by Jed Pressgrove
To treat Three Fourths Home: Extended Edition as a video-game outlier due to its seriousness — see Chase Ramsey’s dumbfounded opening “There is, like, a lot of drama in Three Fourths Home” — is to show an immature aversion to interpretation. Developer Zach Sanford doesn’t merely sell Millennial angst; he suggests there’s an overlooked spiritual connection between the generations of America’s past and present in a believable family context.
In the main part of Three Fourths Home, you play as Kelly who talks to her mother, father, and brother on the phone as she drives through a storm in Nebraska. You hold down a button to keep Kelly driving as you choose dialogue options that open or close further exploration of family concerns. Despite the contrivance of characters playing hot potato with the phone, the dialogue is authentically familial. “Doubt all you want, it’s the truth!” claims Kelly’s father in defense of his proactive protection of a tomato garden. The mother, Norah, and her husband show experience with their jabs at each other — they’ve been married long enough to know it’s better not to throw knockout punches. Kelly’s brother, Ben, has a form of autism, but rather than exaggerate this to make audiences feel culturally sensitive (and superior), the interactions subtly draw out the family’s acceptance of and continuing adaptation to Ben’s condition.
While your dialogue choices don’t alter the premise of Three Fourths Home, Sanford uses the multiple paths of the conversations to illustrate the universality of tough times in a fast-paced society. Each character faces distinct changes that range from social (Ben’s school issues) to physical (the father’s injury taking him out of work) to emotional (Kelly’s quarter-life sense of failure), with the underlying sense that family support is the main defense against financial uncertainty. Seeing the unideal through the eyes of Kelly, whose 20-something instinct is to run away from problems, can make Three Fourths Home seem like an unoriginal realization for the Millennial generation, but the storytelling leans toward a societal truth rather than mopey judgment. In one conversation path, Ben shares a short story he has written that evokes both Beowulf and the Book of Job in its yearning for a comfortable status quo. It’s to Sanford’s credit that this lamentation of American reality comes through the family dialogue within the isolation of Nebraskan corn fields, outclassing the anti-rural cliches in the cannibalistic Georgia farm from Telltale’s miserable The Walking Dead.
Three Fourths Home: Extended Edition says the most in its epilogue. In this segment, only Kelly and Norah converse as you move Kelly left and right on foot, a simulation of anxiety compared to the previous stiffness of holding down an accelerator to drive. The talk between daughter and mother can get very uncomfortable, such as when Norah calls Kelly an idiot for messing up grades in college. Yet the mother’s straightforwardness can be as profound as upsetting: “A grade is a grade. A job’s a job. My wisdom isn’t exactly the most creative.” Norah’s modest admission allows Sanford’s game to speak for generations beyond Baby Boomers and Millennials. This broad appeal makes the concluding image of Kelly’s home pulled out of the ground by the roots an expression of dogged resilience as much as sadness.