The Most Intriguing Part Of Firewatch Is The Wedding Ring

I’ve forgotten so much about my wedding day.

I can’t remember cutting the cake and I don’t remember my first dance. I don’t remember what I said in my vows and my wedding speech was an unparalleled disaster.

But one moment is tattooed on my memory, etched so powerfully I doubt it’ll ever leave. My wife and I just exchanged rings. I looked down at my hand and it looked strange. Different. Like it didn’t belong to me. It looked like the hand of an older man. Before my fingers seemed lean and delicate, now they looked gnarled and thick..

In that moment I thought I was looking at my father's hand.

I cannot explain to you in words how weird that felt.

How good is Firewatch, right?

It's pretty damn good, tremendous even, with writing that's not just good in that patronising way (“it’s good… for a video game”) but in a general way.

Two things stood out for me.

The first is a moment, early in the game. Fireworks are being set off illegally and you’re asked to investigate. The perpetrators turn out to be two surly teenage girls. As you approach their clothes are strewn throughout their campsite. It becomes increasingly clear they are skinny dipping in a nearby lake.

You approach. You tell them off from a distance. You never really see the teenage girls but you hear their voices, berating you – calling you a pervert, overweight, weird, gross.

We’re not used to this in video game land. We’re used to being the hero, we’re used to being empowered. We’re not used to being verbally abused and belittled by snarky teenagers. We’re not used to feeling uncomfortable in our own digital skin. We're not used to being forced into a sense of self-loathing.

The second was more subtle, but I noticed it almost immediately: your wedding ring. In Firewatch, Henry -- the protagonist -- wears a wedding ring.

Again, we’re not used to wearing wedding rings in video games. A few spring to mind. Most recently, Fallout 4 allowed its players to keep (and wear) its protagonist's wedding band after your wife is murdered.

But Firewatch is different.

In Firewatch your wedding ring is inescapable. Each time you climb up a rock wall or scramble into a crevass your wedding is there, visible: emblematic of a relationship that sits silently at the centre of Firewatch’s narrative. Your absent wife, who you’ve left in Melbourne, Australia, is represented by that ring. It’s a constant reminder that your escape, your avoidance, is a temporary solution. It’s Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart, beating beneath the floorboards. It’s the visible representation of your regret and shame.

But despite the ring's visibility in the early stages of Firewatch, I didn’t even notice when Henry removed it. It was a slow burn. At first I stopped thinking about the ring, took it for granted. Later when, reminiscing on its initial impact, I tried to look for it. Was it still there? Was it gone? Before Henry’s wedding ring was so visible, now I couldn’t see it at all.

And in the context of the narrative, that absence is so powerful. Slowly, you/Henry are in the process of developing a relationship with Delilah, your supervisor, a person you’ve never seen but is constant presence in Firewatch. She gives you instructions, you make small talk. It's clear something is growing there. Mid-way through the game Henry takes a phone call from Julia, his wife, but he sounds distant, eager to end the conversation. With Delilah he's content to talk and talk. Henry initiates. He is present.


I don’t actually wear my own wedding ring.

I have a friend, we used to play football together. One day, when I wasn’t playing, he hit a wayward shot and fired the ball over a high fence. Instead of going around, my friend decided to climb the fence. At the top he slipped and his ring got caught. Almost instantly his finger was degloved, the skin and muscle tissue completely torn off. He was in shock. He wandered around in circles saying, ‘where’s my finger’, ‘where’s my finger’, 'where's my finger'.

So yeah, that spooked me on rings in general.

Four years ago I took up rock climbing as a hobby. With my friend’s story in mind, I removed the ring before climbing. When I started going more regularly I wondered if it was worthwhile putting it back on. One day I forgot. I left it off and I never put it on again. No big deal. I remember wondering – Henry does a lot of climbing in Firewatch, maybe he had the same excuse.

Every time I think about putting my ring back on I remember my wedding day. I love my wife, we have an incredible relationship and there’s no ‘Delilah’ in my life, but when I think about wearing my wedding ring again it makes me feel funny. I remember the strangeness of my wedding day. I remember looking down at my hand and not recognising what I saw.

Later, in Firewatch, I found Henry’s wedding ring, sitting on a table next to the radio I used to call Delilah I picked it up. The game gives you an option: it asks you if you want to put the ring back on.

This time, as Henry, I decided to wear it.


    Well that finger story is the stuff of nightmares. Thanks Mark.

      Ugh. Uuuuuuugh. That word.

      I've heard of so many instances of that happening. Terrifying.....

      I physically cringed when I read that part :X

    Someone didn't find the UFO crash site near the beginning of the game.

      Nah, that was a dunny...

    Did people get along with Delilah? After she was rude on first meeting and then got huffy and stopped talking to me when I told her not to pry into my personal affairs shortly after, I don't think my Henry's relationship with her ever got far beyond professionally courteous.

      Oh man, that's interesting.

      Were you angling for an attempted 'bad' playthrough or something?

      This is amazing, like... whenever I play Mass Effect and tell myself I'm going to play Renegade, or play something else with morality choices, I always end up playing the paragon/'good' run several times over, because whenever it comes to the choice to be the bad guy, I just... I just can't.

      And yet there are people who choose that option naturally, without a struggle of will. It's fascinating.

      No friendly/borderline flirty banter... at all? Inconceivable!

      I was friendly with Delilah and she was friendly back. She even shared some personal details about her history pretty early on. I also wonder if putting the wedding ring back on affected the story later on or not. Tempted to run a second playthrough just to see if anything changes.

      I started the game over and i can't remember what i did but i somehow made a series of decisions where she seemed to be far less interested in me than my previous game. This prompted me to basically act like a love sick puppy and never do ANYTHING to displease her again. Literally looked ahead and thought, "actually, this'll suck if she doesn't like me..." Was i thinking as myself or Henry? I also remember staring at the ring after i realised it was off wondering what'll change if i put it back on... Don't think about stuff like that in other games.

    I left it off. Jules is gone, that was obvious. Time to move on. Don't know it Delilah is where I'm going but..

    Did anyone notice the day that it was on the table instead of on his hand? I saw it and made sure to put it back on before heading out that day. From memory it stayed on till the end of the game.

    I came for the headline

    You had me at skinny dipping teenage girls...

    And now i'm spent.

      As the "gross pervert" protagonist, can you burn the girls clothes, y'know, teach them a lesson in humility and all? On camera? Direct to youtube.

        I like the cut of your jibe.

        No, but you can throw their expensive radio into the lake.

    First thing, do NOT search up de-gloved ANYTHING.

    I'm getting married next weekend and am getting myself ready for the prospect of wearing a ring for the first time ever, and then for that ring to actually mean something. I'll definitely keep an eye out for this when I get around to paying Firewatch. Also, this just proves to my fiance that my fear of ring-related-injuries is not irrational!

    I noticed the ring was missing just before the evacuation of the fire at at end spent a good minute or two staring at it before I decided to leave it to burn in the tower Also was a little bit dissapointed my recommendation for her coming back with me to boulder was shot down. I am guessing that is the outcome regardless of what you say to her.

    This is the storytelling, consideration and empathy initiated by the game. If you're actually following it, it sets the tone for every action you take - the way you'll react as a player, THROUGH HENRY and how his actions and words will alter your perspective over whats actually going on and what he's feeling. It seems like a lot of people played this like a collect-a-thon or a puzzle game with people trying to compare it to Life is Strange for some reason.

    It's somewhat transparent that games that don't give you a pat on the head or reward you with "victory" at the end consistently have that "it was good except for the ending" excuse with a bunch of mild generalisations about "walking simulators" or how the narrative wasn't cohesive or was flawed despite not being able to cite any literary conventions or real issues associated with the game not i herently linked to perspective. It's cool not to enjoy a game for whatever reason but these small details can be relatively powerful things in games and visual narrative, when so many people are letting these small but powerful details affect them as intended - it seems a little disingenuous to attempt to dismiss them entirely and override the existence of this narrative in favour of a series of hyperbolic generalisations.

    The ring was one of the first things that grabbed me initially, it was just a quick flash but i remember my heart sinking. I was glad this exists and that a game cared about this perspective boldly in the face of people trying to establish some sort of objective truth about the game being actually terrible due to their ignorance of every narrative convention. The game won't hook everyone and i don't expect it to, i'd just rather not have people uneducated in these basic conventions and strategies to stop telling me they don't exist when a basic education in arts, media or literature covers it routinely.

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