Monday, July 3, 2017

The Game of Walden

Environmental and Science Education
Sustainability
Edward Hessler

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods.

From 1845 to 1847, Henry David Thoreau lived on the edge of Walden Pond. There, Thoreau conducted a personal experiment on self-reliant living.

A new 3-D video game allows players to try a self-reliant way of life and to reflect on their experiences and what these mean to them.  It is a simulation that represents spending a year at Walden Pond. The game is about balancing work and living. In this interactive game you get some signals if you work too hard. The colors and music begin to fade and you have a chance to change your behavior.

Players work (plant beans, build a cabin, of course), explore the woods, and read from Thoreau's journals as well as talk with Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson was a friend and mentor who owned the land and who allowed Thoreau to conduct his experiment.

Tracy Fullerton, Director of the USC Games Program, a collaboration between the School of Communication Arts and the Viterbi School of Engineering led the design team in its long development. Walden: a Game will cost ~ $19.99 and take about six hours to play.

Insofar as I know it has not been released but is close to being finished. You can read about the game and game designer Tracy Fullerton here as well as see a clip. Another link describes the making of the game, why Thoreau was chosen and other details. This link also lists the price at $18.45 but this appears to be for an early alpha version.

So, will it introduce Thoreau to a new audience as is one of its hopes? If so what do you think some of the effects might be? Or is it better for them to take a walk in the woods or simply visit their backyard? Or do both? Or do all three: read the book, play the game and get out into nature?

This quote from Walden; Or Life in the Woods hints at how Thoreau might respond. What do you think?

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.

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