Firewatch was the indie darling of early 2016. An interesting short first-person mystery adventure game set in Shoshone National Forest during the Yellowstone fires in 1988. The plot follows the story of Henry, who takes a job as a forest fire lookout after his wife develops early-onset dementia. The game only has the player directly interact with one other character: Henry’s supervisor Delilah.
The game presents themes of isolation and escapism, taking the player on the journey of someone who indulges themselves in these fantasies. This atmosphere is amplified through clever use of sound design. The backing score, while thin, creates the sense of loneliness by mostly using piano and acoustic guitar, two instruments that are usually used as compliments to other instruments or vocal parts.
However, as the game progresses it subtly tackles more thought-provoking ideas. In a world where social media is the dominant way of staying in touch with people, Firewatch reminds us that life is about more than just ‘staying in touch’. Throughout the story, Henry develops a meaningful connection with Delilah without ever seeing her. During the time Henry spends at Shoshone, he opens up to Delilah about his life and everything that led up to him volunteering to be a fire lookout and, in turn, Delilah opens up to him.
While the urgency of the story eventually takes over, the connection that was there is not diminished. The game teaches us to understand another person’s situation more and to be more open to empathy.
Firewatch is available on PC and Mac, PS4 and Xbox One from these links: