The two games that I will compare today are Gris and Firewatch. Gris is a “platform game”, in which you have “levels” to cross reach the end in Gris, at least, it is like you are watching someone who is in grief and is fighting through it, in different stages. Firewatch, on the other hand, is a walking simulator that puts you into the perspective of the person in grief, you embody that grief as you play. In each case, we are tackling how to overcome some form of trauma in a different way. In Gris, the loosing of the voice itself is the experience of being in grief. Firewatch portrays grief in a different way. The main character is in grief because his wife gets dementia and believes that he is not capable enough to take care of her. Her family takes her home, and to cope with grief he takes a job where he has almost no human interaction, just to avoid facing his wife thinking that he was the reason that she was ill. Henry, the person you follow in the game, in the beginning has these walls around him, so that no one can get close to him. In the beginning he is sort of emotionally detached, his supervisor is also someone who took this job because even she is also sort of in grief.
Instead of actually playing the game I decided to watch the walkthrough of the game. The
advantage of the walkthrough was that I wouldn’t have to do anything, I could essentially finish watching the game in half the time, maybe even less, than playing the game. With this I could easily think more about the essence of the game and figuring out how each character coped with the issues they had, than I would trying to decide what to do next or where else to go. But in doing so, I think, I lost the chance to actually stop and just see all around or just in that frame, and really admire the surroundings. The surroundings in both games were simply beautiful. In Gris, it was absolutely beautiful, something that even a non-art lover could appreciate. It resembled more of drawings, paintings and doodles, it was kind of “fake” as in something like would never actually exist in real life, like the stone with legs on it. However, in the surroundings of Firewatch, it was more of a natural and realistic surrounding where there were forests, sharp rocks, which were not as beautiful as Gris, but was the artistic appeal of the game itself.
I believe that the surroundings in both the games affected both the characters in some way or another. In Gris, the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, with broken down structures and extreme harsh climates that symbolizes the state of her mind. The world slowly turning to dust is the representation of the state of mind she is in. Hence, surrounding plays a major role in a Gris, the surroundings not only helps and harms her in different ways, but also represents her mental state. While playing the game, I started with a colorless world, this means that after what she went through, she can’t feel anything. She fights her surroundings with each passing stage. The first stage that comes after the colorless world, is the red phase, which symbolizes anger. The conditions of the world she is in changes they are harsh and fragile at the same time. She faces harsh storms that throws her back and stops her while she is walking. But it helps her at the same time, she is given the ability to turn into a box-like object that helps her get through structures by breaking through them and enables her to withstand the strong winds. These addition to her character’s abilities are the coping mechanisms for grief. The surroundings don’t help Henry in Firewatch the same way it does in Gris. The surroundings actually harm him, because of steep and sharp rocks that he has to climb down from. Moreover, this is a place that is prone to fires and bears, somethings that could kill him. Ned, Henry’s stalker, who tried to harm Henry on multiple occasions, was also part of the same surrounding. Towards the end of the game, there is a fire. Both Henry and Delilah were being evacuated, therefore, Henry knew that he might not be able to talk or even meet with her ever again. He finally amassed the courage to ask Delilah to come with him on a journey. The surroundings being harmful ultimately helped Henry overcome some of his grief by transforming this emotionally de-attached into this person who fell in love with someone to ask her to join him on journey. So, in Gris the surrounding was the thing that influenced who she eventually became, on the other hand, in Firewatch, the surrounding is not what changes him, even though it was because of the surrounding he was able to seize an opportunity. However, it’s his own personal development as a person, who was initially emotionally broken, with just the fire pushing us is what shapes him as a person at the end.
One of the most important themes of the games is structured and how they interact with various things throughout the game. Both games are completely different, even though on some level they deal with trauma. The way you tackle grief is completely different in both the games. The fact that Firewatch is a walking simulator, you see all things from his perspective. This helps because playing it helps you embody the character itself and go through things with him. He has taken in a job in this isolated place and the only source of interaction is with his supervisor, Delilah, over walkie-talkies. Over the course of the game, there is a transition in the way they think about each other and talk to each other. Initially, the conversations that they had was work related only with her teasing him a little bit and asking him to various tasks throughout the area they were in. This structure of them interacting through various things he had to do, brought them closer, making him finally open up both emotionally and about his past. This helped him to face his fears and fall in love again, which he thought was not possible because of what happened to Julia and the fact that he blamed himself. We know that she causes this change when we see that he isn’t offended by her calling him “Mark”, he said he was completely against and even gets angry with her in the beginning of the game. The structure of Gris is completely different. I think that the game is about delving deep in ones one mind and interacting with their self. The interaction is with the surroundings itself. There are creatures whom she also interacts with by using them as a steppingstone to accomplish getting through phases. The “glowing orbs” and the different abilities she gains, can be considered power-ups to help her get through the stages of grief better than she would on her own. The interaction she has is not shown in the game, according to me, the people she interacts with in the outside world influences her state of mind. She knows that she needs to interact with a “healthy” group of people, who need to help her cope with this kind of grief. This goes to show the hidden meaning behind this, if a person is in grief or have experienced a form of trauma, they have to interact with people who will help her through this, even if she thinks that she is all alone as portrayed by the game (her mind).
Both the games ended in a strange way and the endings can be interpreted in different ways. In both the games each character is emotionally detached in the beginning and they try to overcome this grief. In Gris, the character overcomes her grief, as she gets her voice back and all the structures that were broken down were now returned to normal, which signifies her coming out of trauma. However, as he finally completed her final task, the screen went blank and structures turn to dust, but it finally came together and became on big structure. This very strange as this signified total loss even after striving through so much and then you get a relief as you succeed. The ending in Firewatch is somewhat arbitrary. What I speculated was that he does overcome his emotional detachment, as he finally gets the courage to ask Delilah to come with him, but she refuses. You can hear the disappointment in both their voices, she says that he should go meet Julia. Although, we don’t know what happens after he is rescued by a helicopter. He would most probably go meet with Julia, but only because Delilah told him to do so. Even in the end, he has not even seen Delilah and departing we can hear how disappointed he was which could possibly lead to another traumatic experience. Delilah, also developed emotionally, when she says that she didn’t talk to any other lookout as much as him, but sadly, her commitment issues came into her way of being with the man even she fell in love with. So, the surroundings and the structure both influenced each character to a certain extent even if Henry did not actually overcome his trauma.