Environment as Narratives

Firewatch Analysis

Firewatch is a narrative first-person game released in 2016 by indie studio Campo Santo. In this game, the player embodies Henry, a middle-aged man spending the summer of 1989 working as a fire lookout in the Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming. Studying Firewatch provides insight into the relationship between environment design and narrative experiences, since the latter is supported or emphasized by the former. Gameplay restricts players’ movement to a mountaintop, where they walk between trees and on top of rocky formations. I will unpack my shifting emotional response to the environment as I explored it. I felt the initial novelty and the awe induced by its technical prowess quickly subsided, creating in me a spectrum of affects. As the overarching narratives imposed themselves and interfaced with my reception of the game, they colored my reading, shining a new light on my surroundings. Continue Reading

Monkey See, Monkey Do:

Semiotics and Affordances in Monkey Island

Figure 2

At their heart, adventure games are about exploration and discovery. Players must connect with the world around them to solve puzzles and progress forward, making player/game space interaction a key component of the genre. When looking at the design of these games, investigating them through the dual lenses of semiotics and affordances can help describe the subtle nuances of interactivity and game design, which can make or break player experience. According to Saussure (1983), semiotics is the study of signs, symbols and the meanings these have in communication, while Norman (2003) argues affordances describe human interaction with objects and spaces. Continue Reading