Critical Play – Play like a Feminist

“Gone Home,” developed by The Fullbright Company, is a walking simulator game that invites players to uncover a narrative centered around personal relationships. While “Gone Home” is praised for its storytelling and immersive experience, one notable criticism lies in its limited engagement with intersectionality, as the game predominantly focuses on the experiences of white, cisgender women. Feminist theories emphasize the importance of recognizing the intersecting identities that shape individuals’ experiences of oppression or privilege. By broadening its representation and incorporating diverse perspectives, “Gone Home” could better explore the complexities of feminist theory.

Furthermore, the game occasionally falls into the trap of reinforcing certain tropes and stereotypes surrounding femininity. While the queer storyline is commendable, the reliance on tropes like the troubled queer teenager or the “forbidden love” narrative can limit the portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters. Feminist theory encourages the subversion of stereotypes, allowing for more nuanced representations.

However, to its credit, “Gone Home” does to a good job of incorporating elements that align with feminist theories, particularly in its exploration of autonomy, agency, and personal relationships. Through Sam’s story, the game highlights the importance of individual agency in shaping one’s identity as Sam and her sister both explore their lives, which particularly aligns with the theories discussed in Chess’ book. In addition, Gone Home highlights the queer love story and puts it at the forefront of its narrative, which still is commendable.

Furthermore, I love that the game starts off with a haunting atmosphere that seems like a horror game at first and creates an almost red herring-like environment. This falls in line with what Chess argues for in appealing to a wider diversity of players but maintaining a strongly feminist narrative within the game. The simple mechanisms of the game also allows the game to appeal to all types of gamers and non-gamers.

By broadening its representation and delving into the experiences of diverse individuals, “Gone Home” has the potential to deepen its feminist engagement and align more closely with feminist theories. The game serves as a reminder that ongoing efforts are needed to ensure inclusivity, diversity, and accurate representation within the gaming industry, even for games that are meant to be representative of underrepresented populations.

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