P. Claire Dodson
February 26, 2017 12:36 pm
USC Game Design Lab

An action-packed video game like Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty sends players on secret missions and bloody battles. The Sims is all about power and control, keeping your sim alive long enough to do your bidding. But rarely do video games ask us to be still, and rarely are they so literary.

Enter Walden, A Gamewhich transports players to the beautiful nature oasis of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. If that name rings an English-class bell, it’s because it’s otherwise known as the temporary residence of author Henry David Thoreau. While spending two years in a cabin near the shore, he wanted to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” Thoreau’s experiences later inspired him to write the transcendentalist masterpiece Walden; or, Life in the Woods.

The trailer for Walden asks us, “What if we could all go to the woods to live deliberately?”

If you can’t make it to the actual woods, this simulation offers an approximation of the experience. As a Walden-like character, you get to search for arrowheads, or collect plants for food. You can also go fishing, and work on your own shoreside cabin. You can even just take relaxing hikes, if you want! Along the way, you learn about Thoreau’s activities and about his motivations for spending this time in nature, basically embracing your inner literary geek.

In the game, as in life, if you try to do too much, your “inspiration” meter goes down. Luckily, you can reboot by “reading, attending to sounds of life in the distance, enjoying solitude and interacting with visitors, animals, and humans,” reads some of the gameplay.

The game releases in March, after almost a decade of development.

Lead designer, Tracy J. Fullerton,  is the director of the Game Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.

But ultimately, it’s not about achieving some objective measure of success or getting a high score. It can be seen as a sort of meditation.

We can’t wait to chill out with Walden!

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