Critical Play: Mysteries

I played Gone Home for this critical play assignment. Gone Home is a first-person exploration game developed by The Fullbright Company. It was initially released as a PC game (running on Windows, OS X and GNU/Linux operating systems), and was followed by console versions. The game is mainly targeting late teenagers and adults, because the game require mature understanding of family and social issues to enjoy, rather than pyre puzzle-solving skills.

In Gone Home, player control the avatar to navigate in a house and interact with various items. There is no fighting or any complex actions, therefore the game may be categorized as a walking simulator. The primary goal is to navigate through the map and reach the ending, however as I shall explain the technical/mechanical goal is usually not the goal that psychologically drive the gameplay.

The gameplay primarily involves the following kinds of fun: sensory and submission. The game uses combination of dim visuals, dusty items, and ambient soundscape to create a dark and mysterious atmosphere. Rather than blatant jump scare, the game instead focuses on creating the atmosphere so that everything may be recognized as “spooky”, which creates a much more realistic, organic and diverse experience, as every time/player may perceive a slightly different experience. This principle is also followed when the game present an overload of information and explorable space to the player. This creates an immersive alternate reality where the player is free to submit themselves to, and much like the real reality, there’s no linear directive dictating the player’s action, creating a much more relatable, realistic and diverse experience.

One characteristic that distinguish the game from others is the relation between the narrative, gameplay and core mechanics. While the narrative involves lots of extra information not strictly necessary for the primary goal, a typical player will nevertheless explore and enjoy much of it. The gameplay seems to be driven more by curiosity rather than the primary goal; for example, the game scene frequently uses cues like a half-open door, or a cryptic and vague message, to allure player into exploring different part of the space. Such devices were more seen in traditional narrative-intensive media such as literature and film, rather than games, yet Gone Home employs them successfully to create a narrative-driven game experience.

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