makes them even more affective- I found myself tearing up on a couple occasions. The player must imagine her face: her joy, her pain, and her loss. The sound of her voice while the player stares at an empty home, or even more affective: stares at Sam’s own empty room littered with her belongings, leaves players feeling lonely, longing to see Sam’s face and comfort her.

Sam Greenbriar’s empty bedroom

Sam is a very relatable character, and her struggles as a gay high school student in the mid 90s resonate and call players to feel. We get far more characterization of Sam in the game than of the player character Kaitlin. Sam is fun, punk, creative, unique, and rebellious. She makes zines and listens to punk rock, and makes players laugh and cry through her storytelling. Samples of her writing and drawing can be found all over the house, and they are inspired and interesting.

An interesting moment comes when the player discovers two of Katie and Sam’s writing assignments from high school back to back. They are both the exact same assignments from sex ed class, completed when each Greenbriar sister was in their 9th grade year. Sam’s is creative, thoughtful, dynamic, and outside the box (though she did not follow directions properly and got a “see me” from the teacher.) We find Katie’s old assignment in the next room. She has completed it word for word exactly as was requested by the teacher, and it’s incredible boring to read, though she received full marks.

After this scene I began to wonder who the game really wants players to identify and side with. I don’t believe that it is Kaitlin- she is a blank, faceless character whom we control and hardly hear anything from. Additionally, the Greenbriar parents aren’t attractive characters either (the father some maniacal failed author and the mother likely having an affair with a coworker named Rick.) On the other hand, Sam’s story is an intricate narrative with twists and turns, love, heartbreak, joy, and pain.. The player searches the whole game just to hear or voice or find a note she has left behind. We want to know what happened to Sam because we love Sam. She is the main character of this game through and through.

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