Gone Home presents an interesting situation for an environment artist. Usually the spaces we’re tasked with creating are locations and time periods we might have very little personal experience with – space freighters, mythical temples, high tech labs, etc. Outside of researching the heck out of these locales, you kind of have to wing it.
Trying to pin down the feeling of a North American home in 1995 is something I have a little more personal experience with, and when I went home for Christmas this year I was able to dig through artifacts of my teenage years in an attempt to lend a little more authenticity to the house.
While sorting through my old Pogs and splatter-painted snap bracelets, however, I came across something unexpected with my mother – two old boxes, smelling like mildew, that hadn’t been opened since they’d been given to my family 14 years earlier. In them, my family’s history, meticulously collected by my late grandmother, boxed up and quietly forgotten about.
I unpacked them, laid their content out across the basement, and took some quick reference photos and scans. Here are just a few. (Click for detail.)
– This amazing monkey puppet, sans face. He’s my favourite.
The photos go further back, too. There are portraits from the 1870s, stately snaps of unnamed relatives, and dateless tintypes of women whose wardrobes put everything I own to shame.
There’s a family tree with names going back to 1850, camping photos of Canada in the 20s and 30s, an envelope stuffed full of correspondence (typed and handwritten) from 1903-1905, souvenir programmes from the first world war, one cent stamps, road maps, snippets of poetry, a casual mention of a dispute over a missing whiskey bottle (it was under the floorboards) and an account of my (then eight year old) great grandmother being stalked by a wolf over the Canadian prairie.
There was also the written story of a rug – a rug that I’d walked over and dismissed as ugly countless times while living at my parent’s house. According to one handwritten letter it’d been inside a POW camp during the Korean war, nailed over the window of a tiny shack to prevent the snow from coming in. How it made it all the way back to Canada is a mystery.
I’m really grateful to be working on this game with the Fullbright team for a number of reasons, but I can honestly say I never thought that in the process of researching a game about familial histories I’d find out so much about my own.