Gone Home as Melodrama and Gothic Fiction

Group project summary, by leader Counti McCutchen

Gone Home utilizes several of the themes that serve in melodramas and gothic fiction. The staples of melodramas include, well, drama—exciting characters and events that play on the viewer’s emotions. Gone Home delivers on that perfectly. The characters have secrets, even characters other than Sam. The mother is showing concern about Sam and might be getting too close to her coworker, Rick. The father is struggling with his books and potentially alcohol. Both parents are struggling in their marriage. These are familiar tropes in drama that Gone Home makes its own through the lens of the player and how Sam reacts. Historically, melodramas also have interspliced songs, which Gone Home has with cassette tapes that can be played throughout the house. Unlike most melodramas, however, there is not hammy or unrealistic acting. Since no actual actors are present, this would be hard to deliver on anyway. Sam’s diary readings come off as sincere and realistic, hinting more toward drama rather than melodrama. However, they are emotional, especially with their culmination at the end.

Continue reading

Let’s Study Horror Games

I’ve begun a new series of “Let’s Study” videos on horror games, just in time for Halloween. This first episode explores the historical roots of the survival horror genre, which means that it’s a new manifestation of this lesson plan.

Over the summer, I was working on a peer-reviewed video essay that’s quite thematically dense. As a result, this video feels a little bit shaggy to me: loose, casual, searching for a central raison d’être. I constantly had to remind myself that this is for general audiences, and not every audiovisual argument needs to be an airtight assemblage of well-researched examples.

The unqualified good news? This video is a massive improvement on the previous blog post version of this lesson plan. The future videos in this series will be a mix of original material and “enhanced remakes” of previous lesson plans.

Transcript below the fold, as usual.

Continue reading

A Practical Guide to Gone Home


Ian here—

Two weeks ago, I taught Gone Home (The Fullbright Company, 2013) for my “Frames, Claims and Videogames” course. I hadn’t played the game in quite some time, so, in the run-up to the course, I re-played it, searching through the house exhaustively, reminding myself of where every last note and prop was, re-acquainting myself with the ins and outs of everyone’s story. Taking some notes, it occurred to me that it would be nice if there was a guide to it online. Not just a guide to picking up all of the items that give you achievements, or something like that—there are plenty of those online, already. Rather, a guide to the stories Gone Home tells, and where exactly you can find the environmental elements that move those stories forward, and flesh it out.

Well, I guess it falls to me to create what I’m looking for. Again.

My guide to Liz Ryerson’s Problem Attic (2013) was just a walkthrough. This is a bit more, as I have specifically designed it to aid in things like class prep and analysis. It isn’t, by itself, analysis, but tends closer to that direction than the Problem Attic one does. (I’d place it roughly in the realm of my Virginia videos.) Enjoy!

Continue reading

Lesson Plan: The Visual Language of Survival Horror


Ian here—

What follows is a two-part post, combining lesson plans from two separate days of my course “Comparative Media Poetics: Cinema and Videogames.” The learning objectives for the course centered around three main analytical questions, which animated the course and which students were expected to respond to in their written assignments. When looking at a given text, the course asked: 1) How is this particular film or particular game put together? 2) What effects and functions are engendered by its specific construction? 3) How has the historical development of the medium shaped this construction?

All three of these questions come together in a particularly potent way during this week, where we took a close look at game developers who developed a visual style out of technological necessity, but then paired that style with a genre that worked well with its specific effects. On the agenda: 1990s-era survival horror games.

Continue reading