September 2017 | Nate Pedersen

The Books of Firewatch

Out here in Central Oregon, we've been inundated this year with wildfires. It was, therefore, strikingly appropriate that I also came across the video game Firewatch, which I played over the course of a couple sittings last week while we were trapped inside hiding out from the all of the smoke.

The innovative, beautifully crafted game takes place in 1989 when you, as the protagonist, take a job as a fire lookout at a remote post in the Wyoming wilderness, a refuge from your complicated life. As the game unfolds, strange events are afoot in the woods, and your only connection to the outside world is the voice of Delilah, your supervisor, who checks in periodically over a handheld radio.

The game, which is a success on multiple levels, does a particularly excellent job of re-creating period details to make the gamer feel like he or she is really there, transported back to the late 1980s. One of the period details that particularly stood out to me, as a bibliophile, was the integration of paperback novels. Scattered around in your fire lookout, as well as at various caches you come across through gameplay, are a variety of paperback novels perfectly designed to resemble the kinds of books you would have found in a grocery store aisle circa 1985. (And therefore would have been likely candidates for stashing in a backpack and bringing out into the wilderness with you).

For example, throughout the game you can build your Richard Sturgeon collection. Sturgeon, a made-up author in the pulp mystery vein, in the Firewatch world wrote a series of novels dubbed "Crime by the Numbers." (As you find the novels throughout the game, the dedicated bibliophile gamer can go even go so far as to drag the books back to your fire lookout and to build your collection on your resident bookcase. This particular gamer won't reveal whether he actually took the time to perform this task. *cough*).

The Richard Sturgeon Collection in all its pulpy glory (with screenshots gratefully sourced from

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And here are the other, non-Richard Sturgeon books that you can find scattered around throughout the game:

1) Glory by Magmanus

2) The Birds of Wyoming by George Sinclair

3) The Patriots by Donald Anderson

4) The Singular Mind by Dr Jonas Allard

5) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

6) The Accidental Savior by Terrence L. Greenbriar

7) The Black Band (comic book)

8) Wizards & Wyverns (role playing book)

9) Steven's Room by Howard Crowther

10) Lucien's Gambit by Timothy Howell

The rich creation of such period details is only one of many rewarding elements of playing Firewatch. The game offers an immensely satisfying gaming experience enhanced in particular by its vivid, true-to-life characterizations. Firewatch is available for PCs and Macs, as well as for PlayStation 4 and xBox One.

[Images from gamepedia]