Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Gone Home

So, uh, here's another one of them walking simulators. It's called Gone Home and has an average playtime of 2 hours, which consists of exploring a house and looking at objects and notes. There's not a whole lot of game to it but that didn't stop Polygon from scoring it 10/10 and choosing it as their game of the year 2013.

A game-like experience

The British Academy Games Awards did a similar silly thing earlier this year, when they gave their Best Game award to What Remains of Edith Finch. It's like they are forcing people who don't like playing games to pick these winners. And when these judges are given a movie-length experience without a fail state or challenge, the decision is easy. Something they can actually finish.

I don't oppose the concept of walking simulators. First person exploration is immersive and can be an interesting experience, especially when the interactivity the video game medium offers is utilized to the fullest. But I really think it's dumb to give a game of the year award to a title in which decision-making is almost solely whether you keep holding the down the play button to continue watching the movie or not. In my opinion a more suitable award would be a narrative or storytelling one.

Finding keycodes, reading notes, and listening to audio logs -- the gameplay Gone Home offers -- can be found in other genres too -- "immersive simulations" for instance even though I don't really like the name and don't think it describes games too well. But Gone Home is basically what you get when you rip a game like BioShock off weapons, character upgrades, enemies, other characters etc.


BioShock is a particularly good example also because three of the founders of Fullbright, the developer of Gone Home, worked on BioShock 2: Minerva's Den. That's probably why they included the Looking Glass Studios' door code 0451 in their game. That's also the reason I ended up playing it (even though I knew what to expect) as I was looking at a list of games with the code.

I find it really cool that developers/games able to trace their lineage to Looking Glass can display it in such a clever and simple way. Many of the titles are so good too: the aforementioned BioShocks, Deus Exes, Dishonoreds, Prey (2017), and even Alien: Isolation has the code.

Of course nothing stops anyone from including 0451 in their game as a mere reference to the code that I feel has become a bit too popular. It loses its prestige when a hundred indie titles all have it just because it's supposedly cool. It could refer to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 too, though. Many in fact thought that was the case but Warren Spector said otherwise.

No redeeming features

Anyway, Gone Home is not worth the money even at a heavy discount. Its story is as dull as in Layers of Fear and doesn't even have that game's art and horror elements. Although admittedly the empty house in Gone Home is kind of spooky with thunderstorm outside and everything.

The game runs on Unity, unsurprisingly, and like Layers, movement seems to be on the default values. And again it feels really awful. I was replaying Dishonored a bit before Gone Home. Coming from its fluidity and speed, it felt like I was trying to walk in tar. There's no running either.

Also, while typing this post, through a hell of a coincidence or a quirk of fate I happened to win Fullbright's next game, Tacoma, from a giveaway. I guess I'll be checking that out next. It's a similar 2-hour walking simulator (with 0451) but its scifi setting might make things more interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment