Why I ‘Spoiled’ Gone Home in My Review
Major spoilers below. We highly recommend you play Gone Home and read our review before continuing.
Before the reviews for Gone Home went up, I knew it was going to be interesting seeing who considered what parts of the game a spoiler. Much of the game revolves around mystery and discovery, with every ambient detail of the Greenbriar mansion a potential clue. But there was one detail in particular that has been deemed a spoiler, and I couldn’t disagree more.
Of course, I’m talking about Sam and Lonnie.
Almost a year ago, when I played the Independent Games Festival build of Gone Home, I would have agreed that Sam’s coming out story was a spoiler. Sam’s story is the central plot of the game, and keep in mind, this was a demo that ended when you open Sam’s locker and hear about her first kiss. The story, at that point, culminated in Sam’s sexual awakening, without any access to the basement, kitchen, dining room, greenhouse, or attic that composed more than half of the entire experience. As such, I kept the secret over the months, thinking that it played a much larger role in the game.
After playing the full game, my view on the spoiler status of this particular plot point changed, which was reflected in my review here on Game Front. I was excited to read reviews from other writers and see whether they considered it a spoiler after playing through the whole thing at once, without a first playthrough that ended at the locker.
While I was expecting some to withhold Sam’s coming out, I was surprised that there were not at least a few that acknowledged what I thought to be one of the game’s most prevalent themes. What has been even more troubling, though, is when trying to discuss the game with others in person, and people shy away from anything dealing with Sam for fear of being overheard and ruining someone else’s experience.
The argument has been made that it is best to go into Gone Home without any prior knowledge of the plot at all, and I fully agree with that view. But the very nature of a review makes that a nigh impossible task. Framing the story by saying that the father is a troubled writer or that the mother is contemplating an affair already breaks that trust, and yet, those are details people seem far less squeamish about discussing publicly. So why leave out Sam, the character who is quite literally the voice of Gone Home?
I believe the fact that Sam’s sexuality is considered a spoiler says more about our culture’s views on homosexuality than it does about the actual game. Homosexuality is still largely considered the taboo “other,” even by allies and many within the LGBT community. That is not “other” in an inherently negative sense, but rather the simple expectation that someone is straight until proven gay, and when that proof is given there is a tendency to act surprised. I am guilty of this as well when meeting new people; it is a pervasive part of our culture.
What this means for Gone Home is that even though Sam’s attraction is clear from the very first note mentioning Lonnie, a note most players will find within their first 10 to 20 minutes in the game, it is still treated largely as a surprise. It is seen as an unexpected twist that subverts expectations even though there is no grounding for those expectations in how Sam is presented at any point in the game.