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Firewatch Spoiler Thread | Henry Two Hats

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Yeah, there were definitely mementos of Brian in the hideout.

 

 

It's probably not fair to characterize it as no relationship, but the disconnect between what it felt like and what it was (from my Henry's perspective) was such that the reality was so much closer to meaningless that it might as well have been.  I could have played a more guarded, less open Henry, and the relationship may have felt more equalized in the expectations of the relationship.  But even then, after two and a half months of working and daily talking, I think an expectation of having made a deeper connection with someone is a reasonable one to have arrived at (and the way I treated my Henry). 

 

All that said, I think Henry is nearly as bad as Delilah and capable of being just as bad had I wanted to shape him that way.  The opening of the game is a pretty big indictment of his character, even though it was a hell of an emotional gut punch to think about what I would do if I was in that situation (both the lady and are are near those ages). 

 

Also, the game is top-notch in soooo many ways it's ridiculous.  Visually stunning, great voice acting and several very nice touches throughout that just elevate it above other similar style games. 

 

I need to actually go read that Tom Chick piece now.  I think I still disagree with the core premise, but I can appreciate his argument more now that I've finished it. 

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Tom Chick's review can rather uncharitably be boiled down to "It's not a game."

 

It's a much smarter argument than usual, but it is far too prescriptive about what sort of experience a game must be, or what sort of story a game is allowed to tell.

 

I feel like we read two completely different reviews. Tom explicitly compares Firewatch to Gone Home, a game he had nothing but praise for when he reviewed it.

 

http://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2013/08/16/gone-homes-ghosts-in-the-closet-arent-the-usual-ghosts-in-closets/

 

Tom isn't prescribing the rules for what kinds of stories a game gets to tell, or how they are told. But he is arguing that the mechanics of the game matter for the narrative you are telling. In Gone Home the way the player interacts with the environment exists harmoniously with how the player discovers the story. In Firewatch they feel quite disparate.

 

As much as I liked Firewatch (deus ex machina plot twist not withstanding), when I finished the game last night I couldn't help but feel that the full on twine version of Firewatch would pack a bigger emotional punch. And that seems to be Tom's major argument: the first person exploration mechanics for Firewatch didn't work as well for him as it did in Gone Home. I'm inclined to agree.

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It was also really sad to read Brian's plans for retrieving his backpack.  It's an elaborate method that avoids any and all rope climbing.

Mind blown at this one...

 

I'm really chafing against Tom Chick's and others' claims that it's not a good video game because your choices don't matter.  This seems to be completely harmonious with the themes of the game---there is no decision you can make in the opening that can prevent Julia's Alzheimer's.  There is no decision Ned can make that can bring back his dead son.  Henry and Delilah watch a fire burn and are powerless to stop it; they aren't even the ones who get to make decisions whether or how to stop it.  And neither Henry nor Delilah is ready to begin a relationship right now, no matter what you say, no matter whether you get her to agree to wait.  These are all stories about powerlessness.  This game has me thinking about a Vonnegut line about humanism, something about how the decisions we make in life aren't important because they'll make a difference; they're important because they're all you have.

 

I really really loved this game.  I loved the tone; I loved talking with Delilah; I loved being crazy about Delilah and only realizing with some distance that man she was kind of a terrible person.  Others have said 

 

The problems I had were also about gameyness, but more about the realities of games.  Yes it sucked that the open world wasn't as open as it seemed.  I didn't like how during the scariest parts, I kept telling myself that there's no one standing around the corner; people are way to expensive to animate.  I wish I knew Delilah's not staying was a character decision, and not also coincidentally related to the fact that animating a human is super expensive.  I hate that I couldn't just go to Delilah's tower to talk things over; that she hiked right past my tower to leave a radio in a cache box rather than just coming in and handing it to me.

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Oh, on the racoon horror story, the actual racoon leaping out made me jump, scream and throw my controller all at once.  I had already been to Hawk's Next once and explored it and found nothing.  Then, weeks later I was walking past it again and thought maybe I should check to see if anything had changed.  I don't know what the trigger for the racoon is, but I'm guessing it is seeing it (or another one) in the forest, or just after a certain point.  But the fact that I had opened the stove up once with nothing happening made the littler fucker jumping out the second time all the more startling. 

 

The problems I had were also about gameyness, but more about the realities of games.  Yes it sucked that the open world wasn't as open as it seemed.  I didn't like how during the scariest parts, I kept telling myself that there's no one standing around the corner; people are way to expensive to animate.  I wish I knew Delilah's not staying was a character decision, and not also coincidentally related to the fact that animating a human is super expensive.  I hate that I couldn't just go to Delilah's tower to talk things over; that she hiked right past my tower to leave a radio in a cache box rather than just coming in and handing it to me.

 

I think you can safely assume her skipping you wasn't an animation issue.  There are multiple ways I can think of that they could have had her visit the tower without needing to show her.  She could have snuck up in the night and whispered through a window, with the very real explanation that if they were being surveilled that he shouldn't come out and she shouldn't' go in.  Obviously they weren't going to animate anyone, but I generally think that was pretty limited on how it shaped the story.  She didn't want to meet face to face because that would bring a sense of reality to the relationship she didn't want. 

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Loved the game mostly but found the pacing to be rushed. The cuts between days work wonders in the early and late stages of the game, initially doing an excellent job of settling you and in the end creating a great tension, but I wanted a bit more time to breathe in the middle. I guess I just never felt like a fire lookout, or that it was a long hot summer. The montage of days in the middle was a great way to show time passing but I wanted to live that time more than I got to. It sounds like an odd request but I wish the game had more repetitive mundane tasks to do as a lookout, but it would have to walk that difficult line between routine and boring a la Papers, Please, but maybe that just isn't this game.

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I actually would have preferred to hike back to the tower and manually end the day myself every day, though that would sacrifice a few good narrative "cut to card" moments after something was said. 

 

The first couple of times, the sudden cut caught me off guard, as I was planning on doing exploration on my way back from having checked out whatever it was I needed to do for the day.  Take care of my job first, fuck around after.  But once I realized that wasn't going to be an option, if I wanted to do any exploring, I needed to do it before Henry went and took care of whatever, which felt weird that he was supposed to go do this thing, and I just wandered off instead.  At least once, Delilah even called me out for that, so the game felt like it didn't want me exploring before doing the thing it wanted. 

 

I also would have been fine with a few other days spread out over the one big jump, with having to do some mundane tasks.  This also could have helped set some stuff up.  Like Delilah could have told him to go clean up the girl's campsite, only for Henry to return and discover that it was all gone (I did this on my own, but there was no acknowledgment of it being clean, so I didn't know how to read that.  Was Henry weirded out that everything was gone?  Why wouldn't he notice that the place had been scrubbed clean of any trace of them?  It's that weird line of not knowing whether my reaction has any validity within the context of the game when some things are reacted to and others aren't.). 

 

But of course, part of the problem with having him do any mundane tasks is that part of the gating set up is that he lacks certain tools, like a good saw or axe.  Anything that would have let him do certain chores would also have let him get past some of the thorn barriers preventing access to other parts of the map.  I think if any of the gaminess bothered me, it was that.  I can't imagine putting myself into a situation where I was going to do his job for a few months and not have a certain collection of tools with me.  You could make an argument that Ned had stolen all the useful stuff from his tower, but it seems like that would have been something else good to mention to further setup the mystery. 

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Oh man, I feel like most of my commentary has been kinda negative so far, when in reality I'm glad I bought Firewatch and played it right away, and it's obviously something I found intriguing enough to have spent my day pondering, all good things!

 

 

Buuuuttttt, I was super disapointed Henry never got to use the fire triangulation tool thingy :(  I really wanted a scene where we got to figure out exactly where a fire was in the forest (I'm assuming by triangulating data between multiple towers). 

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Mind blown at this one...

 

I'm really chafing against Tom Chick's and others' claims that it's not a good video game because your choices don't matter.  This seems to be completely harmonious with the themes of the game---there is no decision you can make in the opening that can prevent Julia's Alzheimer's.  There is no decision Ned can make that can bring back his dead son.  Henry and Delilah watch a fire burn and are powerless to stop it; they aren't even the ones who get to make decisions whether or how to stop it.  And neither Henry nor Delilah is ready to begin a relationship right now, no matter what you say, no matter whether you get her to agree to wait.  These are all stories about powerlessness.  This game has me thinking about a Vonnegut line about humanism, something about how the decisions we make in life aren't important because they'll make a difference; they're important because they're all you have.

 

Where does he claim that it isn't a good video game because your choices don't matter? I see this passage in his review: "And does what he says even matter in the larger scheme of things? Does Henry have any effect on the A, B, C, and then D? I don’t think so, but I do think his powerlessness is partly the point." He seems to be agreeing with you. I read that as an observation, not a statement that this makes the game bad.

 

There are a lot of things I love about Firewatch, but I think games in this vein that step away from a traditional video game genre are going to open themselves up to increased critical scrutiny about what is working and what is not working. Developers are trying to solve this design problem of how to make games that aren't about action sequences, but instead are about things like relationships, interiority, etc. And telling those stories without resorting to the old point & click adventure game puzzle model. There are a lot of ways people are tackling this problem, and it is really exciting, but it also means it is all pretty experimental stuff and some of this stuff is going to work okay, but a lot of it is going to be awkward too the same way that early 3D environment games were some awkward. I see a review like Tom Chick's and I feel like he is really engaging with that challenge, and I appreciate that even if I don't think I would give the game 2 stars or whatever because I think whatever flaws might exist the game is absolutely worth playing.

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Delilah could have told him to go clean up the girl's campsite, only for Henry to return and discover that it was all gone (I did this on my own, but there was no acknowledgment of it being clean, so I didn't know how to read that.  Was Henry weirded out that everything was gone?  Why wouldn't he notice that the place had been scrubbed clean of any trace of them?

 

I did that, too.  I also hiked back to the phone line tower before that and saw that the wires had been repaired, so I figured that Delilah could have sent a cleanup crew as well as a repair team.  This also ties into Delilah telling Henry his duties are really just to sit in a tower—he's not a ranger!

 

I wanted to use that tool, too!

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Twitter-stumbled across this review at, uh, shutupvideo games?  I think this is a good way of describing what I got out of the game:

 

Something happens in Henry’s life and he disconnects. He then sees what happened to another person who also tried to disconnect, and at least partly resolves to try and find a way back into his life. That, for me, is the emotional core of Firewatch ...

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I did that, too.  I also hiked back to the phone line tower before that and saw that the wires had been repaired, so I figured that Delilah could have sent a cleanup crew as well as a repair team.  This also ties into Delilah telling Henry his duties are really just to sit in a tower—he's not a ranger!

 

I wanted to use that tool, too!

 

Good point, she does make his job duty very clear.  That's just not how I could have done it, I'd have to be building shit, clearing trails, fixing shit.  There's just no way I could hang out in that tower for a few months without finding all sorts of chores to do every week. 

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I read over on reddit a comment from Chris to the extent that the game is partially meant to echo a kind of adolescent experience where you have a brief experience that while it's going on seems super important and central to everything, but in the context of the rest of your life ends up just being a blip, ships passing in the night.

 

Part of that makes me rather frustrated because, while Firewatch presents itself so brilliantly from moment to moment, it never delivers that notion with any force. Rather it presents several disparate themes without giving its full weight to any of them. It's certainly quite true to reality, but the ability to focus and filter out all the noise and present a single coherent vision is one of the greatest strengths of art.

 

My biggest issue with Firewatch isn't the pacing, or the deus ex machina, or the divergence between the narrative presentation and player perspective, but rather that if you consider any one argument of what Firewatch means, there will be large swaths of the narrative rendered irrelevant. You never have that singular moment when all that has happened comes to bear in an epiphany. You never have that moment when you feel, for the briefest of moments, what it is to be someone else.

 

Or at least it never happened for me. Intellectually I can understand the various thematic elements, and how they could fit together, but what empathy that I have for Henry and Delilah are things that I brought with me in the first place.

 

EDIT: used the wrong quotation somehow

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Biggest thing I got out of this game is I kind of want to be a firewatch...er in 1989.

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Pff I don't have to use the outhouse. S'long as I remember to bring a trowel, I go anywhere I please!

 

Wait, did Henry bathe in the nearby lake or creek?

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Bjorn:

 

From what I understand a Forest Fire Lookout really does need to be in the tower at all times, or at least as much as feasible; a few hours can be the difference between a fire that can be handled easily and one that can't be handled at all.

 

The game really misrepresents the job, but that's out of dramatic necessity I suppose.

 

Twig:

 

There's a spigot and a cistern at the base of the tower; Henry doesn't need to go to a creek or lake to wash up.

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There's a spigot and a cistern at the base of the tower; Henry doesn't need to go to a creek or lake to wash up.

 

BORING!

 

EDIT: If you take the boombox all the way back to your tower, does Ned steal it later or does it just not show up in his bunker? Or is continuity BROKEN.

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I consider the boombox a plot hole.

 

I took the boombox from the lake and dragged it all the way back to the tower. In day two it was gone. But Ned was never able to get a hold onto it.

 

Also: ghost confirmed

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Part of that makes me rather frustrated because, while Firewatch presents itself so brilliantly from moment to moment, it never delivers that notion with any force.

 

This is what I'm getting at when I say the game doesn't close the circle.  That moment should come when you discover Ned's bunker, and find his notes, and (cough cough) perhaps a bit of what drove him to perpetrate this insane, deeply sadistic hoax, and to then reveal himself to Henry... but it never arrives.

 

I'm skeptical of taking Chris's interview answer as the intended theme of the game; it sounds like he was describing a comparison that was used at the studio to develop tone, rather than theme or meaning or intention.

 

Regardless of the intention, though, I'd agree that it didn't entirely land.

 

There were really well delivered emotional beats-- particularly the second-person prologue and the sequence culminating in discovering Brian's body.  But it definitely feels like there should have been one more.

 

Also I have thoughts about first-person vs. second-person games, but they're a bit academic and aren't quite entirely cooked yet.

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I consider the boombox a plot hole.

 

I took the boombox from the lake and dragged it all the way back to the tower. In day two it was gone. But Ned was never able to get a hold onto it.

 

Also: ghost confirmed

 

Damn. That's a bummer.

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Initially, the night you wake up and it's Julia talking on the radio, I thought it was Delilah being drunk and/or manipulative, which coloured my impression of her for a bit.

Did anyone else think that or am I just crazy?

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