If you want to learn to meditate but can't tear your eyes away from your computer screen, the book-inspired video game Walden might be just what you need. Walden is based on Henry David Thoreau's book of the same name, which was a reflection on living simply in nature; to play, users will have to spend time fishing by the tranquil pond, jotting down contemplations in journals, and listening to relaxing nature sounds. It's the polar opposite of any other video game you've ever played; compared to shooting guns or stealing cars, it seems incredibly passive and simplistic. But that doesn't mean it's easy: Thoreau's book Walden is all about the passage of human development and learning to become self-reliant — and players of the game will have to go on the same journey.
It may seem oxymoronic to have a video game all about the importance of spending time in nature. Richard Higgins, author of the upcoming book Thoreau and the Language of Trees, was less than enthusiastic when talking to the New York Times — urging players instead to "Go out and see your own backyard. Nature is all around us." And it's certainly true that Thoreau was no fan of modern technology; he wrote in Walden that "inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things."
But the game's developer, Tracy Fullerton, is convinced that the game will communicate Thoreau's ultimate message. “Games are kinds of rehearsals,” she told the New York Times. “[Playing Walden] might give you pause in your real life: Maybe instead of sitting on my cellphone, rapidly switching between screens, I should just go for a walk.” The aim of the game is to achieve a good work-life balance: you'll need to forage for food and build your own shelter, but you'll lose inspiration (and background music) if you don't take enough time for rest and restoration. That's certainly something most of us are in need of in our everyday lives.
There's a video game based on Thoreau's Walden. It's like Mario except every time you eat a mushroom, you achieve inner peace.— Dan Wilbur (@DanWilbur) February 25, 2017
The Walden video game will be released in time for Thoreau's 200th birthday, and Fullerton says that the game re-examines the questions Thoreau's Walden first posed over 150 years ago. One key question is "Are our lives better because we live on internet time?" Playing Walden encourages us to slow down — and it brings Thoreau's idyllic woodland experience to those of us who can't afford luxurious property to relax on. “Maybe we don’t all have the chance to go to the woods,” Fullerton pointed out. “But perhaps we can go to this virtual woods and think about the pace of life when we come back to our own world. Maybe it will have an influence — to have considered the pace of Walden.”