Review/ Dot’s Home

Written by Fabian Wood

September 19, 2023

While clocking in at just about an hour long, this brisk 2D, narrative-driven free-to-play point-and-click title’s tackling of hard-hitting and often all-too-real subject matters gives it lasting staying power in the minds of its players. Seldom are such real-world social issues succinctly addressed or even explored in video games, making Dot’s Home a super-rare novelty.

Dot’s Home was co-developed by Neil Jones, aka Aerial_Knight (Never Yield) and Weathered Sweater (Sk8r G8r 3D). The game was also produced by Rise-Home Stories Project, a collective of artists, writers, community organizers, and housing & land justice advocates. The group funds multimedia projects like podcasts, children’s books, animated web series, and interactive media – including videogames – focusing on African Americans and other minorities.  

Dot’s Home

The game follows young adult and millennial Dorothea “Dot” Hawkins, who lives in her grandmother’s Home in Detroit alongside her little nephew. Throughout the game, we learn about the history of Dot’s family and, by extension, the house she lives in. Through the serendipitous happenstance of time travel, Dot visits two generations of her family, seeing the struggles, aspirations, and social climates her grandparents, and her parents faced during the late 1950s/early 1960s and the 1990s. Her interactions with them – ala Marty McFly from Back to the Future (1985) – would have a butterfly effect on Dot’s present in the 2020s and beyond. 

The interactive nature of the point-and-click format lends itself to being optimized for education and stimulates critical thinking. The only negative I have with the game in this regard is the absence of complicated puzzles or obtuse problem-solving indicative of this genre. So, in essence, Dot’s Home is more akin to a visual novel. But, understandably, the difficulty of Dot’s Home is ostensibly non-existent to make it accessible to all age groups, casual gamers and non-gamers alike.

In terms of presentation, despite being a short experience, the attention to detail and pedigree of this game exudes the sincere passion of everyone behind this project. There are a handful of characters and backgrounds that are colorful and well-detailed. Also, the animation’s quality is pleasantly fluid, lively, and expressive. Its simplistic design affords the game to be compatible with a variety of smart devices as well as low-end PCs, making it available to a broader market. 

Expertly baked into the dialog and execution of the narrative are clear and poignant explorations of generational housing discrimination and inequality, redlining, gentrification, predatory lending, poverty, and their intergenerational impact on African Americans and other minorities. This is by design, as the game was intentionally curated with Blacks and other minorities as the target audience to express and convey their real-world stories and plights through this colorful, interactive video game experience. As such, many Black and minority families will be able to empathize and identify with Dot and her family.

The story, thankfully, isn’t heavy-handed with its themes. Nevertheless, the seemingly innocuous choice options that pop up occasionally have long-reaching ramifications – temporally speaking – for Dot and her family’s present and Future. Fortunately, the game is also non-judgmental; there is no punishment or reward for whatever decisions you make. These decisions speak to the player’s views on individuality vs. community, their beliefs on home ownership, and institutionalized racism in the housing market. Do you stick it out to build something better for your family and community, or cut your losses for greener pastures and the prospects of better opportunities and advancement elsewhere? There really are no right/wrong answers or morally grey ones. 

Dot’s Home

Many Americans are suffering from the ongoing housing crisis. We’re inundated with far too many documentaries, vlogs, news reports, essays, and the like that it’s easy to grow numb to the problem and feel abject hopelessness. Dot’s Home is a unique and more approachable way of conveying these issues to people without being preachy or pessimistic. Dot’s Home is really more pragmatic, showcasing what you can and can’t change within the system and considering the long-term consequences of our decisions. This game isn’t meant to instigate reform but to empower individuals by educating them on the realities of this national issue in a more digestible way. 

There is no doubt in my mind that Dot’s Home will remain an avant-garde, indie anomaly. How can you convince a prominent videogame company to make a game based on home ownership and the plethora of complex difficulties, challenges, and barriers that come with it in a deeply emotional way, especially for minorities? Regardless, Dot’s Home skillfully does just that: presenting African-American issues and perspectives, giving them a voice – something that remains woefully lacking in video games regarding representation and focus.  

If the subject matter piques your interest, Dot’s Home was released on 22 October 2021 and is free to play on Steam, the Apple App Store, Google Play Store and So feel free and check it out for yourselves. To add replayability, there are three different endings to unlock once you finish the game.

Hailing from the eastern-most Caribbean island of Barbados, Fabian Wood has long since been fascinated by the power of storytelling to inspire and invoke emotions – whether in film, comics, or video games. No longer content to be just an avid comic book reader and videogamer, he’s eager to exercise his literary acumen as an aspiring writer and reviewer.

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