Warning: Major Firewatch Spoilers Ahead
“Hey, Henry…? Ummm… what do you look like?
Delilah’s voice prods at you in a scene that sums up the entire experience of Campo Santo’s inaugural release, Firewatch.
Firewatch is more than a walking simulator. It’s more than a beautiful forest of isolation. It is more than a tale of a man trying to run. Firewatch is an introspection, a call to the player to look deep inside themselves and call into question all of the thoughts that race through the head of a man whose life is spiraling as a result of besetting tragedy.
Henry and Julia met in college. The question of how is crafted in the opening sequence along with the tale of two decades of a relationship, but one thing is inevitable, Julia’s health will decline. Early onset dementia sets in and rips away Julia’s memory as well as the beautiful and messy relationship she and Henry had created over 20 years. Now, with little to no recollection of the man she loved in a life before, Henry is left trying to deal with the effects of seeing his wife die a thousand deaths. In the midst of his struggle, Henry turns to the bottle for an evening and winds up getting arrested for a DUI. Julia’s family in Australia learns of this incident and comes to America to take Julia away from her irresponsible husband.
Perhaps what makes Firewatch’s story so compelling is its ability to launch those of us with less life experience into situations we would never want to imagine ourselves in. The one you love changing right before your eyes. The messiness of commitment alongside the reality that he will probably never see his wife again. The knowledge that even if he were to breathe the same air as her, she probably would never have any idea who he is.
So, Henry runs.