critical play: mysteries

For this week’s critical play, I chose the game Gone Home by the Fullbright company on Steam. I think that the target audience for this game is a person who has time on their hands during the day that really likes puzzles and escape room type things. There are a lot of rooms to explore with different pieces that you have to sort through to construct the story and you don’t really know what information will be useful or how anything connects to one another. It is the kind of game that you would finish over the course of a day or two because it does involve a strong use of memory to connect different pieces from different rooms together which if played over the course of a long time, would be difficult to follow.

This game is a sort of walking sim in that you just walk around the house and pick things up without anything else really happening to the character. The game is set so that you come home after some time abroad to an empty house and have to figure out what happened to your sister and your parents. You are given very little backstory, and through exploration of the house and the items that you find, you string the story together. A mechanic of their narrative construction is having notes left throughout the house to read which contain snippets of the story. For example, allowing you to track some of Sam’s time moving into the house and getting bullied for living in the psycho house and then meeting Lonnie. A dynamic that this creates is that the player slowly constructs the story through pieces that they find in different locations, making it a slower learning and discovery process. This also elevates the dynamic of mystery by making the player want to learn more about Sam’s story, incentivizing them to look further in the house. The aesthetic that this mechanic makes is one of narrative and discovery as the drama unfolds in bits and pieces.

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