The sad choices of Firewatch

If you have someone you very much love in your life, how would you contemplate assisting him or her as they lose their battle with dementia?

The thought makes me so impossibly sad, I can’t even fathom it. I simply cannot, will not contemplate such a thought. Yet Firewatch -a game!- made me ponder these hard questions, and while hopefully I will never find out what I’d really do, what I’d really choose,  as Henry I did choose and I wonder why so many people reviewed his character as questionable.

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My take on Firewatch is that a terribly sad person comes to learn of an even sadder one. A husband flooded by shame for entrusting his wife into care* – leaving his sick wife in a hospital – tries to escape in the wilderness, where he stumbles upon a father who lost his loving son. A father in hiding, who left his son’s body to nature instead of reporting it, in an attempt to get lost in the wilderness, like Henry.  So Henry helps Ned Goodwin and convinces sketchy, alcoholic Delilah to do so, too. If Henry isn’t a good man, I don’t know who is…

***

I love that I have played this game that made me sad. This game that made me gasp in front of its amazing beauty, that made me long for my hills and my trees and the silence of the woods that I love so much. I am not sure I can call Firewatch a game; what it was for me is an experience, one that reached deep into my soul and made me think hard thoughts, a simulation of a story I am happy not to live through, in a scenery I’d be more than happy to get lost in.

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Firewatch is a carefully hand-crafted experience, like The Witness, like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter; if games are ever to fully accomplish the universally recognised status of art (as they should), it’s titles like Firewatch we will have to thank for.

Firewatch took a bit more than two years, and some 40 gamedevs (as counted in the credits) to make. The Witness reportedly took around 8 years. My point is, hand-crafted games take time, dedication and talent, but they stand out, and they deserve the attribute and price tag of art, not cheap entertainment, as many consider games to be. Firewatch made me sad for the experience it offered, but even sadder when I finished it. What will I play now… How long will it take until I’ll encounter a similar deep richness to experience, when will I buy the next “game” to dig deep into my soul and make me explore myself.

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*One of Firewatch’s choices. Ultimately the result is the same.