Critical Play: Mysteries

Game Overview

Gone Home is a mystery exploration video game developed by The Fullbright Company. This game is a first-person POV available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, and iOS and won numerous awards, such as BAFTA Games Award for Debut Game, VGX Award for Best PC Game and VGX Award for Best Independent Game. The primary target audience is primarily for 15+ year olds who have the skills to play.

This game takes place starting on June 7, 1995 1:15am. Players assume the role of a young woman Katie who is returning home after studying abroad for a year. She comes back to an empty home and a note left for her by her younger sister to specifically not find them (her family). 

This game is narrative fun and amazingly intriguing, as there is no set goal but players can interact with nearly every object in the house.  The overall objective is to find out what happened to Katie’s family (exploration).

The rules and procedures are not set in stone as the game as very open-ended for player actions. It emphasizes exploration in the house and trying to piece together a story of their lives. I believe this game accurately portrays the type of fun game intended because it is very open-ended and players have a lot of freedom. The general goal of getting players to explore the house and look for clues is successfully achieved because all items in the house are perfectly placed and interesting. Some really cool items were the cassette tapes and all the individual sheets of notes and papers lying around the house.

Successes and Failures

What I really appreciated the most (and is something we don’t see often in narrative-based exploration games) is text guidance from the game, telling us what actions they can perform when they approach an object, though does not force the player to do those actions. This felt very much like a virtual escape room, but one where you try to “escape”/figure out what happened alone. At some point though, I wasn’t quite sure what items were important and what weren’t and it was a bit confusing without much direction but I the confusion/exploration is an important part of the game! This was a moment of particular failure for me. However, I really appreciated the narrative voice for her sister because it makes the house feel less lonely and I notice that when I listen to the tapes, I tend to walk around the room and mindlessly explore more items.

If I had to improve this game, I would add some hints sections where the game could guide the player to some useful items to collect around the house to speed some things up.

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