Homeplay: Gone Home and game criticism

gone-home1) Play Gone Home

2) Then read these short review/essays about it:
Not gonna happen
Gone home and mansion genre
Perpetual Adolescence
The First Cabinet in Gone Home: A Close Reading

3) Write a short piece of criticism (not a review) about one aspect or detail of a game you played (not Gone Home) that struck you or made you think.
It can be from a narrative, artistic, philosophical, or design perspective depending on your background or interests.

Play 4 more twine games by your classmates

Incorporate some of the feedback in your twine game, especially if it’s a small detail or if many people agree.

If you are using a default sugarcane style please change it, at least a little bit.
Google sugarcane+twine+css for more info


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  1. Ralph

    Even with the alarming prevalence of slavery around the world today, it’s difficult for many of us to conceptualize slavery as anything but a solved issue in ethics. We’re abhorred by the very idea of justifying slavery and are unable to enter the historical perspective of the so called civilized Western cultures who openly endorsed slavery as a cultural norm only a few generations ago. I was struck by how a game, Europa Universalis 3, was able to teach me this historical perspective through the game’s mechanics.

    The game allows the player to control any country over the time period that precedes and spans the Colonial Era. If the chosen country is a historical colonial power, the first century or so allows the player to become accustomed to interacting with neighboring countries, understanding military structures of the era, as well as the abstracted mechanics of trade and economics. So when the technology for trans-Atlantic travel comes around, the player, through her investment in the country’s power and understanding of the mechanics, sees the economic benefits of colonialization.

    Though the game obviously simplifies complex socio-political situations, like un-colonized land being represented as a potential settlement like any other with negative modifiers, it does provide some verisimilitude of how colonial powers perceived these lands in an abstracted, simplistic way as well. Through just the mechanics, the player can understand the historical significance of the Canary Islands and West Indies, and even find themselves trading in slaves to get ahead in the global market without moral deliberation, as slaves are mechanically represented as merely a particularly valuable resource just like wheat or iron. This was striking to me, as many games attempt (rather poorly) to present a moral choice through its mechanics, but EU3 did just the opposite and managed to show me a perspective on history that I never considered through any world history class or book as well as elicit a moment of introspection on metaethical issues in a way that only a game could teach.

  2. Gregory Rose

    Antichamber is a a 3D puzzle platformer that features some pretty mindbending puzzles. The puzzle design is excellent, and very creative. Each puzzle requires you to think in a new way, but what struck me most was not the puzzles. After solving puzzles, you are presented with a sign that illustrates the lesson you had to learn to get through the puzzle. For example, [SPOILER ALERT/ALTHOUGH THIS IS REALLY ONLY THE FIRST PUZZLE SO IDK]: you walk through a hall to reach the first puzzle, where you are presented with two paths, a left path and a right path. No matter which one you take, you end up back at the entrance to the paths. It seems like there’s no way to progress. Eventually, you might give up and turn around, going back through the hallway. You see that the hallway has changed, and takes you on to the next puzzle. The lesson presented is “The choice doesn’t matter if the outcome is the same.”. Like many of the lessons, I think this also applies to life. Often we get so caught up in making a choice, struggling to decide which side we should take, we don’t realize that maybe the correct answer is none of the above. Maybe you don’t have to make the choice at all, or maybe the choice creates an artificial dichotomy that need not exist.

    It is said that one reason people play games is to exercise their mind and solve problems. Solving problems in life is something we all go through, yet everyone’s life seems to different, it seems like we are all facing different problems, when in reality, many of them are in common. We see the world through a series of rules, but we often mess up when our mental model no longer matches the world, in which case we are forced to expand our perspective. Antichamber abstracts out problem solving, and level after level requires you to update those rules over and over again, with all the clear direction of a game, and lack of complicating details in the real world.

  3. mkim2

    There’s a beautiful moment in Kentucky Route Zero where you run through the woods as Ezra. Not only are you going through space in-between the trees, you are also visibly going through time: scene changes as characters in the background go about their dealings in the forest, as if the set has changed right before your eyes. It’s not gradual, but somehow it is. I think I forgot to breathe at one point while playing through this scene because I was in a space where I could physically feel time passing by. But not only time: the scene would change in the space between the trees. This scene really made me aware of space and time in a game; as Ezra, I could run fast and get to the “end” of the scene, or go back and forth in a sense of timelessness. It was as if I was reading a comic book, and the space between each tree was a panel.

    Time as a gameplay element is a tricky business in games: most of the time it’s just “day” or “night,” the hours between each not even close to real world’s. But with this scene is KRZ, there’s both timelessness and passage of time wrapped into one. I just wish it lasted longer.

  4. Matt Kellogg

    Destiny is a cooperative FPS RPG. I’ve had the game from the first day it came out, and I have all of the expansions since then. Their is a plaza type area where there is no combat called the Tower. The Tower hosts all of the NPC characters which sell things like armor, weapons, and buffs. You have to come to the tower to pick up bounties (challenges like killing a certain number of a certain type of enemy), talk with NPC’s to get the next part of a story quests, and a few other things. This becomes a hassle for people playing in a group because whenever one person needs to go to the tower, everyone has to wait for them to handle their business.

    This brings me to the most interesting thing I noticed from Destiny. It has been there since the closed beta of summer 2014. It is the soccer ball. In the tower there is a soccer ball that can be pushed around by the players. It doesn’t match the serious tone of the game. It doesn’t have anything associated with it other than that it is there, at the tower and can be pushed around. The interesting part is the emergent games that result from its existence. I’ve seen people try to play a soccer style game, keep away, get the ball to the roof, and other silly things. Later, a glowing ball that acts like a balloon was added as well. It is interesting to think about why it is there. Did the designers get bored at the tower and add a ball? Was there a focus group for the ball? How much went into putting the ball there?

  5. Joe Jung

    In Gone Home, the exploration aspect and atmosphere and the narration of the story while you continue to control your character strongly remind me of the game Alan Wake. In that game, Alan is also a struggling writer much like Katie’s father as well. However, the most notable point of the game was how it handled the action of combat. While Gone Home tried to imply other “haunted house at night” tropes and you can’t but help to expect the worse, Alan Wake takes this further by allowing this perception to become real through the playable character’s own nightmares.

    During the daytime, you are placed in a seemingly boring, homogeneous town where everyone looks creepy, but normal within the context of each other. The daylight holds a strong part in keeping the setting together as you immediately see it decay once the sun sets and night settles in. During the night, Alan’s problems become physically present shadowy apparitions that can only be defeated using the concept of light in order to weaken them enough to… shoot with bullets which seem like a waste but is understandable being that it was a big studio game meant to make money. It is interesting how these games pushing you to explore the environment and place priority towards the concept of atmosphere through specifically lighting.

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