Mike’s lecture and reading suggestions about games reminded me of a videogame I had in my pc since a couple of months ago, Gone Home. I am not a gamer. When I was a child I had a GameBoy to play Pokemon and Mario and a Nintendo64 to play MarioKart, nothing more, and I do prefer RPG by chat when I want to play, or books and TV series when I want to chill out. But Gone Home is something different. I got it after reading a review on one of my favourite blogs, SoftRevolutionZine, because I was curious, but I never felt like playing it – until a couple of days ago. All these discussions on videogames encouraged me to try that “feminist videogame we were waiting for without knowing it”. I am glad I did it.
It is not long – just three or four hours if, like me, you are not a videogame expert. In the game, there is only you, exploring your house after a long trip, and you do not know where your family is, especially your sister Sam, who left a note on the door saying “Do not look for me”. Opening every drawer and every closet, reading all you can grab, at the end you understand where everyone is and why. I swear, it is way less boring than it sounds. The atmosphere is disturbing, intensified by the storm which is rumbling outside. Out of the blue, when you find certain objects, Sam’s voice-over starts reading her journal, giving you more information about her life in the past months. The story of your sister is intriguing, as well as your parents’ and your weird great-uncle’s are.
***Seriously, do not read if you want to play it***
In my opinion, this game could be an interesting learning tool. Not just for the development of intuition, but also from a sociological, psychological and historical perspective.
The game is set in 1995. There is a great accuracy on details, like food brands and household tools. The soundtrack of the game is built on Sam’s tape cassettes scattered in some rooms, which you can listen to using stereos. The choice of music is all based on the Riot grrrl movement, especially Bratmobile and Heavens To Betsy.
In addition to other less treated subjects like the relationship between Sam and Katie’s parents and their personal problems, homosexuality among teenagers is the principal theme of the game. It is handled with great sensitivity, but without hiding any side of the matter. The way in which the story between Sam and Lonny is told is extremely realistic, with all the doubts and thrills a girl can have, and with all the issues she has to face in her everyday life, like the mockeries of her classmates and the disapproval or the indifference of her teachers.
To sum up, in a couple of hours you do not just play detective connecting the dots of a family’s story, but you also can be a bit more aware of the daily life of a young lesbian during the 1990s, all from a feminine point of view. Not so bad!
PS: When I sent this post to my boyfriend to ask him to proofreading it, he sent it back with his opinion on the game, which I would call “The male perspective on a game in which you do not have to brutally kill everyone”:
Unlike Claudia, I have been a gamer since I could remember, and this game managed to amaze me. Differently from any other games I have ever played, there is no enemy to face, no troops to manage, no money to gain, no bosses to overcome or level to finish.
The game appears to have no mechanic at all, but as you go on, you start to realize what it is about. You get more and more immersed in it. It makes you laugh, it makes you worry, it is a very emotional game, and it is quite sophisticated in that. The detail makes it believable, as you can pick up every object, examine it and turn it around. I have even seen a pack of chips with ingredients and nutritional content. That would have just been a pixelated mass of nonsense in any other game. And you can find hand-written letters, scraps of paper in bins that you can flatten and read, typewriters with leftovers and attempts at writing novels, and so on.
In the end, it makes you realize something about entertainment: it is all about the emotions you can evoke in the player, it is all about the experience. And this game lands that flawlessly. I always tended to avoid this kind of game, but I see what the point is now and how I was mistaken in giving less credit to them just because there is less action or stuff to manage.