If you enjoy contemplative novels but would prefer it if you could play out that contemplation in a real space, then you’re in luck: A team of developers at the Game Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California has created a video-game version of Henry David Thoreau’s celebrated lingering-in-nature novel Walden. The game, which has just been released to the public, both echoes and deviates from the novel, allowing you to play out the book’s events as written or to take different paths. “Should the player pursue a more decadent life as a celebrity author,” the Verge reports, “they can purchase a ritzy suit and write to their editor about public speaking gigs.” A nearly decade-long project spearheaded by U.S.C. professor Tracy Fullerton, the game was developed by Fullerton and a rotating group of student developers and fits loosely into the lately popular “walking simulator” game category. What might Thoreau, who wrote in Walden about the “tonic of wildness” and shunned “mechanical aids,” think of a video-game version of his 1854 novel? He might hate it as much as he hated paying taxes (so a lot!). You can play Walden on indie gaming platform itch.io. Whether you also (or instead) read Thoreau’s novel is up to you, but we don’t recommend doing both at the same time.
Walden, a game. Photo: Photo: U.S.C. Game Innovation Lab/itch.io