Childhood, Memory & Hope: Home Is Where One Starts

Home Is Where One Starts screenshot

I’m quite fond of short, experiential games that set out to tell a simple story. I think of them like short stories: something that does not take long to experience but which can subsequently stay with you for some time. Alas, many such games fall under the umbrella of ‘walking simulator’, a rather pejorative name for a genre, but until we have a widely accepted alternative it’ll have to do.

Home Is Where One Starts [official site] is on Greenlight, and aims to tell a story about childhood, memory and hope: pretty universal as themes go.

The titular home is a trailer situated in a rural environment, and the game’s short span will involve exploring the surrounding countryside whilst learning about the pivotal moment in the narrator’s childhood. The countryside looks serene and beautiful, and the music and voice acting seem top notch too.

Home Is Where One Starts is the brainchild of David Wehle, whose wife the artist Elise Wehle is providing voice acting and some of the game’s art. Release is projected for this summer, and Oculus Rift DK2 support is planned. I’d love to play this with the Rift, but there’s a bit of a disparity between that hardware’s considerable price tag and the planned $1.99 price of this game. Maybe if I befriend John Carmack on Twitter he’ll send me one? Ethics.

If the game’s title seems familiar it’s because it’s drawn from T. S. Eliot’s poem East Coker, specifically this passage. If you’re after a reference point for Home Is Where One Starts that’s a good place to, er, start. Wehle states that his inspirations also include “the rural countryside and storytellers like John Steinbeck and Terrence Malick”. That works for me! Hey, someone should make a game based on Steinbeck’s Cannery Row – a great little novel.

As for Home Is Where One Starts, if that teaser trailer didn’t tell you enough about the game then a little gameplay footage is also available:

11 Comments

  1. Monggerel says:

    Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.

    T.S. Elliot is an anagram of toilets!

  2. mattlambertson says:

    Why has no one yet coined the term “exploration games” for this genre? It sounds nice, is definitely not prejorative, and describes exactly what I am looking to do when I boot up one of said games. I want to explore new places. Sometimes I want to not have to shoot things while exploring said places *glares at Bioshock Infinite*

    So yes, “exploration games”. I declare it. You must mention it in all your RPS curations on Steam now ;)

    • Gregoire Simpson says:

      I don’t think “exploration” is all that suiting. As we have seen with the likes of Gone Home and Dear Esther, they tend to be very linear experiences where usually very little or none exploration at all is expected from the player. Of course this depend on how you define exploration, but I would think that most people would object to it being walking through a closed corridor listening to audio logs. More like a museum tour.
      Then there’s games like Eidolon and Proteus where I guess exploration would be more suitable. Still, until something sticks, walking simulators will do. In the end, the name is just a way to put similar experiences in a category.

      • Bugamn says:

        Let’s call them Singleplayer Offline Walking Arenas, or SOWA for short!

    • jezcentral says:

      Yes, that was exactly the word I thought of, too. (But don’t worry, you can tell everyone you thought of it first. :) )

      At the moment, it’s like the whole genre will be blown apart, once some enterprising dev adds a sprint key.

    • Shaun Green says:

      Exploration games is a nice label, but the problem is that it’s overly inclusive: loads of other games are all about exploration, and plus there’s variance within what has been shoved under the “walking simulator” umbrella as Gregoire Simpson points out above.

      I quite like the term “secret box” as proposed by Joel Goodwin (ref: link to electrondance.com) but I have sincere doubts that the label will ever spread far enough to be of practical use, because although it’s a label that makes sense once it’s explained it’s not one that conveys instant understanding to anyone unfamiliar with it.

      And so it is that, for the time being at least, I’m stuck uneasily using terms I don’t like, and acknowledging my discomfort, every time I write about a walking simulator / secret box / exploration game. Curse you, taxonomy!

      • mattlambertson says:

        Well, that’s true, although it’s hard to be any more stupidly inclusive than “walking simulator” as a label (all first person games simulate walking unless vehicles are involved), so it’s at least a step in the right direction. And unlike “walking simulator”, referencing “exploration” at least manages to capture the primary activity I wish the game to engage me in. You play shooters to shoot, I play these games to explore.

  3. ninjapirate says:

    I can see myself just standing there, looking at the landscape and the sky, dwelling in the moment.