Play as philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau in his experiment in self-reliant living at Walden Pond. Live off the land, seek out the small wonders and beauties of the woods, and find balance between your need to survive and your desire to find inspiration. 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.
Walden, a game is an experimental game by Tracy Fullerton and her team at the USC Game Innovation Lab. The central question behind the design process was: can we make a game that translates Thoreau’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 “mean” or “sublime,” and “if 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.” 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 “goals” 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 “enough.” The game is not only about a different philosophy of living; it illuminates that philosophy through gameplay. Of course, players can deviate from Thoreau’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.
Tracy Fullerton - Game Designer, Director, Writer
Todd Furmanski - Lead Programmer, Designer
Lucas Peterson - Lead Artist, World Design
Michael Sweet - Composer, Sound Design
Logan Ver Hoef - Level Design, Game Programming, Shader Programming
Alex Mathew - Wildlife Design, Game Programming
Georg Luif - Console & Audio Programming
Daniel Batista - Additional Programming