Had a great time streaming some Gone Home yesterday.
Gone Home is one of a new breed of narrative/interactive fiction games. Not only is it new - it's dominating the emerging genre: PC Gamer nominated it Best Game of the Year for 2013.
Making a great game based on narrative isn't exactly a piece of cake. As PC Gamer puts it, "While many games choose to compartmentalise their storytelling and interactive sections, others experiment with new methods. In Gone Home, exploration becomes a form of authorship. The entwined stories of each family member unravel at your command as you flick through the detritus of their lives."
Firing up the game gives me immediate, nostalgic flashbacks to my first time in Myst. The well-crafted ambient soundscape (complete with creepy rain and thunder), the lack of other humans to interact with, and the sense of needing to unravel a mystery were all very familiar to me.
Myst, however, is classified as an adventure/puzzle game, whereas Gone Home rests firmly in the interactive story genre. There's a lot of overlap between the two styles - for example, in both of these games, you'll find yourself 'gated' and unable to progress at certain points. You solve puzzles (locked doors, blocked secret passages, secret combinations) based on clues you find lying around. Both games also feature stories that you piece together based on notes and letters you find along the way.
The main difference lies in the primary motivations of the games. The developers of Myst want you to work to solve their puzzles. It's important to your enjoyment of the game that you use your brain to get through the levels. I know a number of players who got stuck and gave up playing Myst - hence, they were blocked from enjoying the totality of the narrative. In Gone Home, your whole motivation is to listen to an unfolding story. If you didn't pay much attention to the story of Myst (like me playing as a child!) you'd miss out on some meaning, but you'd still have a good time. Missing out on the story of Gone Home defeats the whole purpose of the game.
Another shared theme of the two games is creepiness without horror/jump scares. I appreciate how they built up an idea that Gone Home would be a scary game. Leaving around a book on ghosts, showing the obituary of the previous owner (your character's uncle), reading a note written to your sister about how your uncle was a psycho, all added to the vibe. Myst does a great job with this as well, showing the leavings and evidence of some seriously disturbed characters (hidden torture chambers, evidence of struggles, hinted atrocities) without any actual fighting or gore.
From a creator perspective, 'm beyond thrilled that narrative-first gaming is enjoying the spotlight, as it perfectly combines my loves of storytelling and game design. I'm excited to delve into the genre in my future creations, and already have a couple of projects in the works.
Want to learn more about Gone Home? Check out the video of my stream! If you like what you see, follow my Twitch channel so you can enjoy future broadcasts.
Did you play the game? What did you think? Share your thoughts below!