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Fairly significant spoilers for Gone Home, one minor spoiler for the Blood and Wine expansion to the Witcher 3

Butch:

Well, whether this is a game or not, it’s very, very good.

So I explored the whole upstairs, found the secret passage in the bedroom, found the secret holes, found the combo to Sam’s locker, got the key to the basement, went into the basement, found a room with a spare bed or something and stopped right there cuz Mrs. McP came home.

Again with the horror tropes and playing with expectations.

Admit it: When you saw that bathtub with the red splotches you thought something like “Oh God, she tried to kill herself” or something. I did. But no, hair dye, and not only hair dye, a moment where Lonnie told her she was beautiful. Happiness. Joy.

Admit it: You didn’t really want to go into that passage. Those clothing ads freaked you out. But it turns out that there is no mystery. No, just a place where kids played, and a clue. Even the cross, (NOT a crucifix), which is so common in horror movies as something to ward things away, was really just a couple of sticks. (And admit it: you carried it out after the bulb burned out because video games and you might “need” it.)

Admit it: Turning around those winding stairs in the basement, you thought something bad was waiting. But no. Messages of love, and the place where they drew hearts for each other.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuut:

Not really. If you keep going, there IS horror, isn’t there? Not horror in the scary monster/ghost/axe murderer sense, but something else, something, maybe, worse. You get to the next room (Which is the last room I’ve explored and what I’m going to mention are the only things I’ve found in it so no spoilers) and there’s Lonnie shipping out, going away. There’s Terry’s awful father undermining his greatest accomplishment.

There is a tinge of REAL horror there. I mean, we’re all very unlikely to meet nightmare killers with knife gloves who can invade our dreams. That said, the fear of losing a loved one, or the fear of disapproval from someone we care about are fears we’ve all dealt with, and experiences we’ve all had never want to have again. Loss? Disapproval? Shame? Confusion? Those monsters are real.

That room also played with who I think is the “last girl.” Finding Katie’s sex ed assignment, which she, of course, did exactly how the teacher wanted and got a check plus, made me start to think she ISN’T the hero. She DOESN’T have the creativity to beat the real monsters. Maybe Sam’s the last girl, after all.

But don’t spoil.

Feminina:

Yes! It keeps playing with us.

The stained bathtub! –Oh, that’s actually a really sweet moment.

The secret passage! –Oh, it’s just a hideout. The light went out! –Oh, well, nothing weird happened after that so it was probably just what that electrician was warning about.

The dark spooky basement! –Oh, it’s actually just regular basement-spooky, but nothing weird.

And it’s definitely interesting to learn more about Katie, who seems to be the “good kid” to Sam’s “problem kid.” Katie’s the one who went off on an exciting adventure abroad, but is she really the interesting one? We’re uncovering all these hints of what’s going on with her family members, but she’s just…here. Being the good one, again, by trying to work out what everyone else’s problems are.

I wonder if maybe we’re supposed to think that Katie, the good kid, was the one who was holding the family together in some way, and it all went to pieces when she left? Except that most of the ‘problems’ (I don’t really think Sam’s relationship with Lonnie is a problem for her, although it may be confusing) seem to come from things people were hiding or not expressing about themselves: her dad’s wish to write, her mom’s possible affair?…and Sam’s basically just being herself in various ways.

Were they all putting up a good front for Katie, who inspired them all to try to be ‘normal’?

Butch:

You had all the same reactions I did, didn’t you?

“Good” certainly seems to be a contrast to “Interesting.” I mean, where you find that sex ed assignment for Katie is right next to (another) first place ribbon that a) you can’t pick up and b) can’t really read. It’s just “Oh yeah….another ribbon….whatever…..” Plus, you get that plaque that’s similar to Sam’s with the adjectives. Sam’s are all kind of interesting (I forget exactly. Bah.) but Katie’s are all “Kind. Athletic. Thoughtful. Intelligent.” They’re all compliments you’d give to someone you don’t know very well. Like when Jr. was in second grade: they had a thing where you had to go around and write down a nice thing about each person in the class and then said person kept it. I read it, and it was obvious who Jr. knew (cuz they wrote “the best gamer ever!” “Awesome at Fencing!” “Tells the funniest jokes!”) and who he didn’t ever talk to (cuz they wrote “Nice.” “Smart.”)

Even Katie’s “interesting” stuff isn’t. Sam’s sitting there, alone, writing stories about pirates and amazons and sex ed assignments about lovers in war torn Poland, and Katie’s writing about “wearing a beret and eating petit dejeuner” in France (there’s more interesting stuff there) and going through the CHUNNEL (which is really dark and boring, I’ve done it) over and over. It’s like “Oh great….you spend a year being surrounded by thrilling stuff and you gush over a hat and a tunnel….”

Which is another rarity in games. At some level, we play games to do things that are more thrilling than anything we get to do in real life. Run across the tops of trains! Cast spells! Slay monsters! Lead armies! Solve mysteries! Here, we’re far more boring than we are in real life (I hope). When we went to Europe, the highlights weren’t tunnels and hats.

Perhaps she was keeping the family together….but one thing I haven’t found yet (and maybe I won’t) is anything from her parents about how they felt about her. Short of putting trophies out and all that. If anything, Katie wasn’t anywhere near relevant enough to matter. I mean, hell, they didn’t unpack the guest room. Sure, Sam says “Well, you came home quickly” but I’m not sure I buy it. Everyone else is moved in, Katie’s stuff is still all packed.

Were they putting up a front for each other?

Feminina:

Interestingly, I didn’t make much of Katie’s room not being unpacked, because I figured they just assumed she’d want to set up her own stuff how she wanted it (plus, they haven’t even completely unpacked everything in the rest of the house, so there’s still that not-fully-moved-in feeling), but it’s true, they could have at least made up the bed or something, if they were thinking about trying to give her a nice welcoming spot to come home to. Her room being completely unformed suggests they’re really not thinking about her that much at all.

She’s so dull and normal, that it hardly matters whether she’s even here or not?

It’s true, it’s a very interesting change from all the people we usually play in games. (Or gamelike video entertainments, if we want to go there.)

Usually we’re special, interesting, exceptional, important, the lone something-or-other who does stuff. Here we’re…pretty much the least interesting person in the story.

Which emphasizes that the story isn’t ABOUT us, that way the story usually is. It’s ABOUT Drake going off and hunting treasure, or Shepard saving the galaxy, or Geralt slaying monsters. This is about a family, and one member of it in particular, but the one member it’s most about certainly isn’t me. It’s so completely Sam’s story rather than Katie’s. Katie/the player is only the observer.

Which, again, is exactly what we don’t usually find in a game, where everything hinges on something the PC needs to accomplish. Here, the only thing we can accomplish is to understand someone else’s story.

Whether it’s a “for once in your life, Katie, pay attention to what someone else is feeling” kind of thing, or more “as always, Katie is the one who pays attention to everyone else without asserting her own opinions about anything”…perhaps that’s up to the individual player to determine. The uninteresting nature of her generic ‘good kidness’ could cover either reading.

Butch:

You probably thought nothing of it as you are not still unpacked from the last time you moved. Like, what, six years ago?

Whatever this is, though, it’s certainly different.

Except, not as much as we think. I mean, it is similar in narrative layout to any other linear game. Uncharted was going to happen whether you killed those dudes with the pistol or the AK. This might even have a bit MORE flexibility in how you experience the actual narrative. I mean, in Uncharted, if you finished, you saw every cutscene. Couldn’t avoid it. This? You can miss things. You can just plow through and not pick up half the notes. I’m not sure why you WOULD do that, but you could. And if you did, the game would be a different story.

Feminina:

That is…sadly true. We do still have some boxes we haven’t unpacked. Although it’s only been four years, and there’s not a whole ROOM full of them. Therefore, it’s fine.

It’s only going to be less possible to find anywhere to put the stuff in those boxes, now that we have yet another tiny person’s stuff to fit somewhere. We had a whole spare room before! Now, there’s nothing.

Poor O’Jr. has his own room, but the entire closet is packed with stuff that’s not his, because we don’t have anywhere else to put it.

You could certainly miss things in Gone Home. I think I might have missed a few notes…I seem to remember feeling it had hinted to me at the end that I hadn’t found everything, although I don’t recall exactly what form the hint took, so I might just have been projecting my own insecurities. Certainly I found enough to make the story make sense, so I wasn’t worried enough about it to play it again.

Butch:

By the time he’s 22, O’Jr. will have to sleep on the boxes.

And wither, poor Grigio….

 

But oh dude. I have SUCH insecurities. Indeed, I’d be so much more into it by now if I hadn’t spend AGES trying to find the combination to Sam’s locker, which you weren’t supposed to find because you needed the map. I hadn’t even been in the parents’ room. But dammit, I was SURE it was in there somewhere. The number on the cat’s collar? Nope. The radio station? Nope. Maybe it WAS the cat, better try that again….nope.

You know what else I did? I’m sorta ashamed of this. I became convinced that the combination was in the magic eye pictures. I’m terrible at magic eye pictures. I was then, I am now. But dammit…I was like “These are here for a reason.” Note: there is quite a few things in this game that are not there for any reason, but I was convinced these had purpose. So I stared at them forever like a Phish fan on Friday night, before I said fuck it, and hoped like holy hell it WASN’T that.

I still have no idea what was in those.

Feminina:

I stared at those magic eye pictures too!

I was OK at them back in 1995, once I’d spent way too much time working on defocusing my eyes, but I couldn’t get the hang of it this time. Or perhaps, I wasn’t willing to put in the time to get the hang of it. There’s probably something awesome in there, but we’ll never know.

Or, if the game is realistic, there will be something random and completely irrelevant, because that’s how magic eye pictures tended to be. Let’s go with realism in this case.

Besides, Katie TOTALLY would have been the type who couldn’t see magic eye pictures. Way too focused on regular, normal things.

Butch:

Yeah, we’ll go with that. Realism.

I’m just very glad Mrs. McP didn’t come home right then.

“Video games are fun, huh?”

Was probably a dolphin. Which is certainly a troll move, because they KNEW people would stare.

Feminina:

Ha!

“Yeah…I see you’re having…fun…with that…game…” as you sit with your nose an inch from the TV screen, trying to ‘soft focus’ on some blurry colorful lines.

Probably was a dolphin. Or a kitten. Let’s just go with that.

Speaking of…absolutely nothing, except other games and things we’ve talked about before, I played some Witcher expansion the other night, and guess what there is?

A party! And guess what I wore to get dressed up for it?

The elegant Nilfgaardian suit I stole from the emperor back in the beginning of the main game!

Some may mock me for my hoarding of loot, but you never know when something will come in handy.

This is exactly why O’Jr.’s bedroom is stuffed with boxes we haven’t unpacked since we moved in. My elegant Nilfgaardian clothes are in one of those boxes, and SOMEDAY I WILL WEAR THEM AGAIN.

Butch:

Ok! A party! One factor down! Now bang a hot sorceress and I’m in!

I know you’re joking about having elegant Niilfgardian clothes in your closet, because no WAY you’d keep those packed away. You’d wear those 24/7.

I’m convinced those things never had anything in them at all. One dude, who didn’t want to admit he saw nothing, just said “hey, a dolphin,” and millions of people just ran with that.

So we’re cool. It’s what everyone does. Dolphin.

Feminina:

You’re right–I would wear them 24/7. In reality I just have a Skellige outfit, and that’s way too furry for summer.

As for magic eyes, maybe people saw things, but not because of the picture, just because of all the booze.

Which we were all constantly guzzling back in 1995, much as we do today.

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