No, You Can't Go Back - The_DASHing_RockMan Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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No, You Can't Go Back

                                                                                                                                         

"Back to childhood revelry, back to days carefree of gods and destiny, back to forests of green and seas of blue, back to when I met you..."

 

 

 

I am not reviewing "Gone Home" because I am a terrible person. I know I am a terrible person, for when I saw the picture of the development team, with its dreadlocked twenty-something white male fellow and his fellow hipster-elite buddies, each with a carefully packaged persona like the characters out of  Zooey Deschanel movie, I decided not to play the game.


No.


I decided to not play their little meta-game.


Videogames, it is argued by some, ostensibly those who developed "Gone Home", are not about enjoyment anymore. They are no longer about fun. They are about emotions. About feeling.


"So videogames have evolved. They are a legitimate art form now! You monster, what is wrong with feeling?!"


No, strange person whose voice only I can hear.  Even should games truly be a new art form, what do the hipster-elite know about art? Nothing. They do not know about art, they only know about feeling. Art can evoke feeling, but art is not merely feeling. And what feelings can these hipster-elite twenty-somethings evoke?


Ah, of course. "Nostalgia."


Every review and preview of "Gone Home" remarks upon the evocation of nostalgia that is the purpose and "strength" of the game. "The game isn't about blowing up hell-beasts or saving the princess! (We would never be so gauche or sexist).This game, this art, is about feeling, about being," proclaim the game-makers and their media and gamer allies, who more often than not are of the same demographic of the game developers and the characters of the game (go figure....).


Yet.....what, then, is the purpose of the game?


Those low-brow, those jejune, those annoyingly stupidly fun games, with their slaying of the hell-beasts and rescuing of the princess, they have a goal, and a narrative (of course, not as gripping as games about awkward teenage girls listening to whiny, depressing music as they get laid and commiserate about their parents and seek out "like, who AM I?" , all in a comfortable middle-to-middle-upper-class life which allows for such bourgeois indulgences, because apparently raging against the machine doesn't involve ever being more than just another gear in it. Oooh, maybe she'll have a beer and write in her journal about phony mainstream society!), yet......if "Gone Home" merely serves to be a mirror to a particular, narrow sub-culture in a particular narrow range of socio-economic status from a particular narrow "era" of American history, what does the game, and the audience playing the game, and the developers of the game, accomplish?


In other games, I can have fun.


In "Gone Home", I can view a product which itself never becomes more than the product of the material culture it seeks to critique, view the memories of the developers and the target audience of the game which never imparts meaning beyond the evocation of nostalgia, a cheap thrill like downing a pack of Pixies Styx (oh, but surely the balding rockers weeping during "Lady" are utterly disparate from those world-wounded souls who feel what Frank Black screams, even if they have to turn the volume down in the Volvo because the gated community has a sound ordinance).

 

The works of Balzac, Proust, Henry James, et al, focused upon the gentry and nobility of a particular era (each respective to the era the particular writer chose). However the difference (to understate greatly) between "Gone Home" and the works of Proust, James, et al, is that there is no "nobility" for the socio-economic / socio-cultural case study that is "Gone Home." There is no moral imperative in understanding Grunge music, or the Riot Grrl scene, of cheap pizza and late nights taping the X-Files, of the minutiae of suburban life in America in the 1990s. There is no purpose to either the nostalgia evoked by the sundry list of privileged paraphernalia the audience seeks out or to the stories of the Greenbriar family and their struggles and defeats.


It is the mistake literature made when it heralded the works of Updike and Sinclair Lewis, but the latter can be afforded the liberty of satire: "Gone Home" has no such liberty.  If it is to be lauded, let it be for being a good simulation of the anxieties and petty rituals of the liberal elite in a particular period of America;  like Updike, "Gone Home" creates a world where one only has to inquire, "So what" (or, "Why am I not having fun?"), so as to destroy the universe within the work entirely.

 

So it is no surprise that "Gone Home", and those who espouse the design philosophy of it and similar games, do not like games that are fun.


Circle jerks are fun, I suppose, but not for those outside-looking in, and they certainly in their sage profundity seek to be all-inclusive, for certainly those are the only games that are acceptable.


Or, at least, the only ones having any meaning.


You feel me?

 

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