(I want to talk about the game at a deep level, and I can’t do that without spoiling the hell out of it. So…. big spoilers ahead.)
Firewatch is the best game I’ve played in recent memory. It does what very good movies and books do: it made me contemplate life and all of it’s intricacies. The game was so damn simple: it took me through the summer of two strangers and how they get to know each other. After a while, I’m finally able to put the experience into words. (As well as start this website!)
One of the main reasons that Firewatch stayed in my mind was from its immersion. By keeping the story linear (I couldn’t do something crazy and force the game to tell a different story), the game makes sure to tell me one very focused, but a very good story. Further, I couldn’t interact with the game in such a way that would make it feel like a “simple” game. To explain this a little more, when I play story games, or role-playing games, I will often talk to the same NPC various times in order to make sure that I retrieved all relevant information. Although this gives me the satisfaction of completion, hearing the same things from the NPCs reminds me that it’s a game. (I’ve exhausted all dialog options from the NPC, so it’s just looping through the conversation pieces.) The only way I can communicate with Delilah in Firewatch is by progressing, or triggering some event, but I don’t know exactly what I’m supposed to do. By doing this, it gives the illusion that it’s a real conversation that’s evolving dynamically. She sees me walk by something that reminds her of a story, so she’ll tell me about it. There’s something so damn human about that.
In the end, I was left with a deep sadness. The characters are imperfect, but it made me look inward. We all have regrets, things we’d like to change, or some things we would just like to avoid in our lives. What would it be like if we just ran away, said fuck it all, and ran into the woods for a few months? It sounds extreme, but through these characters, I lived that out for a few hours.
This is what a good story does: it tells just enough to captivate, but it doesn’t tell anymore. James Joyce has a quote, from the particular lies the universal. (Something like that… I’m too lazy to Google the exact quote.) We relate to specific events, and specific stories. This story was about two people who worked their shifts for a few days out of the year. However, from these very particular scenes, we discovered who they are. Some of the things they did were pretty shitty. (I’m still convinced Delilah and Ned had something going on, and I don’t think I’d be able to just leave my wife, sickness and angry parents be damned.) However, because we hear so much about their stories, I loved both characters, and I was beyond depressed when it was done.
Anyway, play this game. The beauty of the scenery, along with the simple but captivating story forced me to put what I felt into words. Yes, it was that good.