These games and awards were decided during the Ward Podcast’s Best Games Played 2016 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Ward Podcast in 2016, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.

Not enough games are concerned about the study of their characters. They’re much more interested as the character as artifice, a cipher to channel the player’s desires. Firewatch proves that, with subtlety in dialog and voice acting, it’s just as captivating to share in the agency and experience of another person. In its dedication to a real place and time, to something approachable to people on this earth, Firewatch allows people to connect to a grounded, flawed character. The protagonist, Henry, suffers from real-world, relatable grief, and like any one of us could do during a time of grief, he runs away from his problems.

Firewatch is the inheritor to Gone Home’s kingdom. The limited cast, no real actors on the screen, and top-notch voice performances creates a vignette by a small team of industry veterans as a cornerstone of greater things to come, whether it’s Fullbright’s next game, Tacoma, or Campo Santo’s motion picture plans and future projects.

What’s great about both of these games is that they make you question if there are more fantastical machinations at work. It makes you question your sanity of what’s real and what’s not – what are the laws of this world? But at the end of the day, Firewatch and its spiritual predecessor still make their homes within the realm of realistic fiction, a genre still left mostly untouched by video games. While Firewatch makes a few stumbles when it comes to its plot reveals, it is an amazing look at another person and his relationship to the world around him, showing how we’re all together, but in some ways, we’re all hopelessly alone.