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.

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10 Comments on Why I ‘Spoiled’ Gone Home in My Review

M.A.

On August 22, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I enjoyed reading this. I also wholeheartedly agree with you: it’s really not a spoiler. Now, I haven’t read your review, or played the game, but I saw a 2 min clip of the game on another site, and came to the conclusion that Sam ran away because she didn’t feel welcome as she was . (Idk if this is actually right, haven’t looked up the story). Additionally, from what I read here, it’s also not the focal point of the story; rather, it frames just one plotline that constitutes a larger story.

I’d also like to comment on the “surprised when someone turns out to be a homosexual” point made on the first page. Now, to me, there’s a simple reason behind this reaction: the surprise comes from the deviation from the norm. In this case, the norm is that a person is a heterosexual, as the majority of the population is straight (and there would be a problem if that was no longer the case, as population sustainability would become a major issue otherwise). So, regardless of a person’s stance on homosexuality, when they discover a person is homosexual, there’s a large chance of surprise. Now, I also don’t think this reaction is morally “wrong” either. If it’s sunny outside, and when you go out and are surprised that it’s also raining, there’s nothing wrong with that reaction either. Just my 2 cents

M.A.

On August 22, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Apparently, “g a y” is censored here. Well, I’m sure you can understand what I meant.

Heru

On August 23, 2013 at 12:01 am

The bottom line for me is; without your review i never would have given this game a second look. After your outstanding review it’s now in my Steam library waiting to be played.

J

On August 23, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Actually, I feel it is a spoiler, but I don’t think it’s because of homophobia.
I started the game without any prior knowledge. I didn’t even know the game was about a girl, let alone Sam. It wasn’t until the hair dyeing journal entry when she described the experience as “intimate” that I realized it. I didn’t even think of her as “” or “lesbian,” but rather that she simply formed a bond with this girl. I would even say I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered this, because I wasn’t expecting it as all. I feel it made the story much more interesting than if it were a typical boy-girl romance. In fact I even think it’s a large reason for Gone Home’s success, because it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well had she’d been straight. I felt their love was more genuine. Then again I’ve always felt a girl-girl romance as more real. But what do I know? I’m just a straight male.

GazH

On August 26, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Maybe I’m just more accepting of peoples choices, but I didn’t think it was a spoiler, or even that much of a reveal. When the story got more detailed I was like, “Oh, that’s what’s going on.’”, rather than, “OMG! She’s a lesbian!”. It made no difference to me whatsoever, it was just a part of the story. I’d figured out why she’d gone missing long before the attic, it didn’t even cross my mind that she might have run away from home because she didn’t feel she could be herself there, to me it was obvious why she’d gone.

Or maybe I’ve seen too many movies with this sort of story and already know the ending.

Graham

On February 21, 2014 at 9:10 pm

You make an excellent point, and it is well made. You make me consider what you said very carefully. This is why ultimately I disagree.

When I became the game, I went in wholly ignorant. All I really knew was that I would be exploring an environment, but knew little of what that would entail. Upon discovering Sam’s narration, it was first clear she was a teen not understood by her parents, but then once even the first mention of Lonnie, it was evident she was also . I felt the emotional weight of the character, and appreciated the dramatic irony that she did not even understand it herself. It was was spoiled from the get-go, I would have had preconceptions about Sam and her struggle even before she was able to first speak aloud. I appreciated that as I experienced the environmental story, I was required to read between the lines.

Perhaps you are right. I applaud your ability to take a stand and write from a moral standpoint. Perhaps there is something to be said about the flaws of gaming review culture, and certainly there are many. But since Sam’s discovery of her own identity is a sticking point of her narration, I would say that is something best left for the player to discover for themselves.

Dave

On March 21, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Just played this game for the first time without any prior knowledge of the plot. I then came across this website in my pursuit for discussion about the game’s story. And I’ve got to say, I think you’re completely wrong.

I’m glad you were able to relate to the story, and glad it made you question your own lack of “crucial conversations” with your brother. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to live in fear of coming out to your family not knowing how they would react.

All that said, I think you are 100% wrong regarding the spoiler issue. It was absolutely a spoiler to reveal that the game is taking on a journey into the mind of Sam and her eventual realization of love. That’s the ENTIRE point of Gone Home. You’re listening to Sam’s story, and by the end you find the journal from which the narration reveals. This game is almost completely story-driven, and you gave away the story. That’s a spoiler, period. Poor form.

Thom Soap

On April 17, 2014 at 2:58 am

I 100% agree with you. Anyone who doesn’t automatically assume that everyone is straight will figure out that Sam is a lesbian within 15-20 minutes, at the very latest with the Gold Star journal entry, less than 10% of the way inwards. If people have an issue with that, that’s their own bias.

Pump

On April 17, 2014 at 3:25 am

Nice one Thom Soap, the old “if you disagree with me you’re prejudiced” argument. Not a particularly constructive post. M.A., J and Dave’s comments had far more weight behind them than yours.

Andrew

On November 6, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Honestly I just found the game on steam and within 5 seconds of the trailer you hear a female voice say “there’s this girl…” and I was like “so she’s a lesbian right?”
I read reviews of people (probably mostly straight guys) complaining about how short it is and how you don’t need to play it if you just read the plot, so I googled the plot and ended up here.
I completely agree with you; if people don’t realize that this game is about a lesbian after watching the trailer then they need to get with the program. If the trailer started with “There’s this boy, his name is Donnie, he gave me this tape and said ‘you have got to listen to this’.” I don’t think the romance theme would be even remotely a secret.