Gone Home, and the power of affective nostalgia

  • Kevin Veale
  • International Journal of Heritage Studies, November 2016, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/13527258.2016.1262447

How "Gone Home" uses techniques from museum/heritage studies in a videogame context.

What is it about?

"Gone Home" is a videogame that tells a story where a young woman has to piece together what happened over a year she missed from her family's lives, and solving that mystery involves learning the story of two young queer women in the 1990s. When people tell stories through videogames, the experience feels different to other kinds of storytelling because of how videogames work: the person playing the game is the one making choices, and that impacts how they feel about the characters and events within the world of the game. The article explores how and why the creators of the game have set up the space of the game and the choices that are available in order to shape the experience people have of the story it tells.

Why is it important?

"Gone Home" uses storytelling with a political purpose: it firmly anchors its setting in the 1990s, and uses the kinds of storytelling that makes videogames distinctive in order to help the player spend time in the shoes of young queer women in a decade even less friendly to marginalised groups to today. As a result, it hopes that people playing the game make connections to how badly today's society still treats LGBTQIA+ people, and raises questions of what they would do if they saw someone going through what the characters in the game are going through. What makes this particularly interesting is that "Gone Home" as a game applies the same logic, philosophy and techniques as Cultural and Heritage Studies apply to museum installations and exhibitions, using the past as a tool to think about society in the present. However, rather than doing so in a specific museum where the audience are the people who can go to that singular geographic location for potentially a limited time, "Gone Home" has done so in the context of commercially successful entertainment software designed to be played at home, and created on a small budget. As such, the game potentially represents some opportunities for Museum and Heritage Studies to adapt the work that they're already doing into a digital context, perhaps reaching a much broader audience in the process.

Perspectives

Dr Kevin Veale
Massey University

The ways that different forms of storytelling media shape the stories we tell through them fascinate me. This article was a great opportunity to explore how the toolset provided by videogame storytelling has been used to shape the experience of its story in purposeful ways, and I've found learning about the ways that similar techniques are already being applied in Museum and Heritage Studies very interesting. The possibility that "Gone Home" might represent tools to make the work of Cultural and Heritage Studies either easier or more easily distributed to their audience is something I find exciting, and I'm curious to see what happens next.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2016.1262447

The following have contributed to this page: Dr Kevin Veale