Critical Play: Walking Simulators

 For this week’s critical play, I will be analyzing the game Firewatch. It was developed by Campo Santo in 2016. It can be played on various platforms including PC, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch, and Linux. I played this game on my PC. The target audience of the game is mostly teenagers and above as it discusses mature themes such as early-onset dementia and attracts players who appreciate exploration and nature. Firewatch is a single player adventure game played from a first-person perspective in which a middle aged man called Henry is the protagonist and the goal of the game is to unlock the entire storyline. The game overall is beautifully animated with being naturalist a big part of its design theme.

In the game Henry decides to take up a job in the Wyoming National Park and as the player we explore the park as him by walking through the wilderness. As the game progresses, Henry communicates with his supervisor Delilah through a radio walkie-talkie through different dialogue options that affect how his relationship with her develops. One can develop the conversation if they want or let it fizzle out 

The main type of fun of the game is narrative. Through the text-based prologue at the beginning of the game and the dialogue with Delilah throughout the game, we get to know Henry and the struggles that he has gone through in his life. This narrative makes the characters feel realistic as though they each have their own fleshed out personalities.

Another type of fun evident in the game is sensation. The sounds of nature and the actions that Henry goes through feel significant and palpable as though the player himself is going through the motions. From the crunches of walking boots, clinking of beer bottles and the rustle of a worn out photograph, the sensory element is significantly highlighted in the game.  

Some things that I would improve the game would be some changes in the settings of the game. For instance, unlike Skyrim the player cannot wander off into the wilderness. It seems as though there isn’t enough freedom for exploration. As the player is walking and exploring the area around him, the scenery suddenly changes onto  the next part of the game. 

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