Thoreauly Hermitic: Walden, A Game

It’s not often that anyone gets to ask “What would Thoreau’s Walden look like as a game?” without it being a rambling speculative conversation in a pub. Indeed, you have to be in a certain sort of position – say a group of academics at a Californian University – for anyone to take that seriously, much less provide a $40,000 grant to make it happen. Fortunately, that’s precisely what has come to pass, via a National Endowment For The Arts project. And so we are to get Philosophical Writer Living In the Woods Simulator or Walden, A Game. One of the speculative few, USC Associate Professor Tracy Fullerton, has been quoted as saying: “We anticipate a rich simulation of the woods, filled with the kind of detail that Thoreau so carefully noted in his writings.” So we look forward to that. We can also check out the trailer, which is below.

(Thanks to everyone who sent this in with a note saying “Jim, this seems like your sort of thing”, and made me worry I am becoming a caricature of myself…)


  1. wcanyon says:

    The amazing thing here is that Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me beat you to this story. How did *that* happen? Magnets, probably.

  2. circadianwolf says:

    Wouldn’t this basically be Minecraft in peaceful mode?

    Curious what they come up with.

    • municipalis says:

      That’s what I was thinking. Except I imagine in this case it looks like the world is pretty tiny, the geography is more-or-less the same, movement is entirely horizontal, and your character can’t go any faster than a slow plod.

      As interesting as the concept is, I have trouble seeing this as anything more than an “Art Game”. Even if it had a dynamic wildlife, weather, seasonal and personal-needs simulations, actual excitement will be pretty limited. What I’m guessing this will actually be is more around the level of a static world with some mini-games (fishing, berry-picking, pooping in the woods) and as you explorer around and complete these inane objectives a narrator will read out various passages of Walden.

    • mixnsyv says:

      Give-You-a-Surprise Wooden Box (Practical Joke,) to scare him! Ha ha! link to

  3. asshibbitty says:

    omg omg. Hope they keep all the extraneous punctuation too.

  4. shinyshez says:

    Awesome I guess. I got to visit Walden last summer, not as peaceful anymore…

  5. a_hat says:

    Will it let me eat poisonous berries? I need to know if I can die really ingloriously, over and over, at Walden Pond.

  6. Hoaxfish says:

    To live deliberately

    Is that like blinking manually?

  7. BobbleHat says:

    If ever there was an introspective contemplation sim to utilize the beauty of the Frostbite 3 or Cryengine, it should have probably been this one.

  8. BatmanBaggins says:

    Er, ok. Not sure that a game is the appropriate medium to translate Walden (of all things) into, but good for them.

  9. Freud says:

    I want the “Into the Wild” achievement.

  10. maninahat says:

    Should I be ashamed of not having the slightest clue what this Walden thing is? I can’t say I’ve ever heard of it.

    • rivalin says:

      In short; if you’re an American, yes, you should know what it is, if not, less so. If you’re a continental European, you can make some witty remark about the derivative nature of American romanticism, and if you”re Scottish you can just call Thoreau a self-indulgent c**t.

    • pipman3000 says:

      it’s those books where you got to find the find the guy in the red-white striped shirt

  11. avp77 says:

    Is his virtual mother going to come by and take care of his laundry?

    (I actually liked the book and Thoreau himself, but the reality isn’t as romantic)

  12. InternetBatman says:

    I can’t think of a less worthy book to translate into a new genre than Walden pond. Thoreau lived on the charity of friends, and then wrote that he was better than them because he had time to read philosophy.

    • Peco says:

      Only someone wasting their time on gaming and work can come up with such an absurd comment.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Except for the man who thought the Sarphatistreet was the prettiest street in Europe, I have never known a more wonderful fellow than the scrounger.

      • Peco says:

        At least Thoreau read and wrote philosophy and didnt sit staring at the sea all day!

  13. MadTinkerer says:

    So it’s an FPS, then.

    Well, were we expecting any different?

    EDIT: Ooooh, if this is Source, we can put the map in Garry’s Mod and live quite deliberately indeed.

    EDIT 2: Dear David,

    I finally escaped that damn island where nothing makes sense, only to find myself stuck here. I still can’t find Ester, though I did manage to find your cabin and your food supplies. Tomorrow I plan to pack up every useful item I can find and head off East, or at least sunrise-ward. If I make it home, call me and I’ll pay you back for the stuff I’ve taken. But knowing my luck I’ll end up in some other strange place.

    As long as it’s not that castle with the invisible monsters again, I should be fine.

    Your truly,
    E. D.

    • absolofdoom says:

      Yes, you shoot fish with guns.
      WTF, man, it’s not an fps.

  14. jaundiceclosure says:

    Wow, I played this game already. I’m sure Walden doesn’t have the budget to include the bustling city which was near his home, but I got to recreate the whole experience in Battlefield 3.
    I was lured by the swaying trees and the rays of sunlight breaking through the canopy. I couldn’t resist walking away from the beaten path of booming tanks and burning jeeps and into the idle pastures. So bored of its multiplayer, I had to make it new. I found a cold river and contemplated life and the cosmos and maybe coming back here sometime with a tank in order to sit in its shade and enjoy this sunny scenery with an extended life expectancy. Alas I kissed the river goodbye and that was the end of Walden, a Game in BF3.

  15. marcusfell says:

    That shaky camera looks more like a mech than a human. Did Walden have two prosthetic legs?

    • JB says:

      I agree. It was like a Robocop first-person forest-explore-em-up. Or maybe some sort of AT-ST picnic sim.

  16. Muzman says:

    Dear Hunter?

  17. Ragabhava says:

    We in Germany have already “Hermit Simulator1” and 2. A game in which you are to live in absolute reclusion with minimal interaction with the outside world.

    I am actually looking forward to “Isolation Tank” simulator for absolute sensory deprivation during my gaming hours!

  18. frightlever says:

    Thirty bucks would have got them a copy of Skyrim.

  19. sanchox says:

    will stick to my UnReal World, but thanks for the offer. link to

  20. dogsolitude_uk says:

    I’ll hold out for the sequel: “On Civil Disobedience”, where it’s your duty to cease co-operation with a corrupt Government and, erm, I dunno, stop paying your council tax and generally go round breaking unjust laws or something.

  21. Cryo says:

    So it’s a computer simulation of a simple life unencumbered by technology. Somehow this affair strikes me as a bit insincere.

  22. Chubzdoomer says:

    A Walk Through A Forest: The Game

  23. Josh W says:

    If they put some real work into making this function, it could have some good ideas in it for other simulative games, although in itself it seems like it could be a pretty steep challenge.