Nonetheless for Gaynor, the subject is worth pondering. He and his team’s past work includes BioShock 2 — no one questioned whether or not that was a game. So being a central focus in the “Game or Not?” dialog has been eye-opening for Fullbright. Gaynor explains how there’s a lot of baggage from the term “game” that has accumulated from even before the digital era. These concepts have endured over time and adapted to video games. “Since [the ‘what is a game?’ discussion] is something that is now part of the identity of Gone Home in some ways,” he says.
"What is important is if the experience is valuable to you or not."
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For Gone Home's designer, 'what is a game?' is a question worth exploring
Steve Gaynor knew his debut title, Gone Home, wouldn’t appeal to everyone. What he didn't know was how it would become so ingrained in the discussion of what a video game actually is.
Steve Gaynor of The Fullbright Company knew his studio's debut title, Gone Home, wouldn’t be a video game that appealed to everyone. What he didn't know was how Gone Home would become so ingrained in the discussion of what a video game actually is. "We went in knowing we were making a niche game that was going to work for some people, and that some people wouldn't be into it,” says Gaynor. “It's a game, but it's very focused. It does a small number of things. If you're not into exploring this house and finding things out, it's not the game for you!" “[But] the degree to which it's become more of a focal point of 'oh, this isn't a game' wasn't something we pictured happening." If you’re reading this, you probably already know the premise of Gone Home, but just in case: It's the mid-90s, and you play the game as a young woman who has returned to the U.S. from a trip abroad. Her parents and younger sister have moved in to a sprawling old house in the Pacific Northwest, but no one’s home upon your return. It’s through keen level design and interactive, environmental storytelling that you unravel the story. There are no points to earn, no headshots to pull off, no obvious opponents to "beat." So, some say it doesn't fall within the definition of a "game." But this week it did win best debut game at the BAFTAs, so someone thinks it's a game...but…does it even matter if anyone thinks it's a "game"? And why bother giving a GDC talk called “Why is Gone Home a game?" “At the end of the day, I don't think it's really the binary yes or no that's important,” Gaynor admits. “What is important is if the experience is valuable to you or not. Do you get something out of it? It doesn't really matter what label is applied to it."