The thing I found most frustrating about Galatea was the fact that I was unable to control my tone on a sentence by sentence basis. Although I’m sure there were many stats I did not know how to keep track of impacting the extent to which I sounded unimpressed or patronizing, I felt my conversational intentions undermined by “my own” words practically any time I posed a question. The thing I found must frustrating about Gone Home was the fact that I was looking through Katie’s eyes, but I couldn’t really tell who she was. Her blankness, which we talked about in class, did sometimes make me feel as though I was finding a Walt Whitman book under my own parents’ bed, having those same excited followed by disappointed feelings I’d probably get in real life were I to look through someone I know’s stuff and find nothing really unexpected (which, obviously, I would never do). But for the most part, I felt like something was missing: what did Katie think about most of the stuff she was picking up? At least in Galatea, I could test to see if my character thought something about certain topics, or wanted to say anything about others. In Gone Home, I waited for her to react to objects, and when she did in a way that was (often, not always) predictable, I felt like I was not being given enough of a person to hold on to.
Both games involved first-person perspectives which players are meant to inhabit — we’re sort of in control, but we’re also pushed along a path (even if it’s one of many possible ones). I’m not sure why, but it seems to me that the type of agency I felt I had in Galatea – choice of topic, the opportunity to imagine the way the room looked, maybe even the fact that I was typing – was somehow more gratifying than the powers I was given in Gone Home – ability to move, to set the tone by playing music, to turn on lights and see, to glance at a map, to pick things up, Katie’s being sufficiently open-ended for me to imagine myself into her. I don’t know if this has to do with the fact that most of my favorite books involve first-person narrators, and also maybe because I don’t play video games that often, but for some reason the “world” of Gone Home just felt very flat in comparison to the “world” of Galatea, and I think that had a lot to do with my experience of the characters whose perspective I was inhabiting.
I think I’m associating a world’s flatness (if I can put it that way) with an experience in which I feel like there are not many possibilities. I’m curious to know whether people who often play first-person shooters experienced Gone Home as having more possibilities than I did, in the same way that people more familiar with Super Mario appreciated the gameplay mechanics of Braid in a way that I could not. In both cases, I think that maybe the structure’s being pretty much totally foreign to me encouraged me to focus on the things I am more used to “getting”, like characters and story, and only superficially understanding what makes these games special in the universe of game to which they belong.