Firewatch and SUPERHOT: A Tale of Two Games

This past weekend I played two games: Firewatch and SUPERHOT. This post is not intended to be a review of the two games but a look at the polar differences between the two and why one gets a lot of flack for its perceived lack of content and why the other is praised for its mechanical purity.

Now you might ask, “Sadiq, why does this matter? These are two entirely separate games in two entirely different genres!”. To that I answer:

  1. Humour me, I need to flex my writing muscles.
  2. Do the words “value proposition” sound important to you? If so, you are in for a treat.
  3. The voices in my head say interesting things sometimes and I would like to write this down.

Let us jump in shall we?


Wikipedia describes Firewatch as a “first person adventure”. Sure, that works as a rather basic and somewhat vague description of the game. If you visit the Steam page and other think pieces about the game, you might see the term “walking simulator”. Okay, that also works as a basic description of one of the mechanics of the game.

Let us talk about that term a bit. Firewatch is a game that contains about 3-6 hours of gameplay. Is the term a judgement passed about the length of the game? Let me pose a question: would you still call this game a walking simulator if it was 10 hours long? 20 hours?

Maybe that was a stupid question, “Sadiq, obviously if it has the same mechanics over 20 hours, we will be calling it the same thing”. Okay, sure.

I’ve heard and seen a lot of people talking about the price point of the game:

“I might pick it up on sale for $5.”

“$20 bucks?! You serious?”

“The price may not be right yet and the ending is questionable, but this “hiking simulator” has some of the most authentic dialogue ever written.” – TotalBiscuit

Let us talk about that last one for a bit. Ignoring the economic realities of video game development for a bit, why is the price not right for you? Is it the length? The lack of “traditional” mechanics?

What is valuable to you in games? I want a good story, good mechanics, good graphical fidelity and I want all of them for the low low price of what exactly?

Stop thinking about value in video games in terms of $/hour. That will affect your perception of games where the experience provided may be short but deeply interesting and/or fun. Stop giving replay value as a metric more weight than it needs.


With a concept of replay value in mind, let us segue into the other game we will be talking about.

Wikipedia classifies SUPERHOT as a FPS. What a FPS it is. Minimalistic pure mechanical genius.

Seriously, take a look at the video:

SUPERHOT released for about the same price that Firewatch did. Polar opposites, one is pure mechanics with a threadbare story mode, the other a pure story experience with a minimalistic set of mechanics. One with an almost unlimited amount of replay value, the other you can probably play about a couple times at most.

Do we complain about SUPERHOT’s lack of a compelling story like we complain about Firewatch’s lack of compelling game mechanics? Maybe, but personally I have heard nothing but praise about the game. Does SUPERHOT’s abundance of replay value provide a greater value proposition than 3 hours of an interesting story and amazing voice acting?

The Point

I asked a lot of questions in this post. I suppose the point of this post is to get you, the reader thinking about what you truly value in your video games. In an age of day one DLC and season passes, what passes for a good value proposition?

Both games offer different experiences and both offer a good “value proposition”.

I would highly recommend both games.

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