There’s no single definition that can truly encapsulate gaming; it’s one form of interactive media that demands personal interpretation, and — at least on some level — human interaction, which undoubtedly sets it apart from the mass. It’s simply escapism at its finest. Over the years, our industry has seen its share of imaginative releases, such as 1999’s Pokemon Snap; a first-person rail shooter involving, you guessed it, Pokemon. If you’re too young to have played Snap, let me first calm your nerves by clarifying that you don’t shoot the Pokemon with a rifle of any sort. In fact, Pokemon Snap is likely the least violent Pokemon game of them all. There are no battles, no snotty trainers to humiliate and rob, no cocky professor that requires employing children to do his bidding; no barging in to random homes, foiling the plans of clearly incompetent criminals, or defeating a mafia-like organization that has obviously never heard of a gun.
Pokemon Snap didn’t need violence to be a great game, or even any traditional gameplay. All it needed to do was hand you a camera, some fluffy motivation from Oak himself, and a trip down Pokemon lane. With that alone it succeeded — not only at being fun and engrossing without any game standard complexities, but also at being the most kid-friendly peeping tom simulator of all time. If I had a dollar for every bush I hid behind with a camera, I probably would have had enough to actually buy Pokemon Snap, and not have to play my neighbors copy (that I made sure “mysteriously disappeared” before moving away).
While most games will continue to explore, shoot, race and crash across modern platforms, once in a blue moon we’re given the opportunity to play something that transcends the gaming experience as we know it. Much like a relaxing saunter down a path of emotional realization, sometimes games can reach the emotional depth normally reserved for tearful couch confessions during mid-life crisis counseling. Gone Home, a first-person interactive story is unlike most popular titles today. Sure, its focus is on exploration of both its environment and its story, but its approach to exploration and that story is what makes it stand out. Steve Gaynor, the handsome co-founder of The Fullbright Company, answered a few of our questions about the emotional journey that he created.
[Hardcore Gamer] As a developer of a game considered a monumental achievement in interactive media, how would you define a video game?
[Steve Gaynor] Heh, well first, thank you for that outrageous compliment! I guess personally I don’t know exactly how I would define a video game in exact words. It is kind of a “you know it when you see it” thing. But a piece of entertainment that is based on interactivity on a screen is a video game.
What do you think the future holds for this form of entertainment?
I hope that games continue to become more, different things. We’re seeing the indie development space continue to expand and gain more relevance, as well as AAA games continuing to try new things. And of course mobile games are their own sphere as well. I think that games will continue to expand their subject matter along with the ways we play them. I am excited whenever a game does something new and different.
Was Gone Home always such a focused experience, or was there a process before reaching this point?
I would say that yes it was always as focused as it turned out, in the sense that it was always only about exploring a house to discover the story there. As a small, self-funded team, we always had to keep in mind the constraints we were working under. The simplicity and focus of the game were basically required so that we could finish the game and release it without running out of money for development!
Did you expect the emotional journey to impact so many people as it did?
Not quite. I thought and hoped that it would connect with people. But what has surprised me is the sheer breadth of people who have felt a deep connection to the game. Everyone from middle-aged straight guys to teen queer girls have written to us to say how much Gone Home has embodied their own experience in different aspects. And that is just amazing to see.