Stillness and Loneliness: The Mechanics of Gone Home

In the first 30 minutes of playing Gone Home, nothing happens. For the next 30 minutes, still nothing happens. Other that the rain hitting the roof and the occasional loud clap of thunder and flash of lightning, nothing in the game world truly happens thats outside of player control.

Kaitlin, the player character, has arrived to her family’s new home in Oregon after a year abroad in Europe, but no one is home. The player must explore the house and try to figure out what happened. At least, this is what has been the objective clear to me so far.

The house is very big and extremely eerie. Every time I turn a corner I expect a creepy figure to be lurking in the shadows, but there never is. I wait for items to fall off of shelves as if pushed by a poltergeist, but again nothing happens. The player moves with the computer arrows, looks around with the mousepad, and picks things up by clicking. These are really the only thing that happen. If the player stops moving the arrows or mouse, the whole game remains still and the same. The player is the only one who can initiate change.

There is one thing that happens relatively out of the player’s control. After picking up certain items, a journal excerpt written for Kaitlin by her younger sister Sam will begin to play.

The main actions in the game consist of opening doors, grabbing and examining items, reading papers or letters, and turning on lights. Sometimes these controls are different, and when they are it sticks out.

For example, when Kaitlin is exploring Sam’s room and comes across a stuffed animal on the bed the control says “Oh it’s Steggy!” instead of what would normally be “grab [item].” The player can still pick up the toy by clicking and put it back, but whenever the cursor hovers over steggy it says the same message. Another example is when Kaitlin comes across a condom in her parents’ dresser. It says “Ew.” These more personal messages come up a few other times as well.

These changes in controls and mechanics of the game serve to characterize our player character Kaitlin. As the game begins we don’t know much about her other than that she just returned from traveling Europe. These messages in the form of controls give Kaitlin a voice. From them we can tell how she feels towards Sam (and towards the idea of her parents’ sexual relationship.) Outside of these short bits of Kaitlin’s voice, the game gives no glimpse into Kaitlin’s head or life. We never even see a part of Kaitlin’s body when we pick things up. They also make the game more personal and less lonely. So far in the game, there have been no other characters and no dialogue exchange through which we familiarize ourself with our player character,

 

 

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