So, the Campo Santo game Firewatch was released the other day and I finished it in a pair of sittings. Overall, I enjoyed it, and I’m going to discuss it. Warning, there will be spoilers.
The first evening with it, was just under two hours of wandering the woods and keeping an eye out for fires. Nothing overly strange happened, well, unless you count some creeper in the woods destroying the campsite of some drunken teens to be strange.
The second evening, was much tenser. Trying to determine this elaborate conspiracy that was eavesdropping on my conversations, with a rather oppressive fire burning in the background.
I have a few thoughts about this. The ending was tastefully sad. Things weren’t going to wrap up nicely. You got out of there, you had a few memories, but you hadn’t accomplished much.
Video games are nominally about control. We have control of an avatar, so we have an influence on the narrative, potentially. Most of the time, we don’t. A few games, there are multiple endings, or there are endings that take into account your actions. Designing those stories to be satisfying, is still a work in progress.
Many games, you’ve got a lone protagonist, out there, performing tasks, while someone on a radio handles them. This is based partially on real structures, partially on science and partially on logistical limitations.
In Firewatch, we’ve got a guy out there in the woods, and someone feeding him instructions. The stakes are pretty low, and there isn’t much oversight; as long as someone points out the fires before they get ugly, someone else can decide how to handle them or how long to ignore them for.
The jobs they have, don’t really need to exist anymore. A good camera with some thermal imaging software can trigger an alarm about a fire over a much larger area, without the whole 8 hour gap every day created by our need for sleep.
At one point during the narrative, the meaning of the job is called into question, when they talk about how the fire service would actually handle the fire.
They are basically there because the public wants the impression that something is being done to protect the forests, more than out of any real expectation of effectiveness.
I could be wrong on this, but with everything that has happened with his wife, Henry is lacking in direction and drive. He is trying to sort some things out, but he’s also just a bit lost.
Delilah realizes this while teaching him the basics of the job. He is there, he is vulnerable, and he’s fairly suggestible, perhaps even a little gullible.
It starts with little pranks.