This was a very sweet, beautiful game. I missed a thing or two, and was left with a few lingering questions, which a bit of googling connected to interesting comments and answers.
I enjoyed the little things–Sam being a better writer than her dad; their shared taste in “men’s magazines”. It’s a non-trivial craft, to be able to write and act out these fragments and make them really endearing, but they did it. All the little school notes felt real. The riot grrrl soundtrack was another highlight for me; it helps to break away from the tried and typical sets of influences in games.
I liked how the the feeling of the house changed as you “conquered” it room by room. I had qualms at first, given that I’m a complete baby and there were some early atmospheric scares. But while those things get explained or otherwise diminished, I think they pushed too hard on the sound design. I understood intuitively from the engine/presentation style that I would never run into another living, moving thing in that house, but there was still clearly the sounds of someone dragging shit around or opening squeaky cabinets or whatever in distant rooms–Katie’s imagination getting a little carried away, maybe, but not mine; that sort of distinction shouldn’t and otherwise doesn’t exist.
Game of the Year 2013, as some have said? No. Games where you walk around in empty spaces and listen to recordings, like this and Dear Esther, are interesting experiences. Especially when the empty spaces are made with love and care and the recordings are wonderfully written and voiced. But what these types of interactions can actually accomplish is limited, at least in any way that’s useful to games and interactivity specifically, and I’m not convinced that it shows us the next big step forward for video games.
But there’s one other detail I think I can relate to demonstrate the fondness that I felt for Gone Home: it’s the only time I saw myself get a Steam trading card when I finished and quit the game–“Kicking Against the Patriarchy”–and for a second, actually entertained the notion of keeping it around in my inventory, for sentiment, instead of just selling it for a cold 16 cents, as trading cards are stupid and for babies. I sold it anyway–I don’t really care for clutter, or for badges. But even the hesitation there was new.