Why I ‘Spoiled’ Gone Home in My Review

Let’s compare Gone Home to another recent game with character relationships at its core: The Walking Dead. Sam’s relationship with Lonnie is just as central to Gone Home as Lee’s adopted fatherhood for Clementine is to The Walking Dead. And yet, reviews had no issue coming straight out and (rightfully) praising The Walking Dead for having and developing that relationship. There were no concerns of spoilers or hushed tones when talking about Lee’s father-figure role, because that was just the story’s catalyst. The spoiler best left for players to see firsthand in The Walking Dead was how that relationship informed their actions, and how the player’s role in those actions shaped the emotional core of the game.

Likewise, it isn’t a spoiler that Sam is attracted to other women. Like the theme of fatherhood, within the theme of “queerness” there are still a vast spectrum of experiences that Gone Home could have conveyed. Her sexuality simply acts as the framing agent for those experiences.

Just using Sam’s queerness as a starting point opens several story possibilities. Does Lonnie feel the same way? If so, will they stay together? How will Sam’s parents react? How does Sam’s school react? How does this all piece together to explain why Sam isn’t home, and where she might be? Does the fact that Sam is missing have anything to do with why the parents aren’t home? What is going on with the parents, anyway? Who is Oscar? Why is the house called “The Psycho House?”

One more question: Does Sam’s sexuality ruin the reveal of those more relevant questions?

Knowing that Sam is a lesbian doesn’t spoil the discovery of her Captain Allegra stories and how they evolve with her own self-realization. It doesn’t spoil how her own affinity for writing fiction draws a parallel to Terry, who also tried to make sense of childhood experiences through fiction and received discouragement from his own father. It doesn’t spoil how the “ghost” of Oscar that caused Terry to become reclusive and jeopardize his marriage was also the catalyst for Sam’s first true love. It doesn’t spoil a strained and complex family dynamic. It doesn’t spoil Sam and Lonnie’s zine, or Sam’s attempt in vain to make her school aware of the abuse and bullying she received because of who she loved. It doesn’t spoil that Sam and Lonnie felt their only option was to escape from their expected lives if they had any hope of being happy.

However, I’m not writing now just to say why it is okay to “spoil” that aspect of Gone Home, but why I did it. Along with Sam’s sexuality, in the review I also briefly mention my own coming out, and how even 10 year later, I have been too afraid to have those crucial conversations with my own older brother.

Gone Home can be a powerful experience, and for me part of that power was a renewed courage and optimism in how those conversations would pan out. While that courage came a decade late for me, I don’t see any reason to withhold anyone else from having that experience. And how else will they know that Gone Home involves a homosexual plot unless someone says so? Quite simply, I believe that the people who will enjoy Gone Home the most and will benefit the most from playing it deserve to know the game exists, and that it deals with subject matter that relates to them.

If you feel that any of this makes me too close to the game’s material so that I can’t fairly judge it in a review, then please feel free to consult any of the reviews by straight people that make up Gone Home’s 90 percent average on Metacritic.

To me, one purpose of a review is to offer readers a lens to help interpret and better understand a game, not to spoil it. And yet I find myself in that very position, blatantly stating in a review a detail many consider a spoiler. It was a risk to call out Sam’s sexuality in the review, but a calculated one I made in an effort to better serve you, the reader.

In a game about building connections, I thought it was important to share some of how I connected with the game. Hopefully through my experience, I can open the door so that others can connect with Gone Home in their own way. Because really, a review is just the beginning of the discussion, and for Gone Home that discussion begins with Sam. Where it ends, well, I’ll leave that up to you.

Join the Conversation   

* required field

By submitting a comment here you grant GameFront a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate or irrelevant comments will be removed at an admin's discretion.

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.