Walden Pond Game map

How about a video game in which the goal is stillness and the survival skills are based on growing your own beans?

That’s the essence of a new game launching later this year in celebration of Henry David Thoreau’s 200th birthday. Walden, A Game gives players the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the world famous philosopher who lived a self-reliant life for one year at Walden Pond, then wrote a beloved 1854 memoir about the experience.

The American author began his adventure by building his own one-room cabin in the summer of 1845, and that’s just what gamers will do, by following along.

Game creators at the University of Southern California’s Game Innovation Lab consulted with Thoreau experts in Massachusetts every step of the way, placing plants and animals as Thoreau would have experienced them.

Players will survive in the woods by finding food and fuel, and making shelter and clothing. At the same time, they are surrounded by the beauty of the woods and the Pond, and can learn about the flora and fauna as Thoreau did. The game follows the loose narrative of Thoreau’s first year in the woods, with each season holding its own challenges for survival and possibilities for inspiration.

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As Thoreau set out to “live deliberately,” he found spiritual fulfillment within the harmony of nature’s four seasons.

The game has a subtle narrative arc, in homage to the original text, which is not a quest for the body pitted against the wilderness, but of the mind and soul living in nature over the course of a New England year. At game’s core is a stillness that will calm even the most active ’monkey mind.’

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Thoreau’s work should be important to us today for many reasons —from his core environmentalism, to his fundamental questioning of the role of government in society.

“As the 200th anniversary of Thoreau’s birth approaches in July, the opportunity to relive his famous experiment in simple living in the form of an immersive game seems particularly relevant in a world dominated by concerns about our relationship to nature, technology and governments,” writes the game’s creators.

And, what a great way to introduce the book, Walden, to a whole new audience. After all, they may not be the same people who would sit down and read Thoreau’s book.

(WATCH an early release game preview below – and follow developments at waldengame.com)

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