Henry David Thoreau is my boy, and more than one of his utterances in Walden has helped shaped my world view. I once wrote a paper explaining why a rock concert by a raging materialist was a bit of an oxymoronic way to save Walden, and now I’m equally as befuddled by this video game.
USC’s plan to put abridged study guides out of business, a video game based on Thoreau’s Walden, has just received $40,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts (which is like Kickstarter but older, more official and possibly not as lucrative).
USC has been crafting Walden for roughly two years, and this funding may be the final step to its completion, lead game designer and USC associate professor Tracy Fullerton told TIME. “Having this support will allow the time we need to really bring the world of Walden to life,” Fullterton said. “We anticipate a rich simulation of the woods, filled with the kind of detail that Thoreau so carefully noted in his writings.”
Hang on. Thoreau’s point with Walden was to note the intrinsic benefits of separation from technology in modern society, to slow down and live as one with nature as part of a larger, living world. Putting this experience inside of a video game, running on people’s computers in an air-conditioned office, cafe or mother’s basement misses the point entirely. However, it may offer a fine lesson in hypocrisy.
“Of course everyone should spend time in nature, but not all of us are able to set aside our lives for the time it would take to conduct an experiment like Thoreau’s,” Fullerton said. “The game is not a replacement for direct experience, just as the book is not.”
You could also always just go outside, skip the mall for a weekend, and go for a hike. Maybe hang out with friends and have a conversation.