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‘Walden: The Game,’ a video game about Walden Pond

Apr 30, 2012

“Walden,” Henry David Thoreau’s classic book about self reliance from the years he lived immersed in nature, sounds like about the last source video game creators would look to for inspiration.

But according to TIME’s NewsFeed, a group of academics at University of Southern California just received a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help with development fees for “Walden: The Game.”

The digital Walden Pond will showcase a first-person point-of-view where you can wander through the lush New England foliage, stop to examine a bush and pick some fruit, cast a fishing rod, return to a spartan cabin modeled after Thoreau’s and just roam around the woods, grappling with life’s unknowable questions.

On the one hand, “wandering through lush New England foliage” via video game sounds like it would put you to sleep immediately, but on the other hand, so does pretty much every task on The Sims, like taking a shower and balancing your budget, and apparently millions played.

If the idea of a Thoreau video game makes you bristle with the-world-is-ending-we’re-turning-into-computers cynicism, note that the game’s creators promise their mission is to inspire video game users to get outside themselves and possibly read the book.

As Fullerton explains, the game is more Thoreau primer than a substitute for the book or a real jaunt in the woods. ‘When I first thought of making this game, it was as an introduction for young people, who might not have read the book yet,’ she says.

Still: “wandering through lush New England foliage” sounds like a real snore fest. Based on the promo below, we give today’s video-game playing youngsters who haven’t yet read “Walden” about 5 minutes inside “Walden: The Game” before they head back to civilization and continue blowing up zombies with rocket launchers.

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