A Poignant New Narrative Adventure

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A Poignant New Narrative Adventure

An illustration looking at two figures on a bed.  A basket of clothes is on the floor and a clothes rack is near the window, through which a little light enters.

Illustration: Humble Grove

It’s always magical when a book, game, or movie comes into your life at the exact moment it speaks to you the most. Playing No Longer Home, a new game about two friends facing the end of their time together in a London apartment, has been one of those rare experiences for me. There is a remarkable honesty and depth of emotion in the way its non-binary protagonists, Bo and Ao, try to deal with all the complex feelings that come with saying goodbye to a phase of their life and dealing with it. the unknown of another. As I prepare for my own seismic shift, I was there with them.

Having just joined the ranks here at Kotaku, I will soon be moving to New York, a place that I have loved for a long time. I am excited about what the future holds. But it also means leaving the Bay Area after living here for over 15 years and saying goodbye to so many familiar places I’ve grown to love. Watching a movie in one of my favorite local theaters this past weekend, my awareness that this would probably be my last visit before I moved gave the whole experience a bittersweet quality. I was acutely aware, even as this was happening, that it would soon be over. Then I met up with some friends for a few drinks. They’re the kind of rare friends who really understand me, who make me feel seen and understood in a world that often isn’t. It was a wonderful meeting, made all the more alive by the unshakeable thought: it will never be so again.

Ao and Bo sit in their bed.  The moon is behind them.  Ao sighs and says "I'm not straight, I hate to be called a girl and I don't want kids.  I make such a terrible Christian.

Ao knows the pain of not being seen in the world for who he is.Screenshot: Humble Grove / Kotaku

No Longer Home captures the intense connections we sometimes form with places and how endings can make everything more immediate and meaningful. Embodying both Ao and Bo, you find details in every room of the apartment that speak of their time there, recalling joys, accomplishments, lingering little frustrations like the feeling that it’s always you who ends up. by taking out the trash. Their apartment is viewed isometrically, with each room presented as its own separate handcrafted diorama. As you rotate each space to reveal new items to interact with and new areas to explore, the accompanying sound is like a block of wood spinning and then clicking into place. It’s a satisfying sound design that makes the spaces you interact with feel physical and tangible, which also makes you feel more closely connected to them.

But the house is not just a place. If you’re lucky, home is other people, and for Ao and Bo the hardest thing about their impending move is that it means the end of their time together. As non-binary people, Ao and Bo feel a special dread for the future, as it means facing a world in which they are often painfully misunderstood. Ao in particular talks a lot about the angst of still being seen as someone and something that he isn’t, at some point, lamenting that, back in Japan (where they have to return due to visa issues), their true love of cooking is often noticed as proof that they would make a good housewife. “I just like doing it,” they say, “why does it have to be gendered? We’ve started to see more positive portrayals of trans and non-binary people in games in recent years, and it’s cool, but those portrayals often don’t reflect our real and lived experiences. Rarely have I seen the pain of constantly seeing people putting you in a box that you don’t feel you belong to and not being seen for who and what you are being expressed as honestly as you are here.

The character Ao looks at a cat sitting on a chair.  Ao says, "You probably felt the change was coming."

Cats know. Cats always know.Screenshot: Humble Grove / Kotaku

No Longer Home was developed by Humble Grove, a collaboration of two people who took inspiration from their own experiences, but living through something themselves and being able to create art that captures the experience of a way that affects others are two different things. No Longer Home is successful because it’s so specific, honest, and steadfast in the way it confronts what being at a crossroads can do to us emotionally and psychologically. The centerpiece of the game is a long conversation that Bo and Ao have in bed one night, as they really expose all of their fears and insecurities about the future. During this conversation, you feel how much these two mean to each other. When the world doesn’t see you, it’s especially difficult to say goodbye to the person or people who see you.

And yet, painful as some aspects of No Longer Home are, there is also a poignant solace. Ao and Bo might say goodbye to their apartment and their life together, but they will always be a part of each other’s lives. I may soon be leaving the Bay Area, saying goodbye to my favorite cafes, parks and cinemas, and I also won’t be able to meet my dear friends for a drink at my favorite bars anytime soon. But it’s okay. There is something else No Longer Home understands about these rare and special connections in our lives. These people who really know us and see us? We carry their love with us when we go.

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Article source https://kotaku.com/no-longer-home-the-kotaku-review-1847440205

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