Publisher: Benjamin Rivers
Platforms: iOS, PC and Mac, PS4, PSVita
Content Areas: Language Arts
Suggested Age: Middle/High School
Warnings: Mild/Suggested violence, Mild/Suggested Alcohol reference, Mild horror/fear themes
Play Length: 1-2 hours
Number of Players: Single Player
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Benjamin Rivers describes his game Home as “a unique horror adventure.” Thinking back to horror games that set standards for the horror genre, it’s easy to smile at the jump scares of the original Resident Evil or the eerie sound of radio static in Silent Hill. But Home resembles neither of these horror franchises. It is, in fact, unique! While Home does pay respects to horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, after several sessions with this beautifully pixelated world it is easy to identify why Rivers claims his creation is different from every other horror game.
Unfortunately Home is not a game best played on the morning bus ride to school. As it begins, a warning screen pops up to explain that the game is best played with headphones in a quiet, dark space. While the sounds of Home are essential to the atmosphere of suspense and mystery, finding a dark, quiet place to play the game limits when and where it can be played. On a busy day there may be no other choice than to pull the blinds closed and create a false night in which to enjoy Home, but this is not ideal for maximum enjoyment of the game. Fortunately Home only lasts about an hour and a half, so it is easy to pick up the game again after the sun had disappeared.
Similar to many mobile games, Home is available on iOS but is also available on Steam (for PCs and Mac), PS4, and PSVita. The simple controls will undoubtedly transfer to any platform and still be easily accessible by any player. Classroom teachers may find it difficult to use Home in their classes, however, as classrooms are meant to be bright and full of light. Pulling the shades in a classroom may trigger that Pavlovian reaction in some students to simply go to sleep! But as a horror adventure game that is steeped in text and choice, there are some excellent possibilities for Home in the classroom. I immediately thought of middle school Common Core standard RL.8.3 (Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of character, or provoke a decision) as an anchor standard to use this game as a learning tool. While playing this game, students are constantly reading text that reveals details about the player character and about the other characters in the story. With each choice the player makes, the story may unfold in a direction that reflects the choices of the player. In some instances, specific lines of dialogue that are strategically placed within the text may also reveal interesting aspects of the characters that would not be discovered otherwise. Investigating these aspects of the game with RL.8.3 as the framework may be a creative and engaging way for students to master this skill.
Because there are several ways to end the story (based on player choice), the ending to the story can be written and rewritten endlessly. As an immediate application in the classroom, teachers could identify middle school Common Core standard W.8.3 (Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well structured event sequences) as a jumping off point for students to play the game then write their own dialogue based ending to the Home story. Home leaves enough open to interpretation at the end that the possibilities for students to write their own endings may be a very challenging and rewarding experience.
Rivers’s description of Home as a “unique horror adventure” is the perfect way to describe this text based mystery story. Playing through the game more than once creates new choices and new story possibilities, leaving the player’s imagination full questions. A quick look at the trophies available on the PSVita and PS4 reveal some interesting twists that may make the player want to go back to the game again just to discover some of the secrets that are still lurking behind the locked doors. This is certainly not Dorothy’s home, but it is one that players will want to go back to over and over again.
Educational Rating: 6/8
Classroom Friendly (create a dark space and you’re all set!), Motivation, Concrete Learning (does not teach a specific skill), Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension
Overall Rating: 8/8
Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control