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Feminism: the Elusive Female Figure in Firewatch

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The digital game Firewatch adheres to the adventure game genre exhibiting tropes that align it to the journey story. The protagonist, Henry, takes a summer position as a forrester in an attempted abscond from his personal tribulations. The game descends from the fantasy of an idealized heteronormative lifestyle to the tragic reality of Julia’s early onset. Alzheimer’s and Henry’s DUI conviction. Henry is sequestered from society and is confined to the watchtower upon arrival to the forest. Henry’s only and elusive companion, Delilah, is never physically depicted on screen, however she delegates Henry’s daily assignments. Henry’s predilection for frontier life is irrelevant in that the game is structured as a walking simulation. The simulation structure becomes increasingly ominous with the initial breaking of the window. (Campo Santo). The player is subsequently juxtapositioned between two genres for the remainder of the game. The game recycles horror tropes to offset the placid nature setting. Firewatch resolves with the annihilation of the forest and the reemergence of Henry and Delilah into society.

Firewatch implores the narratological lense of Feminism in discerning the thematic aspect of the game. Campo Santo attempted to illustrate the process of male maturity through challenges imposed by incendiary terrain. Henry is forced to flee from the environment when the metaphorical trials are completed. According to Gender studies scholar Evan Watts, Digital Games set in anti-utopian societies with domineering male protagonist frequently subset the masculine influenced tropes of Protectionism and the allocation of control to aide in the engenderment of female autonomy. Although, Campo Santo appears to endorse the conventional tropes that Watt’s delineated as masculine idealism, the feminist perspective of empowerment subverts the initial imagery of masculinity. The dialogue options in Firewatch reflects an interplay between masculine tropes and the disillusionment of masculine tropes to render a feminist criticism of emancipation. The article, “Ruin, Gender and Digital Games” by Evan Watts is paramount to the gestation of female entitlements by subverting the democracy in conventional digital game societies to expose their misogynistic regulations. Watts deploys three paradigms that remonstrate the fallacy of Patriarchy to characterize women: “ Bioshock, Fallout 3 and Silent Hill” (Watts 253). The paradigms contribute to the generation of two integral concepts that typify masculine idealism: Protectionism and the allocation of control. The notion of protectionism is the requisite of a male figure to preserve the innocence of a female from the corruption of society. The allocation of control addresses the masculine repression of female desires to maintain their depotistic power over women. The dichotomous concepts are expressed in the feminist perception of Firewatch.

In the preamble, of Firewatch the player is given dialogue options that frame Henry’s personality and systematic choices through the remainder of the game. The framed narrative precedes with linear anticipation until the acceleration of Julia’s deteriorating condition. The game presents Henry with dueling opportunities to deal with Julia’s maign illness. “You decide to move her into a full time care facility or You are determined to take care of her by yourself” (Campo Santo). The designated options embody the philosophy of masculine protectionism in men desiring to suppress the emergence of female independence. The repercussions of Henry’s decision immortalize the victimization of Julia. Julia’s departure to a nursing home enforces the salience of Watts associations of femininity. “Marginalizing women forcing them into roles of domesticity, passivity and subordination” (Watts 250). Campo Santo makes Julia a kismet victim of a terminal illness to scrutinize the defraudation of women by denial of their vocal presence. The latter option depicts a similar instance of female oppression, Henry is portraying the ubiquitous masculine protector role as Julia’s caretaker. The protector model is governed by patriarchy in prescribing the inherited traits of strength, persistence and infallibility to men; giving credence to their guardianship over women. Campo Santo defines Julia through the perception of Henry by denying the revelation of Julia’s sentiments on her infirmity. Julia’s transparency is systemic of a society that valorizes masculine intuition and thwarts the intelligence of women. The trope of subordination is the raison d’ etre of the Patriarchy in Firewatch and evolves to address Julia’s outward obedience to Henry. Watts examines the digital game BioShock as an epithet to redress the nefarious potential of masculine oversight. The presentation of the female characters in Bioshock is that of children or “Little Sisters.

The Little Sisters embody the victimization trope in their engineered disfigurement and their necessity as children for guidance from a male parental figure (Watts 253-255). The Little Sisters parody Julia in their apparent reversion to an infantile stage. The female-child metaphor is adequate in satisfying a visual representation of women’s inferiority. Firewatch is effective in subverting the masculine conservative model by displacing Julia as a burden to Henry. The uniform consequences of the previous scenarios is Henry’s negligence in facilitating Julia’s care. Henry’s lethargy in Julia’s rehabilitation is symptomatic of the failed implementation of the patriarchal practice of paternalism. Campo Santo provides options that delineate Julia’s rescue from a masculine overseer that entrap her in a state of forlorn incompetence. “ You put a chair in front of the bedroom door or You trust that she sleeps like a rock” (Campo Santo). In the first option presented, Henry’s paternalistic influence is restricted; instead of his frequent surveillance of Julia and preventing her exit from the room he affords Julia a limited reservation of autonomy in arbitrarily sealing the room. “You put a chair in front of the bedroom door” (Campo Santo). Julia is intermediately stripped from her metaphoric infancy in that she has the potential to escape the room. The benign repercussions of Julia’s departure from the room coincides with the patriarchy’s digression in constraints imposed upon women. The chair functions as a metaphor for the augmentation of female mobility despite the ever present obstacle of the patriarchy. The chair is subsequently dichotomous of an definite and indefinite barriers in the hypothetical potential to contain or unobscure Julia.

According to Watt’s deconstruction analogy. “The demolition of such a building signifies a liberation from an oppressive culture” (Watt 250). Henry’s weak reinforcement of the door is the inception of the destabilization of patriarchal injunctions that shoeforms women into the position of familial devotee. The second paradigm deposed by Campo Santo orchestrates Julia’s absolute deliverance from paternalism that the room symbolically provides. “You trust that she sleeps like a rock” (Campo Santo). Henry undermines the doors purpose of security in his ineptness to implore the lock.

According to Watts “The absence of extant architectural borders coincides with a deficiency in suppressing women from a noxious society” (Watts 250). Henry’s faith is reinstated in Julia, believing that she is capable of existing independently of a engineered symbiotic paternalistic relationship. The resurfacing of confidence in women implies the diminishing necessity for men to conform to the protector role. Women are elevated to the status of an individual and are removed from their trivialized interpretation as children. The game digresses in the magnitude of masculine protectionism with the simultaneous progression of the narrative. Firewatch displays congruences with BioShock in subsetting the theme of misogynistic protectionism with the advancement of the narrative. According to Watts,the game overthrows the praxis of the masculine power jurisdiction that has confounded society and returns supremacy to women. “The overtly patriarchal image of the female needing protection by the male is disrupted by the fact that the Big Daddies are subordinate to the Little Sisters” (Watts 255). The fetishization of women as helpless progeny is transcended by the game mechanic to make women the surveyor of men. Firewatch deploys a metaphor to append the reallocation of control to women and in turn affords them supremacy over their masculine counterparts. In the Day one module of Firewatch, the game catalogues dialogue options that explain Delilah’s presence. “You’ve killed three husbands. You’re a black widow. You’re just out here until the heat dies down and then you’ll kill again” (Campo Santo). Henry is seemingly aligned to a patriarchal agenda by equating Delilah to a misandry spider.

The comparison to a spider dehumanizes Delilah in morphing her feminine figure into an imagined repulsive image. Delilah suspends Henry’s defaming illustration and usurps control by compelling Henry to follow to her commands. Campo Santo transcends Henry to the role of token inferiority to exhibit the rise of female ascendance. Watts implores a final paradigm in extrapolating the masculine inferiority complex in his evaluation of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. In which the player is embodying the male protagonist and paralyzed during the action sequence by female manipulation over the game mechanics. “It is an approach that forces the player into the position of victim in the situation rather than dominant over it, and then demands the players acknowledgement of it” (Watt 260). Silent Hill subverts conventional expectations in discriminating authority to an absent female persona and dismantling the male protagonist ability to mount a counterattack. The game forces men into the the preordained roles of servitude that formerly characterized women. Silent Hill resembles Firewatch in that the survival of the male protagonist is dependent upon female omnipotent character. Firewatch subverts the masculine infatuation with control and confines the partition of power to that of women. Firewatch offers a close reading of the aforementioned metaphor to establish a precedent for female emancipation in validating women’s carnal desires. The comparison of Delilah to a black widow engages with her predatory instincts. “You’ve killed three husbands” (Campo Santo). The predatory natures exhibited in women evince the beginning of autonomy over their promiscuous desires and in turn chastising prevailing male desires. The dialogue option is a precursor for the development of prospective flirtation and implies a subset of Henry’s romantic delusions of Delilah. Delilah has dominion over their incumbent intimacy and disrupts the traditional male sexualized reverie. The black widow analogy makes the male spider expendable, at the clemency of the female spider and disillusioned to the pretend premise of a domestic vision. In Silent Hill, the fantasies of men are responsible for the gregarious advances of women. “For example, If the player spends a lot of time in the game world looking at sexual posters and answers therapy questions in such a way that indicates a lustful personality, the monsters will start to take female forms” (Watts 261).

The appearance of women as malignant figures is a testament of their revenge for an of their abject corporal evaluation. Silent Hill furnishes women with the opportunity to overturn their sexual ignominy and intimate the male with an ironic depiction of idealized female qualities. Silent Hill and Firewatch concentrate on violating the trope of desirous female allure to exploit a woman’s dominion over men. Delilah functions as a foil character to Julia in not requiring male approval to commandeer the prospective aspirations of a relationship. Julia’s persona is a vehicle for the emergence of a guided narrative. Julia is a passive entity allegorical to the domestic expectations of American women in the juxtapositioned barrier of a relationship. “So, what do you think about kids” (Campo Santo). Julia is acquiring permission from the family patriarch to reassert herself as a relevant authority within the game. Campo Santo ensures that Henry’s initial romantic confident is Julia to exploit the initial patriarchal interpretation of the American family. Delilah subverts the visual application of patriarchy in forcing Henry to obtain permission to endeavor on every potential quest. “You’re job is whatever the hell I say it is” (Campo Santo). Campo Santo illustrates heteronormativity as an illusion by presenting Delilah as flirtatious without the expectation of an attachment to men. Although, the game teases a romantic intimacy between Henry and Delilah, Delilah is freed from the obligation of a relationship by evacuating the forest fire before Henry. “ I couldn’t bare to stay their another minute” (Campo Santo).

The prominence of the feminist movement has normalized attraction to a man without the liability of a woman to pursue a marital engagement. The direct contrast prevalent in both female characters represents the evolution of the feminist movement over the epochs. Firewatch earns the classification of a progressive game. Firewatch is disingenuous with its audiences in overtly precipitating masculine imagery. Masculinity is subset by the obtuse feminist associations projected in interactions with the female characters. Watts redresses the tropes of subordination, protectionism, and allocation of control to express the fatigue brought on by masculinity in American culture. Watts and Campo Santo in turn observe the continual subversion of patriarchal tropes to reinforce female enfranchisement. The fire is an allegory for man’s forced eviction from the masculine exhibitions of the open frontier of society.

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