It was only a matter of time before the cinematic potential that lay in Campo Santo’s forest lookout simulator got noticed by a film studio. The press basically ran out of superlatives to talk about dem visuals even before the game got released in February of this year.
The news about Campo Santo teaming up with independent film production company Good Universe came from The Hollywood Reporter, with any more details about how the two plan to take the game to the silver screen yet to be released. Hopefully the development of the movie will be as interesting to follow as the development of the game and in the end we’ll have a shining new example of video games seeping into other media, having forgotten the disappointed reactions that followed Warcraft: The Movie.
Come to think of it we already have a movie that is basically Firewatch in Spike Jonze’s Her, which also features a character dealing with loneliness by trying to pitch, head-over-heels, into a crazy new relationship. Even though in Her, the elusive and mysterious disembodied female voice belonged to a highly-advanced AI and not a human being, the movie featured a lot of Theodore just walking around the near-future Los Angeles while casually chatting with Samantha. This aspect of getting to know a person merely by talking to them is the whole emphasis of Firewatch too, as are the moments in which the main protagonist just walks around, quietly musing about his feelings. I could almost see the opposite coming to pass and Her getting turned into an aesthetically-pleasing indie game in which you control Jaquin Phoenix as he writes sentimental postcards, roleplaying a person who is himself roleplaying with the lives of other people.
While Firewatch: The Movie will surely have no problem in looking pretty, it’ll be interesting to see how much the game-iness of the source material will be preserved in the final product. And I don’t mean silly references to carrying around a cutout of Forest Byrnes or shrieking with delight after finding Turt Reynolds. In an interview, Warcraft director Duncan Jones mentioned making a conscious decision about condensing the world of the movie to maintain the unphysical sense of scale you experience while playing WoW, a subtle point likely to confuse someone who has never played the game, but one which perfectly highlights one key difference between how world-building works in games compared to other media. Hopefully the future director of Firewatch doesn’t merely borrow the story and visuals of the original game, but also manages to incorporate the deeper realities of it having been adapted from a video game.
Whatever the final outcome of the collaboration between Campo Santo and Good Universe turns out to be, expect the hype cycle that preceded Firewatch: The Game to be powerfully echoed as the cinematic adaptation starts chugging along.