Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
There is an idea among the game-playing and development communities that games can be stories with interactivity, and that such new types of stories are going to “broaden the audience” for games. But this is a flawed idea, because a broadened audience would mean an audience amenable to such new material in the context of their existing tastes. If that gap is not acknowledged and addressed, then we end up with games as bad television shows and novels; bad television shows and novels with button pressing.
Then again, what if Gone Home teaches us that videogames need only grow up enough to meet the expectations other narrative media have reset in the meantime? After all, we’re living in an age in which the literary mainstream is dominated by young adult fiction anyway. Adults read series like Harry Potter and Twilight and The Hunger Games with unabashed glee. Comic book film adaptations have overtaken the cinema. What if games haven’t failed to mature so much as all other media have degenerated, such that the model of the young adult novel is really the highest (and most commercially viable) success one can achieve in narrative?
As the designer Merritt Kopas said of Gone Home, “This is a videogame. About girls in love. That shouldn’t be exceptional in and of itself, but it is.” And there’s the rub. Because Kopas is right: the fact of the game’s very existence becomes more important than its aesthetic ambitions. Such is the remaining not-so-hidden secret of Gone Home, a game about not-so-hidden secrets: that media must struggle against increasingly strong rhetorical currents to have even a chance at spawning a modicum of expression before dying off.
I'm extremely tickled that "gamers", on the whole, seem to hate it, and secretly think that fuels a large part of why I love it.
But if I'm being honest, Gone Home was an enjoyable few hours, but not a whole lot more. The critical fawning is understandable to me, but I didn't share the experience.
Looking forward to more great work by The Fullbright Company, though. They impressed me heavily with their strong statement on PAX and Penny Arcade.
Also, another great piece by Ian Bogost on the Facebook Platform, touching on unfortunate trends of software development as a whole and Silicon Valley in particular.
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