Walden Pond in a new medium
The latest Transcendentalist experience
March 27, 2017
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Like so many great books spoiled by high school classes, Walden Pond is a rich and quirky book that is often maligned as being the harbinger of all that is evil. All you have to do is utter the word ”Walden” to someone who has taken AP Language to receive reactions of disgust and antipathy. However Walden is, in my opinion, a fun and enjoyable book. So I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that somebody would eventually adapt it into a video game.
Walden is currently a computer game that has been in development over the past decade with the support of a small team. The game was developed under the guidance of Tracy Fullerton, the chair and a professor of the USC Interactive Media & Games Division and the director of the USC’s Game Innovation Lab. The game not only re-creates Walden Pond and the land in which Thoreau lived, but also to some extent, the spirit of the text. Players slip into the shoes of Thoreau, starting on his first day in the forest. The player must survive by stocking food and building a shelter, but also maintain personal fullfillment by seeking inspiration. The game world- the trees, the flowers, the fish, the pond itself, stray books- can all be scanned to elicit quotes from the book.
While the game does pull heavily from the nook, players can explore the world and craft their own narrative. For example in Walden the book, Thoreau spends a night in jail after refusing to pay taxes on political grounds; the player can miss this moment completely. Like Thoreau, the player can travel to the nearby town of Concord and have conversations with author Ralph Waldo Emerson, along with other important figures from Thoreau’s life. Should the player decide to pursue a more decadent life, they can purchase expensive suits and attend public speaking gigs for the extra money. A shop in Concord allows the player to buy any necessities.
At first glance, Walden appears to be a hybrid between a survival game and an artsy walking simulator. The game is specifically targeted at one audience but has been slowly growing in popularity among all age groups. It may sound like a dull educational game, but it attempts to meet kids halfway by bringing the teachings of Thoreau into a new medium. I believe that Walden is worth playing for those who may have disliked the book in their first reading.