Seems Insulting to My Man Henry David Thoreau…

But Who Am I to Say? Anywho, Let’s Set the Scene

This, is Walden, a game.

From the New York Times

Henry David Thoreau’s classic “Walden” is the inspiration for what Smithsonian Magazine is calling “the world’s most improbable video game”: Walden, a Game.

Instead of offering the thrills of stealing, violence and copious cursing, the new video game, based on Thoreau’s 19th-century retreat in Massachusetts, will urge players to collect arrowheads, cast their fishing poles into a tranquil pond, buy penny candies and perhaps even jot notes in a journal — all while listening to music, nature sounds and excerpts from the author’s meditations.

The game — which Ms. (Tracy) Fullerton [The game’s lead designer] said is likely to cost $19.99 — takes six hours to play. It starts in the summer and ends a year later — offering players tasks like building a cabin, planting beans or chatting, virtually of course, with Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Should you not leave sufficient time for contemplation, or work too hard, the game cautions: “Your inspiration has become low, but can be regained by reading, attending to sounds of life in the distance, enjoying solitude and interacting with visitors, animal and human.”

“You can choose how to spend your time, what to emphasize, the ways the game can play out,” she said. “You might spend all your time in the woods, you might focus on bean farming, you could become a famous author — sending off articles to your editor, Horace Greeley — or you 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.

“You’re not only trying to survive, you’re seeking inspiration in the woods,” Ms. Fullerton said, “If you spend all of your time grinding away on survival tasks, the environment will become less lush. The winning is based on whether you meet your own goals.”

So, this is happening.

Who OK’d This?

Off the top of my head, I don’t hate the idea. A sort of anti-video game, one that will slow down the pace to where you can label it boring, and will involve not killing other humans. Just simply and mindfully going about the every day tasks that Henry David Thoreau would have gone through.

But now that his name is in the mix, I don’t think he’d enjoy seeing a video game be made out of an experience that was intended to refresh him, so to speak.

It almost certainly seems as though Thoreau would rather them, you know, experience the nature based in lived reality rather than the virtual one.

And that is where I’m finding the humor in this. Honestly, what was going on through Fullerton’s mind while spearheading the design process?

“You know what would be a great way to honor this author who was all about self-reliance living simply with your natural surroundings, and who would without a doubt hate video games? Creating a video game that just mimics all of those things! That way we won’t actually have to go out and DO those things, we can do them from the comfort of our couch!”

I realize it will attract younger kids to Thoreau in a new way-conceptually I can get behind that; but the whole idea of a transcendentalist video game to me is just hilarious. If they were still alive they’d probably hate that people are spending so much of their time on video games. And good news for Henry; someone made one of these things he’d probably hate based on a big part of his life!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely pro video game. but this just seems to be going a bridge to far.

We love you Henry, promise ;).


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