Gone Home: A Tale Of Two Dads

By Alec Meer on August 16th, 2013 at 6:00 pm.

Entirely understandably, the bulk of the deservedly rapturous reception to Gone Home has focused on its unseen narrator Sam, a teenage girl who gradually and powerfully documents her timeless emotional and social trials. While it was certainly the dénouement of Sam’s tale that prompted open tears from me and that will, I sincerely hope, see this game reach a wide audience of human beings, there are (at least) three other stories in this short game, taking more of a background role and enjoying no narrator, or indeed any kind of explicit call for attention.

I found a little extra personal resonance in a particular one of these, and it’s that which prompts me to interrupt my sabbatical from work and post about it now. Be warned that here be both spoilers and navel-gazing.

There’s a reason I can’t entirely connect with Sam, much as her story moved me deeply, and it isn’t because she’s female, or gay, or American, or a videogame character. It’s because she’s cool. I was a similar age at the same time, but I was not cool. Perhaps she didn’t consider herself cool either, but she was: outsider cool. Freak cool, not geek introversion. Zines and basement gigs and rebel clothing choices were just incomprehensible whispers from another world to me. I didn’t even hear the term riot grrl until several years after the event. Nirvana (until a few years later, when my brain and ears finally matured) just sounded like noise. I didn’t have to worry about the effect of major lifestyle choices on my social life, because I didn’t really have a social life to lose. The dual oppressions of being a nerdy waif at a sports-focused, essentially Conservative school and an upbringing that prided discipline and academic achievement far above anything so indulgent as happiness or self-confidence meant finding myself, let alone rebelling against normality, was simply an impossibility.

What I did was to lose myself in turgid licensed sci-fi novels, X-Men comics and whatever PC games I managed to pirate from richer kids (who were not my friends but for some reason accepted me on that one basis). I listened to Meat Loaf and Bon Jovi, though I just about discovered the glossiest side of Britpop before I was a lost cause. I didn’t go to cool gigs or dye my hair or distribute photocopied words and pictures created from pure passion and personality. I share(d) a certain loneliness with Sam, but really the most concrete comparison is that we both loved the X-Files.

My So Called Life beats quietly through Gone Home’s veins, but I was no Angela. I was Brian. Not even Brian, if I’m honest. And so, playing Gone Home, it’s the less prominent sad sack I identify with the most. Someone who’s not a hero, someone whose voice is never heard, someone who feels rejected by life but who hasn’t acknowledged the role he plays in that dispossession. Perhaps because the real cause comes from a previous generation.

Terry, father of Sam and her sister Katie, is a writer. A failed writer, whose grand ambitions run aground and who has recently found himself doing the literary equivalent of turning tricks down on the docks. He’s writing technical, bullshit-strewn reviews of hi-fi equipment, for a magazine and an audience that believes life is meaningfully improved by minor differences in picture quality or mid-range tones. He has to sound enthusiastic and authorative about the Emperor’s new clothes, time and again. Were he still doing that in 2013, he’d be pretending a £100 HDMI cable can do something a £1 one cannot. He’d be called out here, no doubt.

As it is/was in 1995, we soon discover that he couldn’t keep up this joyless, mendacious facade for long, started turning out awful copy, and quickly fell out of favour with his commissioning editor. It’s not entirely comparable, but I certainly had more than a few mental wobbles when the outcome of my journalism post-grad degree turned out to be reviewing fucking printers for a computing magazine. I know how he felt.

Meanwhile, his sci-fi series about JFK and time travel has resolutely failed to sell, sequels have been refused and no amount of motivational post-it notes he leaves for himself can keep him from the worrying number of bottles and shot glasses that litter his rooms in the enormous house that is Gone Home’s setting.

None of this is told to us. It’s just there to discover, if we so wish, in typewritten, half-finished reviews, scrawled notes, decreasingly cheerful letters from his editor, and a jarringly miserable mini-bar strewn with empties. Piece it all together, if your mind’s eye, and a very clear picture of Terry forms. He never speaks, he’s never seen outside of an oddly mutant-faced family portrait, and I don’t believe we read anything that’s a direct admission of what he feels – it’s all in the reviews, the books, the stiff, dismissive responses to the reviews and books, and all those empty bottles and glasses. But I knew, I know, that Terry was completely, utterly lost.

That isn’t me now, not really, though I inevitably nurse any number of unfilled artistic aspirations, but oddly it did evoke me then, even though me then was barely half Terry’s age then. No-one seemed to take him seriously, he seemed to lack a clear idea of what to do with himself, he turned inwards rather than sought to improve his life. He inadvertently drove others away because of it. I wonder what reasons Katie would give for her long time abroad, if she was entirely honest about it.

Sad sack. I won’t be surprised if plenty of Gone Home players – and, though we don’t hear them say as much, the rest of Gone Home’s unseen cast – consider him pathetic. Clearly, he fails Sam in her hour of need, and despite social conventions being a little different back then, I’m not convinced it was homophobia or even simple discomfort that did it. It was being too self-pitying to be capable of supporting someone else in their emotional struggle. It seems, or is implied by assorted, restrained notes and calendar entries, that his misery, or his lack of thereness, drove his wife to seek ultimately unrequited comfort from a hunky colleague. He suffered, I think, the kind of hopelessness that pushes people away rather than encourages them to come to your side, and I recognised it all too well.

Later in the game, I also recognised the root of it.

God, I hope my dad never reads this.

In the impossibly gigantic basement that runs underneath Sam, Terry et al’s impossibly gigantic home, there’s a letter. It’s not a letter that need be read in order to enable progress or advance the core plot. It’s easily missed, as many things in Gone Home are. It’s in the dark, requiring you to find and activate a light in order to see it, as almost everything in Gone Home does.

It’s from Terry’s father. It’s about Terry’s first book. It’s superficially a congratulation. It’s realistically a knife in the ribs from a man who doesn’t care about his son’s feelings or personality, only how his son’s achievements reflect on him. I forget what Terry’s father’s job is stated as, though I seem to recall his name had some professorial prefix. Certainly, his style of writing – stuffy, cheerless, officious – reflects this. It reads like a note from a headmaster to a barely-remembered former student, not a father to his son. It opens with recognition that Terry has been published, then without warmth turns to admonition for perceived stereotypes and lacklustre turns of phrase in what does, admittedly, sound like a cheap and nasty thriller. Sucker punch right to my limp stomach.

Terry probably knows, on some level, that it’s cheap and nasty, and perhaps even deliberately targeted a certain audience. That doesn’t for one second justify his father, the person who should be the most important man in his life, pointing this out, criticising him for it. Making him feel small, worthless, nothing.

In that one letter, Terry’s entire personality and every mistake he ever made – and quite clearly continued to make – was explained. I winced, and I remembered. My relationship with my father isn’t like that now, isn’t hung around my achievements or lack thereof, but it was, and it still hurts a little, no matter how far we’ve come from it, no matter that my dad now entirely accepts and respects that I’ve somehow made a career out of my nerdy childhood interests rather than the maths and mechanics he pushed me towards. He was never as stuffy or as cold as Terry’s mirthless, aloof father seems, but put it this way – he once give me a maths textbook as a birthday present, in response to falling grades. I felt Terry’s agony, felt the rejection he suffered, felt his struggle to anchor himself in life, felt his struggle for approval. I felt the contempt of his father, and it hurt.

There’s a suggestion, near the end of the game, that Terry and his ridiculous novels are redeemed, rediscovered. We don’t see the outcome, but we do see a rare letter directly from Terry, positively brimming with joy and disbelief that a new publisher wants to bring his books back to market. This part of Terry’s story perhaps didn’t resonate as well for me – it seemed a little too cute and unlikely, and for that reason I chose to believe that, ultimately, his books failed to sell for a second time, and his sequel proposal was ultimately rejected once again.

I also chose to believe that his cold, cruel father died before the two of them ever experienced any closeness, that Terry would be forever left feeling unappreciated, unloved, unsuccessful, no matter what he went on to do. That way, I could not be Terry – I could be better than Terry after all. Go Home, with its implications, its off-camera characters and its clear picture built only from words and shadows, gave me the freedom to finish Terry’s story that way. While Sam’s story is essentially told outright by the end of the game, only brief, uncommented upon components of Terry’s story are ever given, leaving me to piece them together and experience my own reaction to them.

Poor Terry. As the damning image above shows, he made witless attempts to help his daughter, but I’m not sure he’ll ever experience the euphoria, the self-discovery and the freedom that Sam did. I’m worried he’s well on the road to becoming like his father – seeing family members as problems in need of solutions, rather than unique human beings with all their infinitely complex internal struggles. I hope I’ve escaped being Terry. But I can’t guarantee it. I hope I don’t do what Terry’s dad did to him to my child. I hope I can see past myself enough to be be able to help her when she needs help.

Good luck, Terry. I hope you manage to find yourself.

Addendum – ah, it’s been brought to my attention that I didn’t pick up on a further, yet more important and tragic implication about Terry’s past and its ongoing effects upon him. There’s a reason he’s obsessed with the year 1963, and why he apparently stopped visiting his uncle Oscar in this sad house in that very same year. Puts things in a whole new, even more tragic light.

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56 Comments »

  1. maximiZe says:

    I clicked the article anticipating a picture of the “Making Friends” book and was not disappointed.

    • RProxyOnly says:

      I only clicked for the fine post-it rendering.

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        “Better than F.E.A.R.” exalted Philip Ackermann

  2. Marijn says:

    SPOILERS I thought that letter was brilliant too, and empathised with Terry, but it turns out I (and you, Alec) didn’t know the half of it: http://clockworkworlds.com/post/58411117679/the-transgression-you-can-do-better
    Continuing on on this theme, you might feel some empathy for Terry’s father, who probably felt he failed his son in protecting him from his brother and had a hard time relating to him after that. Maybe the officious language is also partly the powerlessness of someone who feels he’s lost the right to show love to his son?

    • eruvalar says:

      Wow. I did realize that something had happened between Oscar and Terry. Now I get it. Kind of obvious, now that I realize where the measuring lines on the wall were situated. This gives a new perspective to Terry and his shortcomings regarding his reaction to his daughters sexuality.

      This game is just so psychologically accurate. This is the story of a family. With all the good and bad stuff that entails. The past influencing the present through obscure behaviors, almost always misunderstood by the people around.

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      cpt_freakout says:

      You know, I intuitively got that after reading the note in the safe… but since abuse is something that happened to someone close and who is recently going through therapy, I immediately blocked it out and focused again on Terry’s dad’s note (if you peek around the corner where his cut-out portrait is, you’ll find his book – a Joyce reader. It makes perfect sense with the way in which the game’s narrative is also built, I think). But now that I read it from someone else it feels kind of strange, how deeply moving this whole family’s story is. And the best part is that it’s so, well, normal. It’s a family story that could be anyone’s, and to feel so much passion from it is just amazing. I’m really glad I played this game, and I’ll treasure this feeling for a long time: absolutely everyone is interesting.

  3. Cartras says:

    I only clicked on this for the navel bit, but was disappointed by the lack of ships.

    • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

      Press E to examine navel

      You find some purlple/blue fluff

      New power aquired – Navel Gazing

      Press F to go introspective

  4. bslinger says:

    I feel like Terry was redeemed with his writing: there was no guarantee that he would be republished, but at his writing desk in the greenhouse you see that he broke through his writer’s block and finished his trilogy with a book that was obviously a much more personal take on his previous themes.

    The way the side stories were presented was very well done I thought, and I love the way they ramped up the tension at the beginning by presenting you with the possibility of a ghost story, but then as you get to know the characters and the story the tone becomes much more exploratory and introspective as you travel through the house.

    My only gripe was that it was a little expensive for the 2 hour playtime, but I’m happy to support a game like this so I wasn’t too bothered. It might put others off though.

  5. MOKKA says:

    Thank you for this post.

  6. Kaigen says:

    Reading that letter from Richard Greenbrier to Terry was a real gut check. The portrait of Richard identifies him as a professor of English Literature. Not only does this imply that Terry’s writing career is an attempt to live up to his father’s expectations (or to try to appeal to his sensibilities), but it adds extra weight to the reading of the letter as a knife in the ribs. Anyone who’s dealt with the stuffier brand of English Professor knows the kind of disdain and contempt they can infuse into terms like “genre cliches” and “artifice.” But then I got to those finals words “You can do better,” and my mind immediately flashed to Terry’s bulletin board, where those four words stood emblazoned in large capital letters on post it notes in the center. “Fuck!” I muttered under my breath. Those words left a scar.

    • eruvalar says:

      Yup. What I first interpreted as an, quite frankly pathetic, effort at self-motivation, turned immediately into something profound and heart breaking.

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        Cyphran says:

        Even signed with a signature ending cruelly – PhD. To his own son!

  7. Alli893 says:

    Great article. Finding that letter from Terry’s father was heartbreaking.

  8. colw00t says:

    I didn’t have to play Gone Home for very long to be able to tell that it was a game that I would be able to hold up to people who Don’t Play Games. Something that I will be sitting people down in front of for years to come and showing them what the format can do. Showing them that the format can truly be artistic.

    It’s something very special. It tells these stories with wit, and grace, and a wonderfully sensitive, wonderfully human touch. It tells these stories in a way that only a game can do, where you almost feel like you are helping it to form the story yourself. You’re not being spoken to, like a book or a play. It’s almost a collaborative process, and that’s something that games can make you feel.

    I didn’t get as many hours out of it as I usually do for my money, but I don’t care, at all. Other people will run up my “time played” statistic, and being able to show them Gone Home means that it was a bargain.

  9. picaroon says:

    I thought there was something very sad about the republishing of Terry’s books. The letters from his new publisher were very odd: quasi-conspiratorial and calling the books “outsider art,” suggesting that they are being republished as kitsch or for a quick cash-in.

    I also thought Terry’s earnest letter suggesting that the new publisher consider changing its policies to publish his new novel seemed pretty hopeless.

    • ChrisGWaine says:

      I took both as optimistic. The new publisher was genuinely excited and appreciative of what was in his novels and was going to market them in a less staid way, with a better chance of finding the right audience. Also, he may have been able to give the publishers an opportunity to expand their business into creating new work.

  10. MacTheGeek says:

    I need to know: Is Terry voiced by Paul Reiser or Greg Evigan?

  11. rustybroomhandle says:

    Still playing, not going to look, but I just wanted to say one thing about Gone Home, and it’s really something that can only be expressed in a screenshot, so here it is:

    http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=170091415

  12. Premium User Badge

    HKEY_LOVECRAFT says:

    This part of the story really hit home with me as well, though for altogether different reasons. Here are the four ‘notes’ that I have from my father which, together, probably constitute the most writing he had ever produced in his life. (He considered written communication impractical.)

    “For my son, on his 12th birthday – 9 April 1983. Fill this with wonder, and never stop learning.”
    – Written in black Sharpie on the underneath of a bookcase he built for me. I didn’t find those words until 2004 while unpacking from a move.

    “That’s more like it!”
    – Written on the protective plastic sleeve of my 6th grade individual school photo. He was pleased that I smiled in this picture, which was an oddity for me. Found when I woke up the morning after bringing it home, next to his black Thermos-brand lunchbox. He worked the night shift and we rarely saw each other.

    “I was never able to forgive myself. I hope you will be able to.”
    – Written on the upper-half of a torn piece of paper of unknown origin. I found this in his tool shed, three weeks after he committed suicide, 27 January 1997.

    “You have given me pride unimaginable!”
    – Written on the back of the frame in which my parents had placed my Foreign Language Diploma earned while in the Army, circa 1990. Salvaged from the black husk of my childhood home a week or so after it had burned down (Mother’s Day, 1997).

    • eldwl says:

      Wow. Gone home made my heart ache, but your 100 words or so made me cry. Thank you for sharing, that must have been painful

    • Blackcompany says:

      I wanted to say Thank You, if those are the right words, for sharing your story with us. I wanted to commend you for being so forthcoming and open and honest. Those aren’t really the right words; there aren’t any, I don’t think. But I hope they will suffice nonetheless.

    • QueenKelly1929 says:

      Heartbreaking and beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

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      Cyphran says:

      Thank you for sharing this with us.

  13. F33bs says:

    This writing. This is why you’re my favorite on RPS, Alec. Well done.

    • eldwl says:

      Hear hear. Or is it “here here”? Or possibly “hear here”? Damn, this game left me feeling inarticulate.

      • Kirjava says:

        You were right the first time! It’s “hear hear”, as in, “we want to hear more of this”! What would “here here” imply? “This, right here- we want more of this!”

        Anyway, you were correct :)

  14. dogsmokespipe says:

    One of my favorite parts about this game was that it led me to this article.

    • brulleks says:

      Phew, that’s a relief. Having finished the game, I was about to open up my browser and come back to this article to read it in full – then thought I was losing it completely when I realised I already had.

      Fantastic game. Finding the portrait of Terry with the face cut out was an interesting moment – wasn’t sure if this had been done by his wife or someone else, maybe even himself . Must admit, I didn’t pick up on the true nature of the relationship between Oscar and Terry despite finding the note in the safe – was still wondering what his ‘sin’ might have been ,despite the juxtaposition with Terry’s height chart on the opposite wall (which should have been a giveaway really).

      But I could relate to Sam entirely – although a straight male, I was very definitely a similarly lone freak as a teen – until I discovered people happy to give a home to lone freaks at a wonderful 6th form college.

      I love the creepy atmosphere instilled despite the knowledge that nothing is out to get you – and the hints at supernatural threats, which in many ways are simply escapism from everyday threats. The gradual revelation of this, realising what ‘horrors’ the house really hid, was an exceptional piece of storytelling.

      It might seem a steep price for 2 hours of gameplay (as someone above suggests), but I’m happy to have paid it as an investment in a developer that has not only mastered such subtle arts of game narrative, but is also focusing on exploration as the chief form of interaction – a direction in which I have always longed for games to be taken.

      • Quinus says:

        That wasn’t a portrait of Terry… it was a portrait of his father. I’m unsure what the missing face was supposed to signify… I bet you can find it elsewhere in the house, but I don’t know where.

  15. Blackcompany says:

    Alec, thank you for the article. For the honesty and the openness. And for steering me toward a game/interactive media experience I cannot wake to partake of. I will wait, of course; not for a discount or any such thing as that. We have company this weekend, including young children, and I want to give this the time and attention I unfortunately cannot spare for it in the next two days, but that I will give it very soon.

    But most of all, thanks for an article that can inspire open, honest, personal discussion amongst your readers. The internet is sorely lacking in moments such as these because it is sorely lacking in writing like yours.

    So…inadequate as it is…Thank You.

  16. crinkles esq. says:

    I’m not sure why Alec calls this a “game”. The creators don’t even call it that. They call it an “interactive exploration simulator”. I’d call it interactive fiction. Either way, it’s not a game, and I think it’s important to be clear about that.

    • JackShandy says:

      Ugh. It has goals you achieve by overcoming obstacles. I don’t see any definition that excludes it without making a mess of the medium.

    • Premium User Badge

      Stellar Duck says:

      How is that even relevant, for this article, let along important at all?

    • Low Life says:

      - The game’s official website is http://www.gonehomegame.com/ (notice the last word?)
      - They call it (on that particular site) “A story exploration video game

      You can have your own opinion on this entirely meaningless matter, but you could at least try not to spread misinformation.

      • crinkles esq. says:

        I was quoting from the Steam description, which I assume they wrote.

        And it’s not “entirely meaningless” at all. If I was looking to play a proper game and became intrigued by Alec’s article, then found out after purchasing that it was an exploratory fiction thing, I’d be a fair bit disappointed. So I think it’s important to clarify that distinction for readers.

        • Low Life says:

          And they describe it as a “story exploration game” even on the Steam page, among other descriptions.

    • Hauskamies says:

      Your arbitrary definition of a game is in no way correct. Gone Home is very much a game.

  17. JackShandy says:

    I thought there was definitely a bit of a reflection on games writing there, too. Stuck in tired genre cliches, wanting to get to some kind of emotional truth beneath them.

    The unknown dimensions pamphlet says that Terry’s book draws on the paranoid fantasies their readers love – funny, because obviously I assumed that the family had been abducted or killed, and when I found the Unknown Dimensions tag I assumed it was evidence of some kind of cult. It was actually surprising to find that there was never going to be a point where skeletons popped out.

    • Premium User Badge

      Stellar Duck says:

      When the game was over, I smiled at myself. I’d imagined all sorts of crazy scenarios but in the end it was all rather mundane. I loved that.

  18. rustybroomhandle says:

    Ah crap, it’s the game police… alright, who called them?

    ( gah, reply fail )

  19. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    I also missed the implications of the newsclippings from 1963, the letters to Terry etc. I found most of it, but didn’t piece it together. I thought the fathers story was better told, as it wasn’t spelled out in detail as Sam’s story.

    Two other things – the little pentagram altar hidden behind the stairs was a bit odd. Was that teenage Sam dabbling with the occult trying to help her dad, or was that dad himself starting to believe the stuff from the new publisher?

    Also, the reason the parents are gone seems to be that they are on a couples councelling retreat (hinted by the folder found in the winter garden), not a wedding anniversary trip as the note near the entrance claims.

    • Low Life says:

      I thought the occult stuff was just an extension of Sam’s ghost hunting without deeper meaning. They “saw” ghosts, so naturally they contacted them with the ouija board.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I’m not sure if Sam had worked out what had happened to Oscar, but she clearly felt something for him.
      On the pentagram she’d placed Oscar’s photo and name badge, I think she was trying to exorcise his spirit from the house, or perhaps lay her own problems to rest at the same time.

    • underscore says:

      I read that bit as more or less entirely metaphorical – Oscar’s actions were still haunting Terry, and through him the family. Oscar’s unresolved ‘presence’ in the house having continued effects in the present – Terry becoming ever more distant, pushing Jan away and not being there for Sam.

      Sam’s attempts to exorcise his presence is the seance, Terry’s is the third novel, Jan’s is the couples’ retreat. Gone Home doesn’t reference Katie’s return so much as it does Terry’s.

      Right or wrong, I’m enjoying thinking about these sort of themes as a result of a game.

    • ChrisGWaine says:

      I don’t think there was any evidence Sam had found the safe combination, but the exorcism seems to fulfill Oscar’s desire expressed in the letter found inside.

  20. easilybreezily says:

    As I’m playing through for the second time, I noticed that Sam’s childhood story has a clue about her father. Her character is hunting down a pirate who calls her father a liar for saying that there is an edge to the world with Paradise beyond it. She wants to prove that her father is not a liar. Pretty bleak, really.

    I wonder if this might also have something to do with the religious beliefs in the family. Maybe Terry’s father wasn’t religious?

  21. Premium User Badge

    Cyphran says:

    I came here to read this as soon as I had finished the game. Thanks for posting this and sharing your thoughts and feelings about it. It has also brought out some amazing comments from the RPS community. I must say, though, as a professional sound engineer your link to the hitherto unknown to me Wat HiFi? Tumblr makes me very very happy.

  22. Reedus says:

    Was anyone else swerved by the clues leading Katie to believe that Sam (and/or Lonnie) was either abducted or killed by Daniel? I felt that the Oscar storyline would have been too obvious (ie, having anything to do with the occult or supernatural) but I felt the hints about Daniel were subtle enough. I fully expected a bunch of bloody limbs and organs to fall out of that attic door as soon as I opened it.

  23. freestonew says:

    I too, came here after playing and i thought too that Daniel was to not play nice.

    A wonderful game. As I read these intelligent comments, i found that I did not find all of the clues. I thank everyone here for really “Amplifying” my game experience. I understand now the Game, much much better.
    One of the main themes seen in this game is how people tend to only see life in their own narrow ways and not be able to understand other people’s valid lives.
    Like: for Sam, she might really flower forth as a Lesbian. a wonderful life. father would not approve.
    and..how many fathers have “ruined” their son’s lives by trying to FORCE their own ways of living onto them! A father who wants his son to be a top CEO only to “self validate and justify” his own life!
    [I recently heard a man brag about his two sons. he went on and on and on, extolling their achievements. I , myself, would then have wanted to ask these two sons what they really wanted, in their lives!]

    You can see how this works right here on this comment page! I have seen, now, in nearly every comment thread that i read, the spam that says, “make $9258 a month with your computer”! this person flings these out without the slightest regard for any of the readers! we all are just fodder for this spammer’s focus on money-alone!
    [how would you like to be her/his son or daughter?!!]

    In fact, i suspect if you respond to this ad, go to the site. you will be asked to pay a fee to learn the Great Secret. secret, which is…to be shown how to spam every single public site with messages just like that one!!

    freestone

  24. dropbear81 says:

    As always, RPS shows me a game I would usually not even bother to read the blurb, let alone sink $20 on it. However it was one of the best games I’ve played this year. I found the main storyline the most compelling, as I do empathise and connect with Sam’s character (being a gay lady myself). But the father’s story was also very haunting and something I then went back to investigate further after reading comments on RPS. Such a nice break from seeing the same old rehashed clichéd story lines that accompany games of this particular genre.

    I also held fears that all would end badly for Sam, as most stories set or written pre-2000 tend have the lesbian protagonist ends in being killed off or turning straight (it’s a very tired common theme. And every gay person is so, so sick of it), but the devs handled the story very well. It may be a clichéd ending, but it’s a happy ending for Sam, which gets both thumbs up from me.

  25. Premium User Badge

    quietone says:

    *Spoilers*
    I just finished the game and was moved beyond words by the emotional rollercoaster this game is. And, for the record, I usually hate this kind of games.

    During play, I pieced together the stories of everybody, but the sheer force of Sam’s emotions made me focus on her and only once I finished the game I paid more attention to the rest of the characters, and the story became ominous once again.

    Once thing I didn’t see mentioned, with regards of one piece of the puzzle that I still don’t get. The bike’s ad with an invitation to ride it (I can’t figure out who wrote it, as it was in 1965). But it is interesting that the motorcycle is a “Phaedrus” as that’s the name of one of Plato’s Dialogues, and one in which Socrates and Phaedrus discuss (among other things) pederasty.

    • vimuston says:

      It is a reference to the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. Read the Wikipedia entry if you want more information on it, I don’t want to spoil the book, or the game, here.

      Haven’t played Gone Home yet, but just seeing a screenshot of that advertisement made me want to play it, as I recently read that book and loved it.

  26. zaxs says:

    I think there’s a tale told both upstairs and downstairs.
    It’s pretty obvious who has lived in the house previously and who also came out.
    In a letter, he’s tried to be normal, even joined the army and asked forgiveness from his sister.
    He tried everything to change but could not. Can stripes be erased off a zebra’s coat?

    I believe Terry’s father loved his son very much. But, his son could never forgive his father – that significant thing that was learned in 1963 when Terry was 12.
    Terry’s “uncle” just returned the house to him.

    Possibly, Terrys’ books about going back in time to change had a lot of what Terry wanted. Maybe ‘he’ could go back in time and change his old man.

    Not as beautiful or acceptance as Sams’ story today……

  27. Gassalasca says:

    Am I wrong in assuming we get at least one clue that Terry’s wife is cheating on him?
    I am referring to the letter to his wife from her colleague.

    • randomnine says:

      Sure, there are a few.

      * In the painting room upstairs, there’s a note indicating Janice has given Rick a flawless performance review at work.
      * In the main bedroom, she’s hidden a book with a note from this guy – it’s a gift from another man, hidden under the bed she shares with her husband. She certainly doesn’t think it’s innocent.
      * There’s a ticket to see “Earth, Wind and Fire” in the grate in the hallway of the right wing on the ground floor. A letter in an adjacent room explains that Rick gave her the ticket and went with her because his girlfriend didn’t want to go. Under the sofa in that hallway, there’s a bill from a salon for a $120 makeover – $180 in today’s money – for the day before the gig.
      * There’s also a letter in a drawer from a friend of hers acknowledging she’s interested in Rick and warning her about maybe misinterpreting the guy’s intent.

      So Janice was certainly trying to have an affair. But it didn’t work out:

      * In the kitchen, on the fridge door, there’s an invitation to Rick’s wedding.
      * On the calendar in the kitchen, there’s a note to the effect that they’re not going to Rick’s wedding and are, instead, going on honeymoon.
      * In the drawer near the calendar, there’s a pamphlet for a Couple’s Counselling Retreat which matches the precise date of the “honeymoon”.

      Her marriage was failing. She met a hot, competent guy at work and flirted with him madly. There’s no indication it was mutual. He may simply have been being friendly to his boss, and perhaps not being as clear as he could have; her favour certainly helped his career. His true feelings don’t become clear until he sends her an invite to his wedding.

      She cuts him off, declining the wedding invitation, and throws herself into fixing her marriage to Terrence. The game ends on an optimistic note: they’ve clearly both recognised their marriage is in trouble and have dropped everything to try and fix it.