Fire, Watch With Me

My twitter has been a-buzz with various gaming news sites all confirming that beautiful indie game, Firewatch is to be brought to be brought to the big screen. Yup, this is another stab at reimagining games as movies, which as we know hasn’t worked out too well in the past. Details are pretty thin on the ground at the moment, but I thought I’d share some of my initial thoughts with yous.

(In case you haven’t heard about this, read this Hollywood Reporter article to fill you in on what little information we have at the moment. )

My first concern is that, historically, the moves adapted from games have managed to miss the mark more often that not. There seems to be a gap in translation between what makes a good game and what makes a good film. However, most movies have been inspired by games in the “action”genre (I use that term broadly).

Firewatch however is a walking simulator, a game that is all about narrative and less about, say, shooting monsters. So perhaps that would go in its favour. But this film can’t just be a live action version of the game – otherwise what would be the point? I’m concerned that the writers may try to beef up the conspiracy/suspense angle, running the risk of missing what Firewatch is about. Some fans found the ending of the game to be anti-climatic (although Errant Signal argues this is purposeful – and I agree). The film makers may try to resolve this by adding in a real conspiracy, a Delilah reveal, or even a sappy reunion with Henry’s wife. And that would be very disappointing to me – but I do acknowledge that some fans would be pleased by this.

I loved Firewatch, and the environment was a big part of that. Being able to explore that rich setting was a huge part of why that game has stuck in my mind. Even if the film was set in a breathtaking location, would it be the same? There are many beautiful landscapes, beautiful shots and beautiful games. What made Firewatch stand out to me was the stylised nature that the devs went with. For me, an “unnatural” rendering makes that setting unique to the story. However, very few details on the film have been decided, let alone released – so who knows what the aesthetic will be.

A great part of Firewatch is putting the player front and centre. With the first person view, and ability for players to choose the dialogue, we end up feeling like this is our story. This is felt strongly in the first section of the game which implicates the player in Henry’s life choices and really hits hard emotionally. It would be interesting to see how the filmmakers engage the audience in a similar way, considering they don’t have the tools game devs have to allow players to create and own the narrative.

Despite my hesitations, I don’t want to discourage adaptions between mediums. Some great films have come from great books, for example. Perhaps the industry just needs more tries – the right type of games, the right type of creative teams. Let’s be honest, films based on games weren’t the only bad media that happened in the early 2000s. So maybe we should be more forgiving and open minded.If this film is made by those who truly understand and love games, and this game in particular, I’m sure they’ll make a better movie than those just cashing in on a popular IP. So fingers crossed, and here’s hoping that despite my initial feelings of hesitation, we get something as memorable and beautiful as the game.

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