Thoreau's cabin inspires a video game

A video game that is all about meditative contemplation of the beauties of nature and the glories of the simple life? Well, it might work, even if most gamers’ first instinct on seeing a gliding swan is to blow it out of the water or wonder if it’s about to turn into a wizard.

The Walden Woods video game is looking for a new kind of gamer: those in touch with their poetic soul and literary inclinations. It’s based on the famous work by Henry David Thoreau about his seclusion in a Massachusetts log cabin near Walden Pond.

Perhaps understandably, commercial games companies are not stumping up all the cash for this risky venture. The US government’s National Endowment of the Arts has given the University of California $40,000 to get the project underway.

The university developers anticipate a game where players can "discover in the beauty of a virtual landscape the ideas and writings of this unique philosopher, and cultivate through the gameplay their own thoughts and responses to the concepts discovered there".

In marketing terms it’s a venture into virgin territory, although developers believe there will be an audience for a game where "reflection and insight play an important role in the player experience".

Rather than blowing away enemies and collecting magic amulets, players are encouraged to reflect on their experiences and "gain insight into the natural world, and into connections that permeate the experience of life at Walden."

The makers of Grand Theft Auto and Max Payne are not believed to be overly concerned about their market share just yet.

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