About a year ago, Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin, the co-founders of Campo Santo, asked me if I would write their company’s public newsletter. They didn’t want to have a typical company email list: they wanted to put out a high-quality, valuable-on-its-own-merits piece of content that you would look forward to rather than immediately delete once it lands in your inbox. I’ve always aspired to not have my work immediately deleted, so it seemed a perfect match.

Sean’s idea was that I write this newsletter in the guise of the “Campo Santo Ombudsman.” “What’s an Ombudsman?” is something I’ve thought about a lot this year. I mean, the answer is pretty straightforward, strictly speaking: an Ombudsman is an independent voice published by a company to report on its business with public advocacy as their chief concern. Appointing an Ombudsman is a gesture towards transparency and accountability. I’m not qualified — and in fact should have been disqualified, since I’m friends with some of the people who work at Campo Santo — but that’s never stopped me doing anything before, so I took the Ombudsman’s Oath and that’s how the Campo Santo Quarterly Review, my mouthpiece, slithered into our dimension.

I’m not sure that a True Ombudsman is what anyone at Campo Santo was really after. I think the idea of having an Ombudsman was just a funny thing to say that improbably got wished into semi-reality. I hope that’s the case anyway since what Campo Santo got with its Quarterly Review was like the furthest thing from what an Ombudsman does.

We did four issues this year, four articles a piece. And it’s challenging to write at length about a new game developer without being able to know or say much about the game they’re making (eventually revealed to be Firewatch), and without turning readers off by mythologizing a young, unproven company. Another pitfall is repeating information about the development process that Campo Santo does a good job of communicating on its own, which I failed to avoid on at least one occasion.

So the Campo Santo Quarterly Review is its own thing, located somewhere between an unhinged, digressive corporate mailing list and one person’s desperate, tap-dancing imitation of a literary journal. It has featured, over the past year:

  • obituaries for author Jack London’s Wolf House, the world record holder for being struck by lightning multiple times, and a man who murdered a famous 19th-century dog
  • strange encounters with famed graphic designer Olly Moss and a tarot card reader
  • a posited connection between the game developer Campo Santo and 18th century English pirates
  • two riddles
  • outright fiction, like “Out of State”, a pseudo-sequel to this blog containing an extremely trivial and superfluous tie-in to the universe of Firewatch. There was also “Cocktails at Pamplona”, a fable about a legendary cocktail containing a human toe, which has no bearing on anything whatsoever.
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