on triumph & expectation

Many, many words have been written about the love story in Gone Home. I know a lot of people found it unrealistic and dippy, particularly the ending–and I can’t argue with that; I found myself kind of concerned about what on earth two penniless teenagers who’d known each other for less than a year were going to do with the rest of their lives. A lot of reviewers also seemed to think the story was flat or cliched, not really treading any new ground. That may also be so. But I don’t have a lot of experience with queer media (at least, not enough to make any kind of blanket statements), and as I was playing, personally, what I felt was mostly surprise, and then a little bit of delight, at every turn of the game. I was afraid, at first, that Lonnie might be cruel to Sam, or be pretending to be her friend as a kind of prank; or, later, that we might have an unrequited love story on our hands–or that Lonnie was ultimately going to be a damaging influence on Sam, through her behavior (“my friend encourages me to cut school and smoke” usually isn’t a good sign) or her curiosity about the ghosts in Sam’s house. And at every turn, as soon as I’d thought of something to be afraid of, the game slipped right past my fear, often without acknowledging it at all. Lonnie was clearly as engaged with Sam as Sam was with her. They fell in love and started dating simply and uncomplicatedly. No one got possessed by evil ghosts. And as the credits rolled, despite the flagrant lack of realism, I realized that I was relieved and–triumphant, even. That it was so good. That it had always been so good. That there had been nothing to worry about after all, not ever.

We did talk about the use of horror tropes in Gone Home, and how the game developers knowingly played with, and then averted them, when the game turned out not to be horror after all. I wonder if, ultimately, that wasn’t just one piece of the same great ploy. I expected the game to be horror, at least at first. I expected life to bat around the cute outcast kid more. I expected, or feared, that the crushing weight of reality would descend upon the queer characters’ heads, and that their story would become something sad and difficult and tragic. It never happened, not quite, not the way I thought it would.

They had a stupid, reckless, unrealistic happy ending, the same way any pair of impulsive straight teenagers might have. (And had they been straight I don’t think we would have questioned them driving into the sunset quite so much.) I think that’s what I’m getting at here.


1 thought on “on triumph & expectation

  1. I agree that Gone Home thwarted my expectations with Sam’s relationship and that it was a very good thing. It’s impossible to compare a queer couple in the media to a straight couple, though; queer couples are almost always presented as tragic and inevitably fraught with drama (particularly teen love, which comes with the added weight of family bigotry). So, when Sam ran away, quite happily, with Lonnie, my reaction wasn’t “how unrealistic,” as it might have been for a straight couple, harkening back to countless cliches; it was, “FINALLY.” Gone Home’s ending wasn’t a traditional happy ending, either; the parents might well be on the road to a divorce, Sam is reckless and probably broke– the heart of the matter, though, for me, is that none of these problems are a result of Sam being queer. Seriously. My needs are just that simple. FINALLY.

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