Gone Home Review
Sometimes, as the saying goes, more is less. By pouring too many ingredients into a recipe, whether for lobster roll brioche or a narrative-driven video game, you spoil the entire composition. The master stroke in Gone Home, then, isn't that it takes a kitchen sink approach to design or that there's so much to do and see; rather, it's that there's just enough, a subtle, elegant minimalism.
Gone Home, the rookie effort from the men and women of the Fullbright Company, tells the story of Kaitlin Greenbriar who has just returned to her family's home near Portland, Oregon after spending some time abroad in Europe. The first story hook appears in the form of a note from Kaitlin's younger sister, Sam, who also dictates the game's version of audio logs, excerpts from's Sam journal that play periodically through your exploration of the house. Discovering what's become of Sam and the rest of the Greenbriar clan forms the core of Gone Home's mystery and the main narrative throughline.
Like an archaeologist (or perhaps a forensic pathologist), you as Kaitlin must comb through her family's house artifact by artifact, uncovering details of their lives and personal histories and peering into all their dark corners. Gone Home's best and most unique conceit is this device, where the Greenbriar's story is delivered by way of their belongings and the detritus that collects in the wake of the human experience. It's a mechanic that is at once unique but also intimately familiar, not because you've done it before in a thousand other video games, but because of the way it reflects on our actual lives and how they're constructed.
The lives the player unearths in this way are distinctly products of the 90s. Sam is a fan of seminal 90s grunge and alternative acts, and the family has VHS tapes festooned with episodes of the X-Files and films like Top Gun and The Time Machine. The sense of time and place is powerful in Gone Home, and lends richness and the sepia-tint of nostalgia to the proceedings.
Gone Home succeeds because it is both voyeuristic, fulfilling that fantasy of wandering through a stranger's empty house and looking through and touching all their things, but more so because it is reflective, reminding us of our own families as we're rifling through the lives of a stranger's. As a story and an experience it's crafted with expertise and a laudable attention to detail, and best of all, it's another landmark in the continuing evolution of storytelling.