Very few games have ever made me feel something. Video games today have come so far where it feels like a step above a movie-watching experience. Instead of just consuming information, you actively make decisions that can shape your experience and even the game’s narrative in some cases. This gaming formula was most certainly prevalent in a game I just finished called Firewatch.
Instead of me simply reviewing this game, giving it a numerical score, and filing it away in my memory of good games, I need to take my experience a step further. Upon completion of Firewatch I remember just sitting still, staring blankly at the screen, thinking, “That’s it?” It’s true; the final act seemed almost lackluster and anticlimactic. The gamer in me wanted more… Like a twist ending that would’ve been formulaic, fitting and entertaining. But what actually transpired was a conclusion that left me wanting more. At that moment of still feeling hungry for more, I started mentally retracing my steps through the game’s story. I was looking for flaws, unanswered questions, or a hidden gem of information.
Yes, this game actually made me physically write out my thoughts. Most games don’t do that for me. Yes, this game made me write a blog post about it. No game has ever done that for me. Which brings me back to what this game made me feel.
Playing this game made me feel detached from societal norms, and was a refreshing simulator in a world full of first-person shooters. I don’t consider myself the emotional type, but what this game did for me was sort of place me in the shoes of one character in particular. I truly pondered what I would have done given the same traumatic situation. Though, I don’t want to specify which character in Firewatch made me feel this way. My intent isn’t to spoil the story because I think it’s an experience that even non-gamers should have.
One final point I’d like to make is that Firewatch made me think there should be a new genre to categorize games that present a thought-provoking story in the time-frame of a movie or short book. I’d like to coin the term “gamella”. Pronounced gu-mella, it’s a combination of a video game and a novella. In order for a video game to fit into this genre, it needs to be a short game. They usually range from $15 to $20 and present a 4 to 6 hour experience. The game also needs to be story-driven, and finish with an overarching theme or life-revelation. Firewatch fits the bill in its entirety. Some other fitting games of the term gamella include Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Journey, and The Unfinished Swan.
In short, I had to write about Firewatch because I really want more people to feel what I felt from this game. If you’re not a gamer, that’s okay because this game has intuitive controls and simple enough direction. You’ll never really be scratching your head, wondering what to do next because the constant dialogue makes your objective clear. If you’re on the edge about buying this game, let me make it simple for you… Just do it.
Disclaimer: The picture featured within this article belongs to Campo Santo. (Video game developer of Firewatch).