Monday, April 6, 2015

A Nongamer Tries Gaming with Gone Home

What is a gamer? To me, my husband is a gamer. Boxy is a gamer. I, however, am not, although both Boxy and my husband are working to change that.

When I was younger I enjoyed Mario Brothers on the NES, Sonic on my Sega GameGear, and a few other games like Tetris. My all-time favorite game growing up was called Dragon Crystal, which I had for my GameGear. I remember refusing to put that game down no matter where we were or what was going on. From what I am told, Dragon Crystal was an RPG (role-playing game). I have no clue; I just know I was addicted and couldn't get enough.

Sadly, that was where my love of video games came to halt. Things like Prodigy message boards (I think I am dating myself now) started to take up my time, and then there was AIM, and eventually leaving the house to hang out at Perkins - a diner - with friends. I just lost interest in gaming. I was almost positive I would never pick up another controller again because what was the point? Right?

Then I met my husband. He played entirely too much EverQuest or, as it became known to many, NeverRest. He also played World Of Warcraft, which actually proved to be a good thing when our first child was born. Since he was still up at 2:30 am for the middle of the night feeding, this meant more time for me to sleep! Thank you, gaming gods!

Of course it came to pass that, by the time our oldest was four, she was begging to play games on the Wii or PlayStation. She learned early on how to make the controller for the Wii work without getting off the couch. What can I say? She was pretty smart at four.

By last year, it became official; I was the only one in my house - in a family of five - who wasn't "into" gaming. Even my toddler plays way too many video games for his own good. He loves to race on Mario Cart with the other kids, although he isn't the speediest. So I realized I was the minority in the house. And then there's Boxy. She is a close friend and a huge gamer and half of what she talks about is video games. She used to try to talk to me about games and I would just blink, wondering what she was saying.

So I decided it was time. Time to join the rest of the family and even time to find something my husband and I could do on Saturday nights after the kids went to bed that didn't require a babysitter.

The first game I started playing was Borderlands because, according to Boxy, it is one of the easiest games to play. Please don't ask her how I am at Borderlands. I apparently am the only person on earth to die this much in Borderlands - and that is with three people helping to save me! (Note from Boxy: EVERYONE dies in Borderlands, but there's no penalty except some money, so you just go back and keep playing!) I will say that I do enjoy Borderlands, even if I need a lot more practice with it. It's fun to play a co-op game with friends. However, it's still a "game" and not really something I normally do. So then Boxy suggested something else.

She's talked a lot about Gone Home. It's not a traditional game, but it took me a while to get the motivation to play. With Borderlands, even if I don't play well, at least I am among friends, but this was a game I was supposed to play on my computer. By myself!

I played for a bit one weekend, and then I put the game aside. At one point, I texted Boxy, "Are there ghosts? Because I can't finish this game if there are." She assured me there were no ghosts, but I honestly wasn't sure I believed her. I was still creeped out and convinced something would jump out at me.

Then, just last weekend, Boxy asked me if I had finished it yet. I hadn't so I sat down that night to play through the rest of it. As the clues starting to come together and everything else started to fall into place, my heart was beating and I was almost scared to take the next step. I don't want to spoil the game for anyone because there is really no fun in that, so I will try to keep the details to a minimum, although I could go on for hours about this game.

I love to feel like I am part of things - books, television shows, and now games. When any form of media can reach into you and pull those pure emotions out... wow. From the start of Gone Home, I knew this was different.

You play the game from the POV of Katie, who arrives home early from a trip abroad. Your family is not home when you arrive. They've moved into a new home, and when you arrive, it is completely empty.

I loved this game for a million reasons. One of which is that it requires no real skill to play. There are no guns to shoot, no enemies to find. It is simply a game where you explore your surroundings while staying alert to fill in the missing pieces. It is also a game about story.

After a couple of hours, I knew the game was coming to an end. I had one place left to go and I almost shut off my computer and walked away. I wasn't ready to be done, and I certainly wasn't ready for what I thought I would find.

Eventually, I sucked it up and finished the game. It was well worth the time, emotion, and energy. I feel like everyone out there should play this game at least once. I don't care if you are a gamer or not. Now that I have learned that there are games like this out there in the world, I may just spend more time gaming and less time on Facebook. After all, social media is overrated, and I can't resist a story line that makes me feel. 

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