Critical Play: Walking Sims (Firewatch)

Firewatch is a single-player game developed by Campo Santo and is available for PC and consoles. It is an adventure game in which you are a man named Henry whose personal life is in shambles, and you have taken a job as a fire lookout in Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming. You are fairly isolated besides occasionally running into visitors in the forest and Delilah, another lookout only accessible by walkie-talkie. New areas of the map are unlocked on new missions (indicated by wherever smoke can be seen from the watchtower or Delilah paging in), and Henry’s relationship with Delilah is developed through player choices in dialogue. The objective of the game is to deal with the fire reports, explore the map, and get to know Delilah more which drives the story. The target audience is likely teenage and up, as the game includes more mature themes, and attracts players who enjoy exploration and roleplay.

To me, Firewatch is a great example of an environmental narrative game that allows you to just exist in the space and contemplate what it means to be who you are in that world. The graphics are beautiful and the world is very immersive, and while there is some sense of time pressure to address the missions, you do get time to just explore and simply be.

The narrative is made interactive through player choice, and the changing natural scenery also helps color the story of Henry very effectively. The tasks help progress the narrative, like looking for the first chest left by other lookouts. Because of the game’s exploration end, there is no win or lose.

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