Exciting new game ‘Walden’

The Core is delighted to share that game designer Tracy Fullerton is developing a new game, Walden. Thoreau’s Walden is one of the key texts in CC202’s study of Enlightenment and Modernity, and the game simulates the experiment in living made by Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond in 1845-47.

A screen shot of the Walden video game showing the shore of Walden Pond. Image courtesy of Tracy Fullerton

Ms. Fullerton was kind enough to personally share with the Core details about the stage of development her game is in:

The game is progressing very well. Currently, we have all of the seasons of the year implemented. As you may have read, Thoreau said there ought to be eight seasons, and that is exactly what we have, with each of the main four blending into the next. You begin the game in summer, as Thoreau began his experiment on July 4th, 1845. At that point, his home was not yet finished, and so you can finish it, or you can wander the woods, seeking inspiration. You can clear the bean field and plant beans, chop firewood, mend your clothes, etc. You can tend to the basic necessities of life in the game — as Thoreau described them — food, fuel, shelter and clothing. Beyond these necessities, they player can also find the books that inspired Thoreau, the sounds of the woods, the solitude and the brute neighbors that he describes. Emerson is a character in the game, as is the town of Concord.

The game is an open world, where players are free to roam Walden Woods living as they choose, and playing out Thoreau’s experiment in their own style. In fact, they may not choose to follow Thoreau’s path at all. However, we are currently implementing a light narrative arc, that will introduce players to some of the other figures in Thoreau’s life during that time via notes and letters. And a discoverable treasure trove of “arrowhead moments,” which can be found throughout the woods and which are made up of key quotes and incidents from the text. Also, a procedural soundscape that changes based on the time of day and season. You will hear birds and other sounds that Thoreau noted in his writing as you move through the woods.

We hope to have a version available mid-2014 for interested players.

Her exciting new work is discussed in a post from the National Endowment for the Arts blog. Here is an extract:

Video games have long been a part of American youth and entertainment culture. But recently, there has been debate about whether they are part of our country’s artistic canon as well. In the latest issue of NEA Arts, we look at some of the more fascinating projects that bring art and technology together, including video games. In the article, we talk with Tracy Fullerton, an experimental game designer who is adapting Henry David Thoreau’s Walden into a video game with NEA support. Not only will the game serve as a visually beautiful interpretation of Walden Pond, but Fullerton hopes it will establish a connection between young players and the original work of literature:

“One of my original inspirations was younger people who may not have the patience to get through Thoreau without some incentive or some inspiration,” said Fullerton. “And if I can contextualize it, make them feel how exciting the kind of adventure is of going out and discovering these sorts of things that he was trying to understand about life and our relationship to nature and to basic systems, if I can make them feel it by playing a game, then they may be inspired to go and read the book and to think about these things in relation to their own life.”

The Core at Walden: (from left to right) Julia Sinitsky, Sarah Schneider, Cara Papakyrikos, Prof. Kyna Hamill, Prof. Diana Wylie

The Core at Walden: (from left to right) Sarah Schneider, Cara Papakyrikos, Julia Sinitsky, Nora Spalholz, Prof. Kyna Hamill










To see For more photos of the Core’s visit to Walden, click here.

One Comment

C Country posted on September 14, 2013 at 8:59 pm

It’s about time someone came up with this type of game. Thank you!

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