Walden, a game, is a first person simulation of the life of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau during his experiment in self-reliant living at Walden Pond. The game begins in the summer of 1845 when Thoreau moved to the Pond and built his cabin there. Players follow in his footsteps, surviving in the woods by finding food and fuel and maintaining their shelter and clothing. At the same time, players are surrounded by the beauty of the woods and the Pond, which hold a promise of a sublime life beyond these basic needs. 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. The audience for the game is broad: from experimental game players to lovers of Thoreau and Transcendental literature. As such, the game offers more opportunities for reflective play than strategic challenge.
The Walden design team is led by Tracy Fullerton, who has been working on the idea for the past seven years with a small team at the USC Game Innovation Lab that includes lead artist Lucas Peterson, lead programmer Todd Furmanski, composer and sound designer Michael Sweet as well as a number of other incredibly dedicated artists and designers.
Walden, a game is an experimental game by Tracy Fullerton and her team at the USC Game Innovation Lab. The central question behind the project is: can we make a game that translates Thoreauâ€™s experiment in living into a playable experience? As he writes, Thoreau went to the woods to reduce life to its lowest terms and see if it is â€œmeanâ€ or â€œsublime,â€ and â€œif it proved to be mean, to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it.â€ Our game system presents a tension for the player between these possibilities, which they must attempt to balance as best they can over the course of an in-game year. The game presents a way of thinking about â€œgoalsâ€ that is very different than most game systems. In Walden, getting more or better items is not necessarily required, and yet having nothing is not desirable either. It is up to the player to determine, as Thoreau did, how much is â€œenough.â€ The game is not only about a different philosophy of living; it illuminates that philosophy through gameplay. Of course, players can deviate from Thoreauâ€™s path if they desire. We are particularly proud of the openness of the world, the way that it changes over the seasons of the game, and the fact that those most familiar with Walden Pond and the works of Thoreau find it true to both the environment and the philosophy.