***Spoilers ahead. If you want to play the game in its entirety I strongly advise you to not read this.
A picture is worth a thousand words, this is what I think of when thinking about spatial narrative. As we know, narrative can be shown through multiple ways, but personally, I find the environment my character is situated in creates this mental and emotional attachment to the game. When observing an environment, I am thinking how does this relate to my character, what is the atmosphere trying to convey to me, how am I suppose to feel when playing the game. This is what Polansky’s poem about how impactful a narrative architecture has on the player (par. 27-29).
When playing Gone Home (2013), I felt like the environment was misleading, your character starts outside at night alone looking at this home. You go to the front door and find a note from your sister which looks suspicious. For about half of the gameplay, the spatial narrative does not line up with the genre of the game; it feels like horror game because of the dark atmosphere, the strong winds and reoccurring thunder, the little creeks that you hear around the house, how the house looks disorganized and filthy, and especially the notes which seem like your sister might have murdered someone. I felt uneasy and scared because I did not know what might come up at every corner, but there are never frightening elements, only misplaced objects, dark rooms, and notes left all around the house by your sister. When passing the halfway point, you realize that the game it is about your sister revealing that she is a lesbian and in love with one of her friends. Instantly, I felt at ease, not scared anymore, and interested to know the story of your sister. The house seemed like a labyrinth having clues and tools at all corners and I was the detective uncovering and putting together the story together.
This game is a good example of “you should not judge a book by its cover”. The problem caused by this misleading atmosphere is that the gamers who thought this game was a horror game felt disappointed by what they discovered; they felt like the experience was a rip-off because they did not get what they wanted. As for my experience, I did not know what to expect from the game, and I was pleasantly surprised at how the game turned out, and I am certain that I am not the only person who felt this way.
When reflecting on this game and Jenkins’ article, this game proved Jenkins’ point wrong about the environment. Jenkins explains that games should embody a genre to the fullest, in which this would create the spatial narrative of the game and make the gamer feel much more immersive into the story (122). He also mentions that “every texture [the designer] use, every sound [the orchestra] play, every turn in the road should reinforce the concept [of the game], while contradictory element may shatter the sense of immersion into this narrative universe” (qtd. in Jenkins 123). Gone Home does not follow this statement. When playing half of the game, I felt immerse into this horror setting; I was scared and petrified of what I could end up seeing. When I realized it was about Sam’s discovery of her sexual orientation, the environment was not frightening anymore, however, I was still immersed (MUCH MORE immersed because I am a scaredy-cat) because the story was captivating and different from all video games. However, the people that did not like Gone Home, proved Jenkins point right because when they reached the climax of the game, they were disappointed and were not immerse in the game anymore.
When reflecting what the narrative Gone Home falls onto, it clearly follows the embedded narrative category. The embedded narrative is characterized as the player making hypothesize based on what he/she observes and experience through the environment of the game, while the game restricts slightly the player so he/she can move around and find the pieces to solve the puzzle of the story (Jenkins 126). In Gone Home, you can move about the house however you like, but you are restricted to stay in the house, and the game makes it obvious that you should go around the house in some specific way so the notes can follow in a linear and understanding fashion, for the player to understand what is happening and not putting the puzzles altogether.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience of the game and I found both readings brought attention to how we should understand not just the oral story of the game but also the physical space of the game which can develop a story of its own.
Gone Home. The Fullbright Company. 2013. Video Game
Jenkins, Henry. “Game Design as Narrative Architecture.” First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004. 118-30.
Polansky, Lana. “The Poetry of Created Space.” Bit Creature. 5 October 2012. https://web.archive.org/web/20150502082451/http://www.bitcreature.com/criticism/the-poetry-of-created-space/\