Realism in Games: What Makes Firewatch Feel Personal

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Note: This post will enclose spoilers for a diversion Firewatch.


Campo Santo expelled Firewatch in early 2016 to high reviews, praising a game’s account and immersive atmosphere. From a essay standpoint, it was not an out-of-the-ordinary premise—you played as a prime man, Henry, who, after his mother has grown Alzheimer’s disease, has taken a summer pursuit as a wildfire surveillance in a Shoshone National Forest for introspection. Yet, this story, and a characters in it, has perplexed players time and time again, so how did Firewatch do it? The answer is not simply in a account itself, though a unequivocally hint of a diversion itself, from a UI to visuals and gameplay. It sets itself from other games by embracing realism, that is, by feeling realistic, something that is same to typical life some-more so than sci-fi or anticipation games. To try some-more of what this means, let’s mangle down a opposite aspects of Firewatch.


Photo from


Modern diversion today can infrequently get carried divided with their HUD and UI design, stuffing a shade with dozens of variables to keep lane of, like time of day, weather, mini map, design summary, and more. This creates a multi-layered film between a actor and a diversion itself, and while some of these add-ons can be incited off, it can still feel synthetic carrying information points in a corners of a shade as we try a diversion world. What does Firewatch use as a HUD? Well, zero really.

Firewatch has a unequivocally minimalist proceed to UI, consisting of a singular dot crosshair, that can even be incited off. Besides this, there’s tiny else that will cocktail adult on screen, outward of discourse options for your radio, a names of objects than can be interacted with, and banners on a bottom of a shade to prove your stream objective. Aforementioned, there is no HUD to be found on screen, with your usually process for orienting yourself, unless we memorized a entirety of a Shoshone, is a normal paper map and compass. There’s subsequent to zero in a proceed between we and a pleasing healthy universe we try in-game.

This proceed to UI can disorient players who competence get mislaid in a timberland perplexing to find a subsequent cache box to open, though this is one of a many ways Firewatch tries to obey genuine life. Back in a 1980’s where a diversion is set, this process of map and compass was unequivocally a usually proceed to get around a hulk timberland like a Shoshone, and removing mislaid in a woods could occur mostly if we weren’t careful. Firewatch wants to put we in a boots of a glow lookout, traversing a timberland with zero though a map and intuition, and as a diversion progresses, we get practiced to a many trails and hilly slopes to get to pivotal areas.


Firewatch takes place in a Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming, and besides certain locations being altered for a gameplay, a diversion tries to obey a feeling of a timberland as many as possible. The in-game universe is sensuous with opposite forms of trees, brush, flowers, and stone formations, with zero feeling too artificial; even a surveillance towers feel like a partial of a landscape. The usually out-of-place territory of a sourroundings is a fenced-off area that houses a biologist camp, with some-more sum on that later. The diversion doesn’t try to incorporate sci-fi, fantasy, or unequivocally any form of fantastical component into a atmosphere, instead withdrawal a Shoshone feel alive and beautiful.

In comparison to games like Mass Effect or World of Warcraft, Firewatch can feel rather paltry with usually how typical it is. This simplicity, on a other hand, entrances us as players as it’s something we can commend from genuine life. We know what it’s like to have these expanded forests removed from society, and we mostly fantasize about evading from city life to this form of pleasing unknown. The universe of Firewatch draws us in not since it’s an keen universe of sorcery or an modernized civilization during a corner of a cosmos, though since it’s somewhere we could practically go to, it’s something we competence crave to try for ourselves.


Gameplay is typically where Firewatch gets a many churned reviews and a pretension of being a “walking simulator.” There’s no combat, no shooting, no thespian feats of acrobatics, nothing; Henry can usually jog, rappel down hilly slopes, burst from certain areas, or collect adult equipment that routinely have no other purpose than being a tiny collectible in a surveillance tower. Players were mostly left wanting some-more from a gameplay besides walking on trails or climbing adult hills, though therein lies a question: what else could Henry do? He’s an normal male in his mid-40’s, zero special physically or magically about him. And that is where some of a many intriguing tools of a diversion arises.

Firewatch approaches a feeling of being a glow surveillance from churned angles, and this includes how Henry plays. A genuine tellurian in his purpose would do identical tasks, with even some-more time inside a surveillance building examination over a timberland and gripping an eye on their firefinder, and even a diversion skips over these parts. Henry competence not be doing something utterly exciting, though that’s a indicate Campo Santo is making, it’s not an outlandish pursuit filled with good excitement. Although it’s not unequivocally thrilling, it feels natural, taken true out of genuine life. So, Firewatch gets another indicate on a house for perplexing to reconstruct a genuine world.


Photo from FemHype


The story of Firewatch is one of a many acclaimed, and panned, aspects of a whole. Henry’s tour as he tries to come to terms with his mother Julia’s dementia, churned with a appearing hazard of a supervision swindling examination his and associate glow surveillance Delilah’s each move, creates for a thrilling, nonetheless sensitive narrative. As a supervision swindling comes to a apex, with Henry carrying detected their tracking record and records on his conversations with Delilah, Firewatch reveals a law about this good enigma:

There is no conspiracy.

What truly happens involves a side tract that develops solemnly in between Henry and Delilah’s conversations. Delilah gradually tells Henry a story of Ned and Brian Goodwin, a suspectedly aggrieved maestro and his immature son who took on a pursuit of Two Forks Lookout Tower rangers before to Henry’s arrival. As a twin were settling in utterly well, they mysteriously left one day though alerting Delilah or anyone else for a reason why. Prior to a large exhibit of a swindling hoax, there is another vital exhibit that Henry discovers as he is sealed in a cavern by a puzzling entity:

Brian is dead.

It’s during this indicate that all a pieces surrounding a “conspiracy” comes together, as Ned Goodwin tells Henry around a cassette fasten that after Brian’s genocide in a climbing accident, his grief prevented him from going behind to society, and so he has been vital in a timberland ever since; it’s also suggested that Ned was a one documenting Henry and Delilah’s conversations, planting justification during a biologist’s investigate stay to make it seem like a supervision conspiracy.

This remarkable turn in tract did not lay good with many players, as they felt cheated out of a consummate of torment and revelation, and instead were met with a comfortless story of a Goodwins. Some players also mislaid seductiveness in a story as a whole, feeling wearied by a story of an average, saddening male spending his days examination over a forest. On a other finish of a spectrum are those that desired a story and a twists, and these twists are what make Firewatch definitively feel human.

The story of Firewatch does not fit good into any sold genre—not suspenseful adequate to be a thriller, not utterly wise a criteria of scholarship fiction, and so on. Instead, it is best to cruise a game’s story as realist: weaving a lives of formidable characters together over a mostly normal tract structure. There are no moments of extravagance, no affairs, no abnormal mysteries. The tract seems to build adult to a large conspiracy, though Firewatch is not dystopian, instead branch towards a practice of a bombard of a father blindsided with grief. Players competence have wanted a supervision intrigue during a climax, though Firewatch is emulating life, and this simply would not fit into a realist flow. By following this thesis of realism all a proceed through, Firewatch is means to concentration on a characters and rise them intricately, creation them seem alive with their possess thoughts and emotions. Mixed with a mundane, nonetheless willing inlet of Henry’s daily slight and a relaxing atmosphere that envelops a player, a diversion ends adult feeling personal, something that players can both empathise and sympathize with, and an knowledge they competence describe to in their possess lives.


It’s singular for a diversion to try and closely impersonate genuine life, after all, games are infrequently meant to be an shun from a genuine world, not indispensably a thoughtfulness of it. Yet, Campo Santo motionless to take a “realist” proceed for Firewatch, stripping down UI, menu and gameplay complexity, and even anticipation elements from a tract in sequence to emanate a diversion that feels personal and emotionally intelligent. The diversion does not tempt players with an atmosphere of a abnormal or scholarship fiction, though one of tellurian consolation and experience, one of joining with a characters on screen. Thus is a area of realism in games, creation adult for a miss of extravagance and escapism for practical narratives with perplexing characters and a rarely immersive atmosphere interjection to a likeness to genuine life. The realist proceed does not fit each player, being unequivocally low pivotal in movement and sincerely candid with gameplay, nonetheless for substantiating a account with characters that feel abounding and complex, realism can be a absolute apparatus that goes opposite a pellet of what games are suspicion to be like, and Firewatch shows this in full force.

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