Firewatch has been igniting its fair share of conversation among players and game critics alike. I've seen people discuss the “emotional impact” this game has had on them. Combined with how closely guarded the developers at Campo Santo were about its story and themes prior to release, I was intrigued. Now that I've finished my playthrough, I honestly can't say that I completely agree with my peers who have nothing but adoration for it. While I did enjoy my time with the game, I have a big problem with it. This leaves me with a level of unease that has little to do with Firewatch itself and more the reception of games like it.
When people talk about these kinds of story-driven games, I rarely hear any form of praise besides something along the lines of “It made me feel”, “I was moved”, or something else that suggests that it invoked sadness or melancholy on the part of the individual. Rarely are any other forms of praise given on top of that. I fear that this suggests that when we see “walking simulators” (for lack of a better term), that we, as their audience, have this as our default reaction. I say this not to disparage the genre, but rather to show that perhaps we ought to expect more from them. They can be more than just a genre of games where players wander around an environment and get told a story. To do this, I'd like to compare Firewatch with a game, in the same genre, that more strongly leveraged the power of the medium to tell it's tale: Gone Home.