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Creator Letter: Firewatch Works on a Higher Level

Firewatch Works on a Higher Level

by Danielle Karthauser

Let’s not beat around the bush. Video games are loud. It comes with the territory. Being someone who graduated with a degree in English Literature and reads books constantly, my comfort space is one without noise. So when I heard about this video game called Firewatch where most of what the player did was explore nature, I was instantly invested.

But it wasn’t only the explorative and quiet tone of this game that appealed to me at first glance. There was a deep sense that a complexity awaited me that would rival those of greats books and films I adored. I went into this being very aware that this experience might move me in a profound way...in a way that video games rarely did. This is not to say that I had never encountered a game that hadn’t surprised me or made me think more deeply about the world. But Firewatch seemed to be working on a higher level compared to anything else I had seen before in this medium.

What first struck me was just how beautiful this game looked. Everything from the grand vistas you could overlook on mountainsides, to the field below Henry’s fire lookout tower was astoundingly pretty to look at. There was a strange sense of isolation and intimacy that I felt as I played through the game, allowing the sounds of the wind, chirping birds, and my walkie talkie to envelope me in a comfortable gaming blanket. This game made me feel a strange sense of peace.

Most people who played Firewatch seem to come to the general consensus that the game only takes three to five hours to complete. These numbers always surprise me because it took me much longer to beat the game the first time, rounding out to somewhere about six to eight hours in total over a span of multiple weeks. Playing Firewatch a second and third time brought similar results. Whether it is because of my poor sense of direction or my desire to immerse myself in the environments as much as possible, I just can’t speed through this game.

I love Firewatch, a sentiment which I am sure will become very apparent as you read through this magazine. It approaches storytelling in this medium in a completely different context compared to most games. Many have called it blasphemy in the name of what games should look like, a mindset which I cannot get behind. If we take anything from Firewatch, it is that games have the potential to be more than hubs for simulated violence. If this is what game developers have in store for us, then I think gaming has a very bright future.

Danielle Karthauser, Creator & Publisher