Thoreau went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately and suck all the marrow out of life. But if you don’t want to go outside to do that, don’t worry: The Walden experience now comes in video game form!
The digital Walden Pond will showcase a first-person point-of-view where you can wander through the lush New England foliage, stop to examine a bush and pick some fruit, cast a fishing rod, return to a spartan cabin modeled after Thoreau’s and just roam around the woods, grappling with life’s unknowable questions.
Oh yes, this is going to be the next Mass Effect for sure. As Erik Hayden at Time says, “A video game about a 19th-century philosopher living in a shack, where there’s only one character and nothing happens? Sign us up!”
Lead game designer (and interactive media professor) Tracy Fullerton says the game is a primer for a Walden-type transcendentalist experience:
“Of course everyone should spend time in nature; but not all of us are able to set aside our lives for the time it would take to conduct an experiment like Thoreau’s,” Fullerton acknowledges. “The game is not a replacement for direct experience, just as the book is not.”
So if you want to commune with nature but you’re not sure you’re prepared for what you might find when you step out into the domain of the Big Yellow Face, you can do a dry run on your XBox. Seems legit.
The game’s trailer doesn’t give much sense of what gameplay will actually be like — they say it will “embody the nature of the experiment that Thoreau set for himself,” but what the heck does that mean? I’m envisioning something like “Press B to contemplate leaf” [leaf contemplation bar goes to maximum]. Obviously you can also walk around and touch a bush and catch a fish and probably garden … so basically, it’s like “Plants vs. Zombies” without the zombies. Just “Plants.”
On the plus side, I can’t wait to see how seasoned video game players react when faced with Walden. “This mushroom didn’t give me a power-up at all — it just let me contemplate the role of nature in man’s essential search for meaning! And this other one killed me!”
Get Grist in your inbox