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Gone Home back to reviews
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"Story-driven" done right
Many games that are praised for their story are ultimately just regular games that happen to tell a story inbetween levels, or are totally linear scriptfests that force story upon you. What they have in common, though, is oftentimes a lack of real interactivity, as you merely move along and experience scripted moments, dialog and cinematics. Here, though, things are done differently.

Picture a First Person Shooter. Now remove the shooting and make it less linear, focusing entirely on story, exploration, and interacting with the environment. That's basically what you get here. The controls are First Person Shooter controls whether you use keyboard/mouse or a controller, but there is no shooting. You walk around an abandoned house and examine the place, reading anything that catches your interest. And there is a lot.

While many games use the "oops I lost my journal" style of storytelling, Gone Home makes more logical sense - the things left around the house include newspaper clippings about events important to the family, crumpled-up unfinished story drafts by the budding novelist father, a rejection letter from a book company, bills, sticky notes, letters and journal entries written by the main character's sister Sam, and more. Some of these writings are genuinely funny, such as a homework assignment Sam chose to goof around in while still technically following its instructions to the letter, turning a health class assignment into an epic war story. You can also interact mildly with the environment, most notably putting a cassette tape into a tape player to listen to it. All these details flesh out the lives of the family in this house and paint a complete picture of what happened to everyone and why.

While there's no combat or action, some basic gaming skills are necessary to navigate the house at some points. For example, a secret passageway requires you to crouch and remove a panel from the wall - second nature to a gamer, but not something a non-gamer would pick up on. Also, many light switches are in the dark, and may be hard to find at first.

Gone Home is very short, but as an experiment of how to make an interactive story, I hope it succeeds. It has the potential to grow the appeal of gaming as a medium, and hopefully will lead to bigger and better ideas.
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