Firewatch is an indie adventure game developed by Campo Santo. You took on the role of Henry who decided to take on the job as a fire lookout in the woods to get away from the hectic city life after his wife passed away. His only contact with the rest of the world is Delilah, his supervisor. Strange things begin to happen during his work which forced him to investigate. Throughout the investigations, he will account various challenges, and you must make decisions based on his interpretation of the situation.
I feel that one of the reasons that draw me to Firewatch is its game environment. I love the art style of the gaming environment. The natural surroundings that you are in are well crafted and feel immersive. The realism in the surrounding light during a different time of the day is an impressive part of the game. The sounds of nature such as the sound of running water, birds chirping, wind howling and the rustling of leaves all add on to the realistic and inviting feel of the game. It makes you feel that you are in the wild interacting with nature. The attention to details and the effort put in creating the overall immersive gaming environment engage you. It makes you want to explore the places around you and discover new things. The game brings joy in seeing new places and gives many incentives for you to set into the unknown.
Henry’s relationship with Delilah is also another area of the game that interests me. I feel that the use of walkie-talkie as the primary form of communication between the two characters is refreshing. Through their conversation over the walkie-talkie, they slowly and patiently build up their trust and understanding with each other. The lack of face to face communication did not affect their relationship which I feel is very intriguing. The conversions between them are also personal and down to earth. It also allows you to build a personal understanding and connection with them. Over time, it makes you feel that they are people you know. The sentimental values created by the human conversations will trigger the emotional side of you.
Overall I feel Firewatch is a great first person adventure game. It prompts you to explore and discover new territories through creating meaningful interactions with the gaming world. The character development is fantastic. With merely the communication over the walkie-talkie, it allows you to feel engage in the connection between Henry and Delilah. It is a game worth playing and spending your time on.
The train is a simple yet interesting text based interactive web story. The story is about you having a date with a girl, and you have to find your way home. In the beginning, the girl you have a date with will take to you to destiny. When she leaves, you have to find your way home through making a series of choices in which will affects the outcome of the ending. There is a total of ten different endings for the players to explore. This interactive project showcases the power of storytelling. Through using purely text, it can engage the player to go the entire flow of the story. It also creates curiosity within the players which make them replay the interactive story to discover the other different endings.
For me, The Garden of Forking Path is a unique story. The front part of the story talking about Yu Tsun, a Chinese-German Spy, planning and carrying out his escape plan after his cover was blown is somewhat of an unrelated event to the entire story. Though, it served as the buffer for the main bulk of the story to unfold. It did, however, cause some confusion for me during my initial understanding of the text.
The main idea of the story explored the concept of time. It made me think about time more than just a form of measurement in mathematical context. It tried to bring across the idea of time being relative. It formed the basis of a network of possible futures made up of an infinite number of possibilities. These possibilities are all link with one and another. Every point in the context of time has the capability to be the starting point that will lead to an infinite outcome. A slight change in any part of the flow, it will result in a domino effect, affecting all the subsequence possibilities.
This leads me to realize that our life is also affected by the possibilities happening due to the decisions we made and also the decisions we did not make. For example, today you may choose to go to the library and meet someone you that you can relate to. However, you might never meet that person if you choose not to go to the library and do something else instead. The decisions of going and not going to the library will each leads to a different network of possibilities that will branch out infinitely with the flow of time.
I feel that this is a relevant source of inspiration that we as designers can use to enhance an interactive narrative related project. The possibilities created by the availability of choices allows us to create layers within our narrative. Within each layer, there will be potential for more possibilities, creating an interesting and engaging narrative experience. With a fixed progression happening in most of the narrative, in which the flow of it is fixed and sometimes predictable, the availability of choices creates a non-linear storytelling experience in a linear context.
In “Narrative, Interactivity, Play, and Games: Four Naughty Concepts in Need of Discipline,” Eric Zimmerman established his text by explaining his intention for analyzing the context of “game-story” relationship and its importance. It is a necessary effort as there is an extensive amount of enthusiasm in surveying the relationship. It is important for us to thoroughly understand the thoughts involved, so we understand the concept on the crossing of games and stories.
Zimmerman dived into the manner in which the “game-story” relationship is carried out in the current context and the necessities that make its existence relevant. He analyzed the four crucial terms relevant to games design: Narrative, Interactivity, Play, and Games, broadening on their definitions and providing applicable insights on use within games by surveying their context outside of games. These concepts do not exist on their own but are constantly overlapping and influencing each other in various means.
As an interactive designer, I found the portion on interactivity to be particularly engaging and relevant to my field of studies. Hence, the following paragraphs I will be heavily focusing on my thoughts and reasoning on the understanding of the role played by interactivity in the context of games and stories. At the same time, I will also be attempting to draw references from the other important concepts mentioned by Zimmerman to further elaborate my understanding of the text.
We often fail to focus on the essential message we are trying to convey to our audience through the interactive medium we created. Instead, we are too focus on the other aspects during the process that we tend to include interactivity as part of the after-thought. I feel that this gesture eliminates the relevance of interactivity and it becomes an area that is not a necessity for consideration in the building of an interactive piece. This serves as the main motivation for Zimmerman to push for reform in the manner interactivity are performed across various platforms such as websites and video games.
Interaction should be performed based on the well thought out environment that is structured to encourage interaction. Too often, interaction happened under the effect of a scripted environment that kills the urge for users to explore and experience. It detached them from the medium that they are interacting with and feels the lack of personal connection and understanding towards the medium. Instead, it should allows them to have a deeper appreciation of interactivity which allows the spawning of possibilities beyond our understanding.
The original text written by Eric Zimmerman can be found here.