Tag Archives: games

So I actually didn’t like Gone Home

This post contains unmarked spoilers for the computer game Gone Home. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s 1995 and you play as Katie, a young woman who is coming home to the States after a year spent travelling around Europe. While you were gone, your family moved into a mansion your father inherited. You arrive home in the middle of the night to an empty house, and gameplay consists of wandering around and going through your family’s stuff as revenge for them not being there. Okay, the revenge part was just in my head.

I finally got around to playing Gone Home today. I’d really been looking forward to it because not only had I heard nothing but good things about it, but I knew that the game mostly revolved around your sister Sam’s coming out story. And, you know, I’m queer, and I want to see more people like me in games that aren’t specifically aimed at a queer audience. I think I got my hopes up too much because Gone Home actually made me feel a little sick.

Pretty much, what it comes down to is, Gone Home really, really wanted me to think that Sam had killed herself and that I was going to find her body. It’s so “haha, got you!” about the whole thing, too. After finding vague notes about Sam not needing her room anymore, you walk into a bathroom where the tub is splattered with what appears to be blood. When you walk closer, you discover that it’s hair dye. (For the record, as someone who dyes her hair bright colours regularly, I have never achieved splatter as shown.) The entire ending sequence is set up to suggest that you’re going to find Sam’s body in the attic, where you get more and more journal entries about how she can’t go on without her now ex-girlfriend, until you get to the very last note, which is “actually I didn’t kill myself, I just ran away with my girlfriend!”

Sam’s story didn’t need that.

What it really comes down to is the game’s creators not trusting their story, their audience, or their atmosphere, and the game feels hollow as a result. Instead of trusting the player to appreciate the subtleties of Sam’s self-discovery and her love of her girlfriend, they assumed no one would care unless Sam might be dead. Instead of trusting the environment of an empty mansion in the middle of the night during a storm to unsettle the player, they threw in fake blood. It’s sad, because they were so close.

And it hurt me to play it because I’m sick of having to be grateful when queer characters aren’t dead by the end of the story, and this game just rubbed that in. This wasn’t a tactful approach to the suicide rate of queer people. It was present for the shock value, and as a queer person who has attempted suicide multiple times, I’m really not okay with that.

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Oh, and by the way, it makes sense to wonder where Sam is, but your parents have gone on a scheduled vacation. Why wouldn’t they leave a note letting you know where they are?


…and the Green Card goes to me

I used to love playing Apples to Apples. It seemed like the best party game ever, not least because of the judge’s ability to choose any red card he or she happened to like. Any game where a mafia can be described as more mystical than anything else is a good game. Playing with literal-minded people could get a bit irritating, and as I got older more of my fellow players would put down the most boring and obvious nouns for the adjective given. Some rounds that I judged were so frustrating that I threw out all the cards and demanded new ones. I soon discovered that I was able to get away with this about once a game, if I didn’t mind the grumbles of my companions. So for a while I thought that my boredom during my rounds to judge was over.

Now, part of the skill of Apples to Apples is being able to pick up on the sorts of cards your fellow players respond to, and providing them with said cards when they are judging. My love of randomness and creativity in the game had been expressed, but I was not being given the real thing. Instead, I would receive entire stacks of cards saying “brains,” “aliens,” Darth Vader,” “James Bond,” and so on. This was even more boring than the completely literal stacks of previous games. After a few rounds of receiving what felt like the same set of geek buzzword cards again and again, I did my old trick of throwing out the hand and demanding a new one. My companions were more upset than usual. I know I at least threatened to take the adjective card for myself if they couldn’t do better, but I don’t know if I actually did or if the game just ended. It’s not really important. My real problem was that the strategy of the game had gotten so formulaic, it had lost what had appealed to me in the first place. My method of picking cards had never been, “oh, sharks are cool, sharks automatically win.” It had been more along the lines of “oh, the thought of a psychedelic shark makes me giggle, sharks win.” So people who I know who play Apples to Apples, if you pick whichever card amuses you, I will be a lot happier playing Apples to Apples with you. And I think it’s a good idea for the people who I don’t know who play Apples to Apples, too.

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