FOR MONTHS, the team at Campo Santo has been hard at work on a secret project, and even I, the Campo Santo Ombudsman, could only guess at what they were up to in their San Francisco workshop. At night, I dreamed of them standing and administering to their creation, but now, the mystery of Campo Santo is a mystery no more, and the project has been given form and voice, and shape and name, and that name is FIREWATCH –
It is Firewatch.
So what do we know about Firewatch? It is a video game, Campo Santo’s first, to be released for personal computers in 2015. No longer will the name Firewatch be associated with fire safety equipment and fire and rescue software solutions. You can throw those brands in the garbage.
Firewatch is a video game, perhaps the first video game, about being a fire lookout. The fire lookout is a solitary but dignified post, which in the history of American labor has been held by notable persons like Jack Kerouac and a man who was struck by lightning seven times. A closer look at that history appears later in this issue.
Another likely video game first: Firewatch takes place in the state of Wyoming, where the Campos Santo Sean Vanaman and Nels Anderson each grew up. I’m told that they lived in separate cities but encountered each other at least once, when their high school debate teams met at championships. Firewatch must be a special project indeed if these two enemies could agree to put their differences aside.
“I set [Firewatch] in Wyoming,” Mr Vanaman told me, “because, selfishly, I grew up there and realized that if I didn’t take this opportunity to set a game in Wyoming I probably would never get to work on a game set there. There’s something particularly odd about people who live there or become connected to it and I want to try to dig into that stuff as much as possible.” To read more about Wyoming, turn to the story ‘Out of State’ later in this issue. To read nothing more about Wyoming, close this window or print out the Campo Santo Quarterly Review and put it in the trash.
That’s what we know: Firewatch is a video game set in 1989 Wyoming, about the business of fire lookouts. Who could have seen that coming?
I should have seen it coming.
Readers of the last Campo Santo Quarterly Review (now a relic from a pre-Firewatch-announcement world) may remember that I visited a Tarot card reader in the basement of an occult bookstore for the advance and exclusive scoop on what would be Campo Santo’s first game. And in retrospect - now that details of the game have come to light - I can see now that the Tarot reading provided me with absolutely no useful information about what the game was. The Ombudsman’s time has been wasted.
We all know that the function of an Ombudsman is, in part, to settle a grievance between an organisation and its public. But what if the Ombudsman himself has a grievance? What then?
I consulted the Ombudsman Handbook, which said nothing of how to deal with a situation like this. I decided that the best course of action was to call the occult bookstore and set up a second appointment with my Tarot reader so I could ask the Tarot to explain why it had been so unhelpful to me.
I went ahead with this, only to learn - this is true - that the bookstore has a specific policy against booking Tarot readings for people more than once every three months, so as to “discourage dependent relationships with divinatory consultants.”
I was cut off. And so my search for supernatural knowledge did not result in an apology from the Tarot dimension as I’d hoped, but the humiliating realisation that I might have a problem.
“Can I speak to your Ombudsman?” I should have said to them, but I didn’t think of that until much later. Then when I searched online for the phrase “Tarot card Ombudsman”, the first result turned out to be me, which only made it worse somehow.
This is, whatever, this is the Campo Santo Quarterly Review.
Duncan Fyfe London, England May 2014