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The Fullbright Company – Gone Home

Video game. Aug 15, 2013

I need to start just running a tape recorder when Isaac and I are bullshitting about games, because I feel like I already wrote a very detailed review of this but didn’t get any actual text for my troubles. >:|

Anyway, play this. It’s only two or three hours long, and you can probably get it for a fiver if you keep your eye on Steam / Humble sales. And it’s important to the conversation about where games-as-storytelling-vehicles are going and where they haven’t yet successfully gone.

I’m gonna try and condense the things I think came up in talking with various folk about this:

  • The layout of the house defeated my suspension of disbelief. It shouldn’t even be possible to get locked out of an entire wing like that (WTF! I would go OUT OF MY MIND living there), and the chronological/spatial mapping of the trash you’re picking up for clues makes it look like your parents and sister have been living in a nomadic camp that picks up and moves to a different room in the house every month or two. That’s demented.

    The game actually has an option to start with all the doors unlocked, and I’m tempted to say you should ignore the warning and enable it. I actually haven’t tried this, but I think it would make the house feel less empty and bizarre? It might also let the story emerge more naturally and disjointedly—it’s so simple in its outlines anyway that I don’t think spoilers are a concern. Just save the attic for last and you should be fine.

  • Very mixed feelings about the voiceover. On one hand, it feels like a compromise that sabotages the idea of uncovering a story through the environment and encourages laziness in thinking through certain implications. Other hand: the VA is very competent and her voice does add a lot to the atmosphere. And on the third hand, if you look at it the right way it’s not… really cheating? I guess? Because it’s all info Katie eventually has access to, but temporally shifted by an hour or two and spaced out? But I still dunno if I like that. If you don’t mind being experimented on, I’d love to hear from someone who played for the first time with Sam’s diary turned off.

  • Back on the house again: it’s too big. I realize it’s canonically, diegetically too big. But practically speaking, it seems impossible to make it feel like a lived-in environment. Too many empty identical writing desks and sideboards and the like. I get the feeling Fullbright could have built a much more immersive home, but the bigness was working against them.
  • The actual trash Katie spends her time picking up and looking at, though, that stuff is GREAT. Likewise the parsimony of her narrations/reactions to stuff.
  • The primary story is unsubtle in the way a story about teenagers falling in love for the first time kind of has to be, but there are some very satisfying details that help it stay real. It was hella cute and very good.

    The B, C, and D plots are quite subtle and sly. Well, B and C are sly. D is more on the crawly side of subtle, and TBH I didn’t figure out what was happening on my first time through.

    I’m actually not going to say anything more about the secondary plots, because they DO follow through on the idea of trash-only storytelling, and it’s interesting to see for yourself how well it does or doesn’t work.

  • You don’t have to put stuff back where you found it, and I pretty much left the house looking like 300 raccoons got in there. Throwing board games down the stairs, moving all the pens in the house to one room, leaving the water running. WATCH OUT PARENTS, I’m back from Europe and ready to FUCK SHIT UP.

  • It seems worth asking what a post-Gone-Home story game will look like. Did we learn anything illuminating, here? What, specifically? I think we did, but am not sure what yet.
  • Yes, the fact that there is now a (widely discussed!!) video game about coming to terms with your sexuality amidst ’90s Riot Grrl subculture is probably kind of a big deal for the breadth of the form.

Christine Love – Hate Plus

Video game. Aug 24, 2013

Hmm, my memory of how I felt about this game has gotten a bit hazy.

I think the original Analogue holds together a bit better and has a better story-shape. I also think Analogue was already complete without an explanation of the year 0 discontinuity. But there was a lot of good material in here.

I never finished the part with *Hyun-ae where you have to pause to make a cake (I wasn’t in the mood for cake), and I feel OK with that. In large part, this was *Mute’s game and Analogue was *Hyun-ae’s game.

I can’t shake the feeling that the tragic ending on *Mute’s path is the canonical ending. I don’t see another way out for her.

Finally, I remain kind of conflicted about VNs as a form. Love’s games are the only ones I’ve much enjoyed, so far, and even they’re kind of weird and awkward.

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