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Video Game / Gone Home

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Gone Home is a 2013 Environmental Narrative Game developed by Fullbright (known as the Fullbright Company at the time of release). You play as Kaitlin "Katie" Greenbriar, a college student. On June 7th 1995, she returns to the States after traveling abroad for a year, during which time her family has moved to a new house. Katie took the midnight flight home, because it was the cheapest, and took the shuttle home so her mother wouldn't have to pick her up. But everything isn't like she expects. She arrives home to a locked door and an empty house, and has to figure out where everyone went and why they're gone.

The game is more an exercise in narrative fiction than a game, heavily focused on exploration, and with few actual 'puzzles', but many hidden notes and tidbits easily missed if you don't scrutinize everything. Much like Dear Esther, a narrative unfolds as you explore the house, primarily chronicling Katie's younger sister Sam's life at home while Katie was abroad.


The game was critically acclaimed and moderately commercially successful. Fullbright went on to release Tacoma in 2017.

Gone Home contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The '90s: The game begins at 1:15 AM on June 7th 1995 as Katie arrives at the house her family moved into while she was away. Throughout the house you can find plenty of stuff that reminds you that the game is set in this decade, such as VHS recorded movies and cassette tapes. This also provides explanation as to why Katie was Locked Out of the Loop for a year while she was away traveling in Europe, and her parents' reaction to Sam's homosexuality.
  • The Alcoholic: Terry Greenbriar has a whiskey bottle hidden on top of a bookshelf in his office.
  • An Aesop: Growing up is scary, even for adults who never really finish doing it.
  • Arc Number: 1963. It's the year of the Kennedy assassination, which serves as the central event of Terry's novels. It's also the combination to Oscar's safe in the basement, and heavily implied to be the year when Oscar abused Terry as a child.
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  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Arriving home at a stormy night with no one around? That's strange... Sounds inside the house that might be the ghost of your dead uncle? Might just be wind and pouring rain... Your sister ran away with her girlfriend without her parents knowing? This is getting uncomfortable... Realizing that your family has a rocky relationship? Getting warmer... Finding a condom in your mother's drawer? Oh barf. Looking at your father's confidential literature beneath all those Kennedy conspiracies? Gosh, Dad.
  • Beautiful Void: While the home is interesting, detailed, and populated by bric-a-brac, there's nary a sign of life present. Even most of the house's cabinets and shelves are empty, the family having only partially finished unpacking after their move.
  • Big "NO!": Drawn by Lonnienote , complete with a dead face on the O, knives flying overhead, and gravestones in the background.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The bulk of the game consists of finding out just how much of one the Greenbriars are. The story is actually about them getting less screwed up.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The ending is cautiously optimistic for everyone involved. Sam and Lonnie leave town to be together in a new life, and Terry's found acceptance as a writer, a new publisher and inspiration for a new novel that's not just a retread of his first two. However Sam's family is likely to be heartbroken by Sam's departure and Jan and Terry's marriage is already rocky, though it's implied that they're making an effort to put it back together — the reason they're not home is because they're at a marriage counseling retreat. Moreover, Sam stole everything of value before leaving.
  • Bland-Name Product: The bathroom near Sam's room contains "Protex" tampons and "Wild Hair" hair dye.
  • Brain Bleach:
    • When Katie finds a diary entry from Sam that starts discussing her sex life, the note auto-closes after a few seconds and refuses to open again. Because what older sister wants to read about that?
    • At one point, Katie finds a self-help guide on how to improve one's married sex life. The overlay text for this item is simply "Ugh".
    • Kate isn't exactly thrilled to find a condom when she searches her parents' bedroom dressers, either.
  • Brick Joke: When Katie finds her Dad's Porn Stash, her reply is "Gosh Dad." When she finds her sister's Porn Stash (the same magazine brand), her reply is "Gosh Sam."
  • Burger Fool: The "Crown Burger" where Sam is an employee.
  • But Now I Must Go: Lonnie signs up for basic training in the Army as soon as she turns 18, forcing her to break up with Sam due to the impracticality of maintaining a relationship with her, both from a logistical standpoint and because she would need to hide the relationship due to U.S. military regulations at the time forbidding non-heterosexual people from serving. This is subverted when she quits it and tearfully calls Sam to come get her at a Salem bus stop, leading to them both running away.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Inverted: something missing that should be there turns out to be important later. Namely, the Panasonic Laserdisc player that Terry is in the middle of writing a review for. The box for the player is in the den next to the TV. But there's no laserdisc player anywhere in the house. Why? Well, because turns out that Sam stole it along with all manner of other things she could hock to help finance her life with Lonnie.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Through Sam's journal entries, more of her travels through adolescence, shifting interests, shifting friendships, finding out who she is, social ostracism, all while dealing with multiple life changes, we see her growth over the year that Katie was gone.
  • Coming-Out Story: The core storyline revolves around Sam coming out as a lesbian.
  • Creepy Uncle: The reclusive uncle Oscar's mansion is so spooky it has gained reputation as the "psycho house" throughout the community. More darkly, several clues suggest that Oscar abused his nephew — Sam and Katie's father, Terry — as a young boy. A full, spoiler-filled analysis can be found here; the analysis was later confirmed by Word of God on Twitter.
  • Cure Your Gays: It's strongly implied that Sam's parents were looking into a center that specializes in dealing with deviant and homosexual youths.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The story is about Katie, her family, and those around them. However, it's more about Sam and Lonnie than anyone else. Katie herself receives less characterization than any of the other characters though, including minor characters like Richard and Carol.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Part of the reason that Terry and Jan's marriage is falling apart is because Terry refused to join Jan in couples bowling and ballroom dancing in favor of her learning cooking, as well as more feminine pursuits such as painting and sewing.
    • Sam finds the military's policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"note  (which ended in 2011) ridiculous. Also, she's infuriated when her parents can't accept her sexuality, who chalk it up as a "phase" and refuse to discuss it further with her.
  • Double-Meaning Title: It's actually a triple meaning: Gone Home, referring to the fact that Katie has gone home; Gone Home, referring to the fact that everyone in the house is gone; Gone Home, referring to the fact that with Sam having run away and the Greenbriar parents having gone off to marriage counseling, the dynamic of the family home is gone.
  • Driven to Suicide: Subverted; many of Sam's later letters seem to hint that she's locked herself in the attic and killed herself as a consequence of Lonnie leaving for basic training, but in fact she's just left the house in the middle of the night to be with Lonnie.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Katie seems to be the only member of the Greenbriar family without any skeletons in her closet.
  • Easter Egg: There's a Nerf basketball hoop on the back of Sam's bedroom door. In the garage, on the rafter near the door, there's a small purple Nerf basketball. You know you can pick things up and throw them in this game, right?
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Carol, Jan's former room mate, makes a few references in her letters to Jan ogling her coworker Richard, and gleefully encourages her.
  • Emergency Broadcast: A flood warning looping on the television in the TV Room. The voice of the announcer and the flicker of the screen from this room might momentarily make you wonder if someone is home after all.
  • Epistolary Novel: Has a great deal in common with the genre - most of the story is conveyed via letters, notes, journal entries etc.
  • Erotic Literature: It's implied that Katie and Sam's mother is having an affair (or wants to have one) with a colleague, emphasized when Katie finds an erotic novel about a forest ranger and a copy of Leaves of Grass the colleague has lent her.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: The core storyline is about Sam's coming of age - Katie's just there to learn about it.
  • Five-Finger Discount: Sam may be utilizing this, as two shirts can be seen in her locker with anti-theft tags still attached.
  • Gay Romantic Phase: Sam's parents assume that her attraction to another girl is just a phase. Sam is not amused.
  • Gender Bender: In one of the various documents that can be found, The First Mate from Heaven at the Edge of the World is magically changed from male to female in the last draft of Heaven at the Edge of the World, mirroring Sam coming to terms with her sexuality, it being the last chronological revision of the story.
  • Genre Shift: Invoked intentionally. You'd be forgiven for thinking the story is a psychological horror, given the dead of night, extreme weather, and the frantic messages left on the telephone, but you'd be wrong. It's actually a very uplifting story, about a girl who comes home and find that her family's been really shook up since she's been away, but as scary as it all is everything's going to be just fine.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: All of the characters, with the possible exception of Katie, have done questionable things, but they're all just ordinary people trying to find happiness and even the worst of them all, Uncle Oscar, at least tried to make amends for what he'd done.
  • Implied Rape: Terry stayed with his uncle Oscar who was viewed as being a creep by the other neighborhood kids periodically up until 1963 (a year that continues to have a long-held impact on Terry to the game's present, judging by his interest in JFK's assassination and the focus in his books on saving a young boy). They never saw each other again, and even Oscar said that he understood why Terry might not be able to come back. Later, Oscar wrote to Terry's mother appealing for forgiveness about a "transgression" and then willed his mansion house to Terry. Also, Oscar marked out Terry's height on the walls in the basement, and Katie discovers a hidden passageway from the basement to the guest bedroom. All this stacks up to suggest that Oscar may have molested Terry when he was a kid.
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: You arrive at your house your family had just moved in while you were gone, and no one is there.
  • It Will Never Catch On: One of Sam and Lonnie's shared notes has them poke fun at other students' using their pagers to signal each other, and how it's no match for passing handwritten notes (because who could ever send their friends a picture via hand-held personal electronics?).
  • Jump Scare: The closest you'll come to this trope is when Katie is descending the stairs to the basement and happens upon a wooden cross. Upon picking it up, the lightbulb above her head suddenly goes out.
  • Lampshade Hanging: At one stage Katie finds a post-it from her parents addressed to Sam, addressing the player's predictable habit of not cleaning up behind them as they explore the house:
    "Sam: Stop leaving every damn light in the house on! You're as bad as your sister!"
  • Level-Map Display: The map of the house indicates your position in it and evolves as you explore new territory. And it marks secret compartments.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: When the game begins, Katie has come home from travelling abroad in Europe, and because the story takes place in the mid '90s, her only form of communication with her family the entire time was a postcard she would send every few months, and even then they couldn't respond due to her moving around so much. When she finally returns after an entire year, she finds the house that they moved into completely deserted, with no idea of the troubles her family were going through in the months she had been gone.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Things started looking up for Janice and Terry, at least, near the end of the game: they're away on a couples' retreat, Jan has recommitted to the marriage despite her close brush with her subordinate, and Terry has made both financial and emotional breakthroughs in his novel-writing career, as his sales are up and he's able to write an honest book about what seems to be his childhood trauma. All of this happens after Sam and Lonnie exorcize Uncle Oscar. Have they actually gotten rid of his shadow that may have been plaguing them, or was it a coincidence?
  • Minimalist Cast: The game has only two credited voice actors: Sarah Grayson as Sam and Sarah Elmaleh as Katie. There is a third voiced character in the game, as Lonnie's voice can be heard on the answering machine, though her voice actress is uncredited.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Three generations of Greenbriars have been writers or aspire to be such at the start of the story, from Dr. Richard Greenbriar to Terry and Sam.
  • Nested Story Reveal: Picture this. A girl comes home, on a dark and stormy night, to find her house empty, panicy messages on her answering machine, and the bathtub is full of what looks like blood. You're probably thinking this girl walked right into a horror movie right? Nope. The story is still a scary one, but it's more a metaphorical kind of scary. It's really about a girl who comes home and finds that Nothing Is the Same Anymore but everyone is actually okay. The horror setting is there to set the tone for the aesop instead of the genre of the game itself.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The game was played up as a horror title. It's actually an interactive narrative with limited player input with occasional "creepy" elements thrown in.
  • No Antagonist: After previous games like Slender or Amnesia, you'd expect to run into a few jumpscares from a horrifying monster or something along those lines. You are, after all, exploring a dark house all by yourself in a thunderstorm... Nah, there is nothing trying to kill you at all.
  • Non-P.O.V. Protagonist: Katie is the Player Character, but the story is mostly focused on Sam.
  • Nothing Is Scarier
    • A natural choice, considering this game originally started as a mod for Amnesia: The Dark Descent. After all, there's something very suspenseful about an empty house, on a dark and stormy night, after midnight, with nothing to keep you company but the sound of rain, thunder, and the creaking floorboards of an old house. It does keep you on your toes, especially when you find a bathtub full of "blood" (actually red hair dye), or when the only lightbulb in a secret hallway burns out right as you pick up a creepy crucifix.
    • Not to mention that some of the background noise sorta sounds like an animal growling - some players might expect to run across a dog or ghostly/demonic equivalent at some point.
  • Old, Dark House: With a reputation as the "psycho house."
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with the two Richards in the story; Dr. Richard Greenbriar, Terry's father, and Richard "Rick" Patermach, Jan's coworker.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Lonnie's full name, only found on one or two letters, is Yolanda DeSoto.
  • Ouija Board: Sam has one, with which she and Lonnie attempt to communicate with the "ghost" of Oscar they think is haunting the house.
  • Parental Issues: When Terry gave his father a copy of his first published novel back in the 1970s, his dad's reaction was to give it a rather half-hearted review that focused less on the actual story and characters and more on Terry's choice to include the personal aspects of his own life when writing it, ending with the words "you can do better." Two decades later, Terry has the sentence pinned up on the corkboard in his study, indicating that he never got over it and is constantly trying to live up to his father's expections.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: Katie is rather put off when she finds her father's Porn Stash and discovers an unused condom in her parents' dresser and an advice book about amongst other things, keeping a healthy sexual relationship with one's spouse.
  • Period Piece: The game takes place in 1995, and the details are very accurate to the era. Cassette players (CD players were just starting to catch on, and not everybody had them), Super NES cartridges that are themed after actual game genres that were popular at the time (including ones very strongly resembling Out of this World and Bubsy), posters and music that was popular at the time are all over the place. Not everyone owned a PC, and typewriters were still used along with handwritten letters.
  • Poor Communication Kills: If any of the missing family members had left a note for Katie that wasn't vague and unclear, the story would have been over much more quickly. Sam ran away to be with her girlfriend, while Sam and Katie's parents are at a Couples Counseling getaway. Justified in that Katie came home significantly earlier than she was supposed to, so her parents weren't expecting her, and Sam didn't want to leave any clues for her parents to find.
  • Porn Stash: Both Sam and her father have erotic magazines hidden in the house — and they're the same men's magazine.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: It's perfectly conceivable that all the events of the game would have happened the way they do. The house on the hill, the stormy night, the sister's (rather common) fascination with the supernatural, are all plausible, normal, boring coincidences, yet many players complain that they are Red Herrings or at worst, disappointingly averted Chekhovs Guns. But... Real Life is like that.
  • Red Herring:
    • Oscar ends up having very little to do with the plot, and is quietly "exorcised" near the end. Whether his ghost was present or not is left unanswered.
    • All the mysteriously missing electronics are just that, mysteriously missing and nothing else. Sam leaves a note asking Katie to tell her parents that she is sorry about the things that were stolen, presumably to help her and Lonnie start a new life somewhere.
    • Jan's a naturalized US citizen, having been born in Canada. This isn't brought up before or after being briefly mentioned in the basement. Dev commentary reveals this was a because the person doing the hand writing for Jan was Canadian and rather than have them re-write everything to account for American spellings, they just made the mother Canadian just to "Bug fix" it.
    • There's no significance to Terry's father and Jan's colleague both being named Richard.
  • Riot Grrrl: The game contains music by Heavens To Betsy and Bratmobile, two major riot grrrl bands from the era, that you can listen to by playing Sam's cassettes.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Terrence's study. Played with in that the copious notes about the Kennedy assassination and time travel are just for a book he's writing, but the stuff about his Daddy Issues in the middle of the noteboard still qualifies.
  • Rule-Abiding Rebel: In-universe in a journal entry, Sam is quick to point out that, for all of Lonnie's anti-authoritarian attitudes and shenanigans, she's still precise and obedient when it comes to her military training. Especially so considering she doesn't even kick up a fuss about their "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which Sam finds obnoxious. Subverted when she absconds from basic training in favour of being with Sam.
  • Secret Passage: There are several throughout the house, some of them pretty creepy.
  • Sequence Breaking
    • It's possible to complete the game in about two minutes. It's possible for a thorough player get close to that time, as the (hidden) door leading to the penultimate note is neither locked nor uninteractable. This seems to have been patched out of the game as you can no longer interact with the secret door until you actually read the note telling you about it.
    • One of the achievements/trophies in the console edition lampshades this heavily, by requiring you complete the game in less than ONE MINUTE without any cheats. If you know where the door and attic keys are, you can skip straight to the attic and 'complete' the game in next to no time at all.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Prescribed burns are a real technique, and began to be used around the time of the story. They can be very dangerous as well, hence the request for additional personnel.
    • Reed College, the school that Sam gets a writing scholarship to, is a real, highly regarded liberal arts college in Portland, OR.
  • Show Within a Show: Heaven at the Edge of the World is a story Sam's been writing since first grade about Captain Allegra and her best friend/lover, the First Mate. The player can find several revisions Sam's made over the years.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: As you progress through the house, notes, and occasional journals from your sister fill in what happened while you were gone. In the more literal sense, while Sam's story is the main thread, you can also learn about Terry and Jan (Katie and Sam's parents), and their personal struggles, by reading letters, as well as their Great Uncle Oscar, who possibly haunts the house still.
  • Straight Gay: Sam, the player character's sister, does not fit into any particular stereotype with regards to her sexuality.
  • Stylistic Suck:
    • Sam's fiction is generally rather poor, as most of the excerpts were authored by her during various parts of her childhood.
    • Terry's novels are cookie-cutter action-thriller sci-fi stories, and review and sell poorly as a result. The one he's recently begun writing, however, is implied to be of a higher quality, as it is implied he is using it to work through the abuse suffered at his uncle Oscar's hands as a child.
  • Transparent Closet: Sam admits she's in one, saying she and Katie have "known since She-ra". She briefly mentions too that it's pretty apparent to other students, and Lonnie apparently picked up on it quickly.
  • Unbroken First-Person Perspective: The whole game is from Kaitlin's perspective.
  • Version-Exclusive Content: The Nintendo Switch port adds some genuine Super NES cartridges to the house's odds and ends.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Dr. Greenbriar, the grandfather of the family, writes a very dismissive letter to his son Terry about the latter's recently published book, implying that Terry sought some kind of validation from him. Terry Greenbriar seems to have had two reactions to it: on the one hand, a defaced portrait of Dr. Greenbriar can be found near the letter, but on the other, the words "You can do better", with which in the letter ended, are posted on the wall of his study.
  • You Bastard/Bitch!: Katie's refusal to re-open Sam's diary entry describing having sex with Lonnie no matter how many times you try has shades of this, considering some types of people expect it to be a trashy horror story or are lesbians who've already heard about it.