“Gone Home” is a short narrative game where players play as twenty-year old Katie who just arrived at her family’s new home after she studied abroad for a few months. The year is 1995, and Katie’s new home, an old mansion, is deserted and trashed. Players have to wander around finding notes and clues from Katie’s little sister, seventeen-year old Sam, to see what happened. If this game or story sounds interesting, stop reading and purchase the game on steam for $19.99. It takes about two and a half hours to play through the beautiful mansion and the deep story.
Now for the spoilers. The game never really tells us much about the player, Katie, but we learn all about her little sister Sam. Sam is really struggling with her new life in a new home at a new high school. She used to talk to Katie about everything, so when Katie is suddenly gone in this rough transitional period, Sam leaves journals for Katie to find, so she feels like she’s still communicating with her. (The Greenbriar family portrait above shows Katie at the top and Sam on the left)
These journal entries explain that Sam found a new friend, Lonnie, who she felt very comfortable around. This friendship later becomes a lesbian romantic relationship. Because the year is 1995, Sam and Lonnie try to keep their relationship a secret knowing that their peers and elders won’t receive it well. One by one, people in Sam’s life figure it out. Sam’s story ends with her and Lonnie running away together. (Below is a picture of Lonnie and a picture from their relationship.)
I consider Sam’s actions very stupid, brave, and heroic. She has an underlying value of love, and lets it guide her actions. That’s the cause that she’s fighting for. I’m going to critically analyze Sam as a heroine using lesbian/ gay criticism, more specifically lesbian feminism.
Before diving into lesbian feminism and queer theory, we need to look at the value home alone places on females. First off, it’s very intentional that players play as Katie. They writers aimed to create a stronger connection between the players, of either gender, by putting them in a woman’s shoes and the main character Sam. Next we look at Sam. She is the main character because we know the most about her and her experiences. Sam is a rebel, not only for her sexuality in a very conservative age, but even in her basic actions. She is always sneaking off to punk concerts, she has stolen clothes in her locker, she’s even made a hideout out of a hidden room with a pentagram and a picture of the previous owner of the mansion who mysteriously disappeared. She’s strong and independent. Sam receives some of those qualities from Lonnie. Lonnie plays second to Sam in the plot. She’s been toughening up in JROTC for all of high school, she’s the lead singer of a punk band, she can kick ass in street fighter, and is always disregarding the rules. Next we get a few glimpses of Mrs. Greenbriar through letters, sticky notes, and other documents. She seems to be the one financially supporting the family. It’s also implied that although she’s married, is looking for other love interests. All together the females in the story are portrayed as much stronger and independent than the men.
The three guys in the story are pathetic. Sam’s dad is a struggling writer and you find unsold copies of his book all over the house along with rejection letters from multiple editors. Players get hints from the game that Sam’s parents are very religious. We see numerous Bibles in the house and other books about Christian lifestyle. Next is Sam’s old friend Daniel, who she uses simply to borrow Nintendo games to further her relationship with Lonnie. Last is Uncle Oscar who was the mysteriously disappearing “psycho” that got Sam the nickname “Psycho House Girl.”
Clearly there are strong feminist views in this game. However, we are not focusing on all feminism in the game; that would be a small book. We want to look at lesbian feminism. To be concise and blunt, lesbian feminists took feminism to the next level. Not only do they put themselves on equal footing with men, but then claimed independence from them. In some cases, it goes as far to claim that it is the epitome of feminism. This is what I really wanted to get at with Sam and Lonnie. Sam and Lonnie’s lesbian feminist stance threw everyone for a loop. We see this from the beginning when Sam first has a fascination with Lonnie. This journal entry, “Hanging Out With Girls,” puts Sam’s previous friendships in the spotlight and explains whys she’s attracted to a strong feminist like Lonnie.
“It’s weird hanging out with girls. Daniel was around ever since I was little and other girls, I don’t know. But being around Lonnie is like instantly just right. I gave her the Grand psycho house tour and took my revenge on Super Nintendo, and it was like, I don’t know, I finally found someone I feel normal around. I drove her home and she gave me this tape and said, ‘you have got to listen to this’ I haven’t stopped playing it sense.”
Sam never had exposure to other girls as a kid, and now that she’s met a strong independent woman she is impressed and wants that for herself. This is the beginning of Sam’s transformation, not into a lesbian, but into a more independent woman. We learn a few journals later in, “A Very Long Phase,” that Sam has been attracted to women sense she was about seven, because that’s when She-Ra started airing. “A very long phase,”talks about Sam’s parents learning the truth about their relationship.
“I had an interesting talk with mom and dad tonight, one you’re never gonna need to have. I mean you’ve now, right? I’ve known. I’ve known since like She-Ra. Mom and Dad didn’t I guess. They saw the zine and the stuff on the locker, and they were like, ‘is there something we should know about you when Lonnie?’ And so here’s the thing, I was prepared for them to be mad, or disappointed, or start crying, or something. But they were just in denial. ‘You’re too young to know what you want. You and Lonnie are just good friends. You just haven’t met the right boy. It’s a phase.’ But that’s what I didn’t see coming. That they wouldn’t even respect me enough to believe me. Well joke’s on them, cause they’re in for one very long phase.”
Sam and Lonnie have entered a “phase” that Sam’s parents can’t even comprehend. This was the point when Sam started to antagonize her parents. Sam knows her parents struggles, that her mom is probably looking at other love interests and that her father thinks he is a failure. The marital troubles also go directly against the “family religion.” She has a view of supremacy over her parents, because she has stayed true to her values and has a better relationship, in her eyes.
Again it’s hard to say how much of this is heroic considering there are many conflicting opinions thought out the story. But there’s no denying Sam’s independence from men and her attachment to other strong women like Lonnie and Katie. She’s taken a stance and in the end really does fight for it.