Welcome to the second of this clearly in no way regular series about fictional places. Last time we visited a world in the stars, this time we’re going somewhere a little closer to home.
Mild spoilers for Firewatch.
Firewatch is a game about escapism, but it’s a very adult kind of escapism. You play as Henry, a man in his 40’s who has taken a summer job as a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness to get away from a tragic set of personal problems. He fills the long summer days with hiking, sightseeing and writing, in an effort to lose himself in the routine of work and the beauty of the natural world around him.
The landscape of Shoshone National Park created for the game is certainly beautiful (partly the work of graphic designer Olly Moss who many of you will know from his wonderful film poster work) but this is the Odeck, and we like our escapism to aim a little further away that a forest retreat.
We’re probably all a little less like Henry, and a little more like Brain Goodwin.
Brain hasn’t gone to the wilderness to escape, his father Ned (another lookout) has and Brian is just caught up in it, and what works as a break from the harsh realities of life when you’re middle aged doesn’t feel quite the same when you’re 12, so Brain needs to escape from his fathers need to escape, and Brain likes Dungeons &Dragons (well, Wizards&Wyverns in this case).
For Brian the park is a Middle Earth like landscape filled with orcs, elves and halflings. The picturesque locations you visit on the game’s map as Henry are re-imagined by Brian as rivers of blood and goblin infested caves...
...and then there is the crowning achievement of Brian’s time in Shoshoe, a hidden fortress.
I wasn’t a Lord of The Rings kid, but Brian’s fort still gives me a great nostalgic glow, half real and half imagined, with a painted wall on one side and a real (well, a pretty good attempt at real) wall on the other.
Maybe your hideaway wasn’t quite as elaborate as Brian’s (probably didn’t have a national park to use as a backdrop) but the stacks of cushions and crude but intricately thought out decorations of banners and crests are likely familiar. Somewhere constructed as a simplified ideal of adulthood where you’re head of the house, and work is a set of epic quests and acts of heroism.
I like to go walking in the woods as an escape now, but Brain’s little fort made me miss when I used to make my own world to escape into.
(Any suggestions for other places to write about are welcome, albeit with the emphasis on tiny.)