I finally got around to playing through Gone Home, and I was pretty impressed. There’s a lot to dissect as far as its relationships, environmental storytelling, and the like, but I though I’d take a blog post to talk about its mood. That is, it’s the scariest non-horror game I’ve played, and that gives the narrative extra emotional punch.
Everything about Gone Home seems engineered to fill you with a sense of dread—the lightning and thunder, the constant darkened rooms, the abandoned and unfamiliar house, the hints of a ghost story. Not knowing what to expect, I never knew just how intense this might get. It seemed to be telling a much more personal story about Sam, but I was also ready for it to pull the rug out from me at any moment.
This unnerving slow boil is important. I think Fullbright wanted you to be a little on-edge by the time you reach the finale, when you find some of Sam’s final messages. When she talked about just waiting in the attic upstairs, the quiet in the house became that much more potent, and I wondered if she had done something rash. If it hadn’t built up that sense of unease, if the tone didn’t have an edge of tension, I wouldn’t have felt that sense of concern, which is what leads to the relief when you realize what really happened. I wondered what the tension was meant to accomplish, but it really paid off by subverting my expectations. I’m still processing it on the whole, but that element certainly stood out.