Is Gone Home Scary?

Yes.

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The Ladder of Us

Naughty Dog is terrified of its audience. It is a studio that produces, not just AAA games, but the most idiomatic AAA games of the form, and so exhibits the quintessential traits always bred into the mindset. Shouldering huge risk, AAA studios are petrified of stepping out of line – a single brave decision could cost them millions. That AAA games tend to be the most politically and culturally backwards demonstrates this. They’re safe, they play to the market they’re familiar with, even if it’s an antiquated idea of the market that actually exists or could exist. That Naughty Dog needed to fight to have a girl on the cover, that this was a courageous battle for them to have chosen, does not exonerate them, it implicates them. For such a tiny step, such a sensible thing to be blown out of proportion contextualises the business they do as pitch perfect within the AAA song and dance.

I say this while enjoying many AAA games*. I love Metal Gear Solid, BioShock 2, Zone of the Enders 2, Final Fantasy – for all the faults in each title I’m still madly into them. So when I say this about AAA games in general, I’m not saying it out of spite against them, as a way to tout an outsider indie scene. As a critic, it’s my role to take things and break them apart and look at them, to interpret them for a message, to contextualize them within a plane of existence broader than bytes and code.

It’s very easy to see where The Last of Us came from when considering it as a product within Naughty Dog’s narrative. Their most lucrative and popular franchise, Uncharted, stains TLOU throughout. They’re very proud of this, they wear it on the front cover as a badge of honour. Were it framed as “From the creators of Jak and Daxter“, they might have had delivered something of a mixed message in tonal inheritance. I imagine it would have flown over the heads of their target audience, too, so here we are – The Last of Us, proudly descended from Uncharted. Continue reading

This Week I Read – Gone Home

In the weeks following Gone Home‘s release, I mentioned it had inspired so many worthwhile articles, they would properly warrant a dedicated TWIR. This post is fairly overdue so let’s pretend it’s intentionally been left this long to encourage longevity of discourse.

What follows is a list of the best write-ups, responses and critiques of Gone Home. I’ll endeavour to update the post with further articles of interest as I find them.

Please assume every article contains spoilers. I’ll also be spoiling bits and bobs in my editorializing. Continue reading

You think it’s a game?

The question “But is it a game?” is a mad boring one. It’s often, maybe always, employed solely to disregard a videogame and dismiss it from conversation. Beyond: Two Souls “isn’t really a videogame” so what are you doing even talking about it. You’re just getting in the way of talking about real games, or you’re running the risk of promoting characteristics that are too un-game or whatever. That old blather, you know yourself.

I don’t really get what people benefit from bringing up that argument other than to make the hobby more exclusive and exclusionary, so I zone out of the “But is it a game?” discussion. My instinctual response is “I don’t care”, “maybe”, and “sure whatever”, in that order, since it doesn’t actually matter whether Gone Home is or isn’t a game for the purposes of any productive or insightful conversation about it. Even if it’s not a game, by the standards of some guy out there, everything said about it is still as relevant as it ever was.

That being said, I know some indie devs grow very protective of their games when the medium is held against them, that they vehemently retort “Of course it’s a game!” as a defence, rather than the perhaps more sensible “Bugger off.” So it seems “But is it a game?” carries weight in questioning a game’s legitimacy, if only because it offends treasured assumptions. Possibly heeding back to Darius Kazemi’s point about community back-patting. Possibly any number of reasons. Continue reading