I still remember the first time the concept of game-based learning was introduced to our learning design team at the office. Some of them were excited while some kept their distance from the discussion calling it silly. The ones who kept their distance are the ones who had a standard picture of video games in their minds (shoot, run, jump, race, fight, win) and hence couldn’t see a lot of inspiration coming in there in terms of design thinking and user experience.

The fact here is that even the ones that are excited have the same picture in mind. So what were these guys visualizing? That the learners will walk around shooting a bunch of guys whiles answering the questions? Or that they’ll be racing through different modules in the course? Neither of it makes sense.

In this blog post series, we’ll take a look at some games that are beyond the stereotypes. We’ll see what makes them special in terms of engaging the players as well as creating a meaningful play without having many attributes of a standard AAA title.

1. Firewatch

Firewatch feels more like reading a good book than playing a video game. With its beautiful artworks, gripping story, interesting branching scenarios and super realistic voice-overs, it creates a memorable experience that is unmatched.

What’s The Game About?

It’s a mystery adventure game, where you get to play the role of Henry who’s a fire lookout assigned to his own tower in Shoshone National Forest. The game involves a lot exploration in the open-world forest and your only communication in whole the game is with a superior(Delilah) that too, over a walkie-talkie.

Gameplay Trailer:


What Makes It Special?

  1. You’ll get to explore a spectacular wilderness environment through a span of an entire summer where each day is treated as the chapters of the story. Even though the art style is a bit different from the usual games, it almost feels surrealistic except for the fact that you don’t get to meet any wildlife in the game (leaving out a cute turtle you get to pet once you discover it). firewatch
  2. It’s not easy to make the game engaging with only a single character (as seen on screen). So what keeps it running alive is the gripping story that keeps you connected with the character’s journey. It is an adults game about adults issues in which they address the issues just the way adults do.firewatch-2.jpg
  3. Games are like movies where you get to control the lead characters. In this regard, Firewatch is two steps ahead. In this game, your choices make Henry look like a fun guy or a serious one lost in thoughts over his wife (who’s suffering from early-onset dementia). This is done through the dialogue choices you’ll have during every conversation you have with Delilah over the walkie-talkie. The dialogues have been very cleverly written as to create a good bonding between the characters as their conversations keep happening over time.                                                                               Firewatch_20160531232933_550_zpsckt9bbyd.jpg Firewatch3
  4. There are only two characters in the game. One is a first-person character that we play and the other one is only heard on the radio but never actually get to see. Even though the two lead characters are communicating via two-way radio, their relationship feels very real. This was made possible using a lot of drama. Despite the absence of any visible emotional cues (due to the no-face scenario), the narration, and the voice-acting cover it up to create an engaging dramatic experience. It is a full-fledged emotional journey starting as a delightful exploration of the wide forest and then slowly turning into a terrifying one as the story moves forward. firewatch4

Successfully Utilized Game Elements:

  • Aesthetics (Immersive environment)
  • Gripping Story (Storytelling at its best)
  • Realistic Dialogues
  • Drama (Emotional play: Includes Humour, Anger, Sadness)

That’s all about Firewatch. For more on the game, visit Firewatch website. Let me know if your views in the comments section below.

Coming up next is a game that can serve as a great team-building and communication exercise.