From Firewatch to Wilderplace, the charm of indie games
Yesterday, for the first time in many months, I took advantage of a particularly quiet Friday evening to play on the computer. Although I’ve never been an avid consumer of video games, I do enjoy indulging in them from time to time. As my current machine has a particularly low-performance graphics card, I’ve had to give up playing games that are too resource-hungry. For example, I’ve yet to finish The Witcher 3, which I started on another, more powerful laptop, and which took up a lot of hours during the lockdown1.
In the meantime, this creative constraint pushes me to seek out singular games instead of diving headfirst into the latest blockbuster craze2. The last one to keep me on my toes was Firewatch, about two years ago. A game tailor-made for a cartographer, where you play as a fire lookout in Wyoming in 1989. Between the beauty of the design, the exploration of National Parks wide-open spaces and the intriguing, subtle storyline, the game is captivating and I invite you to have a look at it.
Last night I started playing Wilderplace, a sort of puzzle-solving game created by Mapbox alumnus Samal Bemel Benrud. Its peaceful, wonderful atmosphere owes much to its hand-drawn graphics and indie synth soundtrack.
In Wilderplace, you are a shaman tasked with bringing balance to the once-idyllic Divine Garden. Explore the maze-like environment, harness magical artifacts, and uncover mysteries as you wrangle restless spirits and evade dangerous intruders.
Unlike The Witcher and its sometimes distressing approaches (gender relations, for example), Firewatch or Wilderplace cultivate suggestion, delicacy and poetry, while remaining highly engaging and entertaining. Shoutout to the developers of these independent games3 for offering us playful worlds that are less binary and more surprising!
I didn’t have any children at the time. At the current rate, I should be able to resume my game around 2042 or 2043, when version 54 of The Witcher will be released in Metavisiontm. I can’t wait. ↩︎
Independent at the time of Firewatch’s creation, the Campo Santo studio has since been bought out by Valve, the studio behind Half-Life and owner of Steam. ↩︎