Henry David Thoreau’s classic Walden was the inspiration for Walden, a Game, developed by the Game Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. This new video game, based on Thoreau’s nineteenth-century retreat in Massachusetts, reinforces our connection to the natural world and challenges our hurried culture. It urges players to collect arrowheads, cast their fishing poles into a tranquil pond, buy penny candies, and perhaps jot notes in a journal—all while listening to music, nature sounds, and excerpts from the author’s meditations. The game, which takes six hours to play, starts in the summer and ends a year later—offering players tasks such as building a cabin, planting beans, or chatting (virtually!) with Ralph Waldo Emerson. Players can choose how to spend their time, what to emphasize, and how to play out the game. They might spend all their time in the woods. They might focus on bean farming. They could become a famous author, sending articles to their editor, Horace Greeley. Or they could become an activist, working on the Underground Railroad. The goal is not to win in any competitive sense but to achieve work–life balance. The developers opened an early access alpha on Itch.io in March 2017, in time for the 200th anniversary of Thoreau’s birth this year. The cost for early access is $18.45.
Plus: The Walden Woods Project provides teachers and students with a rich pool of curricular resources to help teach and learn about Thoreau, Transcendentalism, a sense of place, social reform, journaling, and other topics that grow out of Thoreau’s legacy. Teachers can also schedule a “Let’s Talk Thoreau” Skype in the Classroom session with the Thoreau Institute’s library curator and renowned Thoreau scholar.