Armchair Exploration: The Haikyo Story That Inspired ‘Gone Home’

By Michael Gakuran | | Other | 7 Comments |

Around this time last year, a rather interesting article crossed my radar. It hadn’t been long since I’d moved to Tokyo to start a new job, and my internet scavenging was at an all time low. Thankfully however, I somehow came across the post on Kotaku talking about a curious computer game still in development with the title ‘Gone Home‘.

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Apparently the game was to revolve entirely around first person exploration, and was to be set with the walls of a single game location – Arbor House. Being an 80’s child, I grew up on point-and-click puzzle adventures such as Monkey Island and Simon the Sorcerer and used to revel in the freedom of being able to wander around fascinating locations looking for clues to advance. While Gone Home doesn’t use lock-and-key style puzzle scenarios to advance the game, the most important ingredient – exploration – is at the heart of the game’s structure.

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So why am I bringing this little nugget of news to the front of my website all of a sudden? It turned out, as I read last year, that my own account of urbex exploration in the Royal House Haikyo was inspiration to the game’s developers at the Fullbright Company. As Steve Gaynor originally wrote about the Royal House exploration on the Fullbright Company blog:

What struck me above all was the sense of drama and intrigue that emanated from this entirely unpopulated place, stocked only with the remnants of lives once lived there. The disparate hints of these people’s history beg the explorer to dig deeper. What might be fairly mundane events of daily life in the present become a thrilling mystery as they fade into the past.

Taking inspiration for Gone Home from The Royal House haikyo presents a number of unique challenges. Much of the investigation of the Royal House haikyo took place over a the course of months, in a variety of locations: the cemetery containing the family’s burial plot, the hotel advertised on the matchbooks, on the internet and in libraries researching the family’s history. Gone Home takes place entirely within one location, the house on Arbor Hill that the player explores over the course of the game. … In Gone Home, you will enter the house on Arbor Hill with questions in mind: who lives here? Why did they suddenly leave, and where have they gone? And how do I, as an investigator and explorer, fit into all of this?

Perhaps most endearing for me is that fact that I too was inspired in the very same way to begin exploring lost ruins. Although I’ve always been connected to the adventure and exploration genre in some way, it wasn’t really until my final year of university when I started proactively seeking out these sorts of experiences. I stumbled across websites devoted to the underground practice of urban exploration and remember perusing breathtaking photos of otherworldly locations.

Imbued with a new energy, I set out to explore my first ruin – an abandoned hospital in northern England. It wasn’t long before I was infiltrating forgotten theme parks and old wooden clinics and taking my writing and photography more seriously. In the same way, for my stories and pictures to have helped inspire other artists to act and produce something new is a wonderful feeling. I can only imagine how many more people will be moved to try new things because of the experience they have playing the game. Perhaps we may even see these armchair explorers venturing out into the real world and having adventures in the same way!

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Image: Travel, Shutterstock

While the game setting itself does not take place in a ruin, the feeling of wandering around and trying to piece together little pieces of information from the past is very close what it was like visiting the Royal House Haikyo. So, if you’re ever wondered what it would feel like to do a little exploring yourself, this is a great way to take one step closer! The only real difference is that you’re not walking around in dark, dusty rooms getting bitten by mosquitos and risking falling through floors. You’re mostly just missing out on the unpleasant stuff!

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Image: Magnifying glass, Shutterstock

Fortunately, early reviews of the game seem to all be extremely positive, so I have my fingers crossed for the developers and players that the whole experience continues to be a positive and memorable one in gaming history. Now, I would definitely like to give this game a try myself, if I could only find the time between my busy day job and excursions to far and forgotten places most weekends!

If you’re interested in giving the game a try, you can find it on Steam. Let me know how you find it! Finally, congratulations to the Fullbright team on a successful release!

7 comments on “Armchair Exploration: The Haikyo Story That Inspired ‘Gone Home’
  1. Michael says:

    Having just finished playing through Gone Home last night, I was happy to find out that your awesome haikyo work inspired them. It’s a great game, and I hope that you get a chance to play it.

    And funnily enough, Fullbright is located in Portland. Small world, I guess.

    • I’ve heard it’s a delightful short game to play through. I haven’t had the opportunity yet, but I certainly aim to give it a go. I increasingly hear of more and more companies or services being Portland based. It’s on my hit-list for when I have enough dosh to fly over to the States :).

  2. Ah, such a timely post! I’d all but forgotten about this game, and now it’s finally out. Just the reminder I needed to go buy it, and give it a try. Thanks! If I can remember, I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • So, I bought the game and played through it. I have to say, it was quite interesting. It’s very short though (you can finish it in a couple hours or less). There are a LOT of things you can pick up, and picking up some things reveals more of the story, so it makes sense to pay attention and look for the things that might be significant. However, if you do miss a couple of things, you should still get most of the story… just have to pay attention, and make sure you explore everything.

      There was a point near the end where I got worried the game would turn into a horror story, and there are certainly some disconcerting moments in the house… but over all, I did feel like I was discovering a family’s entire life by exploring the house. You do get to know the characters, without ever meeting them.

      However, there are parts of the story I wish were better developed. The grandfather/uncle’s story (sorry, I forget his relation to the family now… but he was the house’s owner) needed more detail, in my opinion. There were also points in the game where I wish I had even more freedom to poke through the family’s things.

      But overall, I thought it was a worthwhile experience, and I wouldn’t mind seeing this style of game developed and expanded.

  3. Jambe says:

    That’s a great account of inspiration, both yours and theirs. Thanks for sharing!

    I’ll get around to Gone Home eventually; it’s intriguing.

  4. Greg Flynn (BalloonCat) says:

    Wow, what perfect timing for me to read this post! I just bought and finished the game yesterday.

    I really recommend it. It’s paced perfectly and leads you through the house so brilliantly, and even the stories that you’re slowly piecing together follow proper narrative arcs. (It’s on sale for a slight discount at the moment, too.)

    Also, in terms of time, it only takes about two hours to finish the game, so hopefully you can fit it into your schedule. :-)

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