Essay: The Narrative Environment of Gone Home

By: Frédéric Adam, John Daniel Arauz, Andres Estrada, Sam Faria, Daniela Gomez, Isabella Lipari

Discussion Questions:

  • Give an example of a game where the environment / atmosphere complements the story / gameplay.

An example one could use could be the indie horror game, Ib. In Ib, players control a child who finds himself stuck alone in an art museum where some of the artwork comes alive after closing hours and tries to kill trespassers. Players need to solve puzzles by interacting with the artwork in order to escape the museum.  However, because not all of the artwork is alive and trying to kill you, there is a tension that is created when players approach new pieces, the sort of tension which is quintessential to the horror game genre.

Ex: https://youtu.be/B22ayHlyi68?t=5m57s & https://youtu.be/B22ayHlyi68?t=6m42s

  • In Gone Home, how does the atmosphere created by the game affect the gameplay?

Because of the horror-esque atmosphere the game creates, players go through the game expecting something to jump out at them, or expect something sinister to have occurred. With this sense of anticipation, players might be more inclined to either take their time with the game in order to not get caught off guard by potential jump scares, or they might be tempted to rush through the game to try to get past the sense of uneasiness the game puts them through. In the case where players take their time, they are more likely to spot things they otherwise wouldn’t have, find clues about what is really going on in the story. On the other hand, players who rush through the game will be forced to backtrack if they skip important clues. The atmosphere pushes the players to react, to delve into the story and to take action.

  • What tropes are found in Gone Home and how do they affect the narrative of the game?
  1. The Red Herring Twist

A Red Herring Twist refers to a narrative trope which is designed to divert the attention of the player from the primary plot; it misleads and fosters false conclusions within the player. In Gone Home there are several examples of red herrings; however, the most prominent is Oscar Masan’s ghost. Masan’s ghost introduces a supernatural element whose intent is to divert the player into believing that there is a connection between your missing family members and the supernatural world. The environmental and atmospheric facets further attempt to encourage this sentiment. Through exploration, the player will come across certain objects which suggest that Sam and Lonnie have attempted, on several occasions, to contact Masan or, in the least, have a glimpse of him. This persuades the player to create a link between particular scenarios (such as the ‘bloody’ bathtub scenario) and the possibility of a ghostly haunting or murder. However, once Journal #21, titled “Life Moves On”, is located, the player becomes aware that Sam and Lonnie succeeded in exorcising Masan’s ghost and that the supernatural elements did not have a legitimate relevance to the plot; that is, that it was utilized to divert the player from determining the conclusion of the game before they could reached it.

  1. “Nothing is Scarier” trope

The “Nothing is Scarier” trope refers to fear which is induced through the lack thereof of in-game events or information coupled with horror-esque atmospheric and environmental themes; it encourages the player to use their imagination, and, thus, their individual fears, in order to fill in the narrative blanks. The entirety of Gone Home focuses on this particular trope in order to incite suspense, and mild fear, within the player despite the fact that the overall narrative is not sinister. In terms of environment, the game is set in an empty mansion-esque housewhich contains pagan symbols, such as a pentagram and ouija board, and secret passagewaysduring a dark and stormy evening; the sound of rain and thunder, as well as the creaking of the floorboards (which, on occasion, seemed to creak despite your lack of movement), creates an atmosphere which incites tension and expectations of jump scares, paranormal activity, etc.. A memorable example, of the use of this trope, is when the player enters Sam’s bathroom and encounters the bathtub splattered with a red fluid; in this moment, the player is encouraged to fill in the blanks in order to come to the conclusion that the red fluid is blood, someone has either been hurt or murdered, and that this is the reason why the house is deserted. However, after the initial shock, that theory is dispelled when the player notices and examines the bottle of red hair dye on the floor (which prompts an explanatory journal). Furthermore, some of the letters (i.e. the letter in which Sam apologizes for the mess in the attic) and journals (i.e. the journal titled “In the Attic” which depicts Sam as being depressed over the departure of Lonnie) encourages and leads the player to suppose that Sam committed suicide in the atticthe endgame location of Gone Home (where the narrative becomes fully known).

  • Have you ever felt that the environment mislead you in another video game, either intentionally, the way Gone Home does with its horror theme, or perhaps unintentionally?

If you’ve ever played a Pokémon game, watch this video and try to guess what type of Pokémon each of the members of the Elite Four will use, just based on the environment seen on the bridge leading to their encounter. https://youtu.be/Jj-F-IqGDt8

 

2. Nothing is Scarier.” TV Tropes. 23 Feb. 2017.

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Essay: The Narrative Environment of Gone Home

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