Mentioned several times during 2013’s Game of the Year award, this indie-title tries a different approach to storytelling than most games - establishing that so called Walking Simulators are here to stay.
In Gone Home, you play a family member that enters the home returning from a longer trip. Things have happened while you were gone. You discover what exactly by exploring the house and picking up various items that are scattered in the rooms. Every time you do, you learn something about your family or yourself, like puzzle pieces slowly coming together.
Wandering through the house worked extremely well for me as my curiosity took over. It feels almost like reading a forbidden diary. That being said, this game does not feature a lot of other typical game mechanics: There are no puzzles, no challenges – except searching and picking up stuff – that is practically the only way of interacting with the world. This isn't the first game doing so, following the footsteps of the acclaimed Dear Esther, the first game that earned the title walking simulator. For those games the focus lies on telling the player a story and using the game environment as a tool to do so – and that works excellent. It is an example that interactive media can offer mature and sensitive entertainment and does not have to feature traditional game mechanics to be an immersive experience.
But with the games nature come a few things to take into consideration: I found that I best enjoyed and comprehended the story while finishing the game in one sitting, roughly the same time it would take to watch a movie.
This also tells you that the game is not very long: As there is hardly any challenge you can basically walk through the game, and once you know the story, that’s it. As the asking price for the game is around 20,- US$, you feel like you don’t get your moneys worth. If it would cost as much as a movie ticket, it would be fairer in my opinion, as it offers around the same value of entertainment. The overall length, the overall theme and the lack of typical challenge based mechanics also means that Gone Home is a very approachable game for people who usually don’t play games or don’t see their appeal. Taking this into account Gone Home offers an excellent stepping stone into interactive entertainment for people who never thought games could be interesting to them.