IFDA, YouTube
IFDA, YouTube

How a Professor Turned Henry David Thoreau's Retreat Into a Video Game

IFDA, YouTube
IFDA, YouTube

When you think of Walden Woods, you probably think of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. You think of a rustic cabin, nature, self-reliance, simplicity. What probably doesn’t cross your mind is "video game." In fact, sitting down and staring at a screen seems like the antithesis of what Thoreau was trying to accomplish. But not to game designer Tracy Fullerton.

Fullerton, a professor at the University of Southern California and the director of USC Games, has been working on a Thoreau-inspired interactive game since 2002, when the idea came to her in the middle of a 10,000-mile road trip sabbatical. After a particularly inspiring day at Walden, including a discussion with an actor portraying the writer, Fullerton noted in her journal that a video game based around the experience could be really interesting.

After letting the idea percolate for a few years, Fullerton decided the time was right to pursue the game in 2007. She and her team revisited the classic book, then took what Thoreau determined were the four basic needs of humans—food, fuel, shelter, and clothing—and made them the basis of the game. They also added a goal of "inspiration," requiring the user to read, interact with visitors, and enjoy the sounds of nature. As players lose inspiration, the environment fades and gets duller. The more inspired they are, the more lush and green and detailed it gets.

In short, players will spend their time in Walden Woods just as Thoreau did: building a cabin, fishing, collecting arrowheads, planting crops, finding edible native plants—all while relevant excerpts from Walden pop up along the way.

If you’re wondering where the action comes in, well, don’t hold your breath. Thoreau isn’t going to encounter bears; he doesn’t escape from a burning cabin; there are no brushes with death. That’s not the point of the game. "There is no winning or losing in this particular game," Fullerton says. "This is more about experiencing Thoreau’s experiment. Each player may judge their outcome by their own standards."

And for the Walden critics who will point out that Thoreau wasn’t really roughing it, don’t worry—that’s addressed in the game as well. As the writer, you’ll be able to take your laundry home to your mother and go put your feet up at Emerson’s house.

Walden: A Game has an expected release date of late 2016 or early 2017.

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Nintendo Is Releasing a Special Gold Famicom Mini, Which Will Come Pre-Loaded With 20 Games

Nintendo’s renewed focus on retro gaming continues as the company is slated to release a manga-focused edition of the Famicom Mini in Japan on July 7. The Famicom—short for Nintendo Family Computer—is the Japanese version of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and this new device will come with 20 games pre-loaded onto it.

Back when the NES Classic hit U.S. stores in 2016, Japan got its own Famicom Mini, which featured a slightly different selection of games from its Western counterpart, including Mario Open Golf and Downtown Nekketsu Kōshinkyoku: Soreyuke Daiundōkai. This new edition of the Mini will be gold-plated and is being released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the manga magazine Weekly Jump, according to Kotaku.

To go with the theme, the games on the system will be ones based on the popular manga at the time like Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya, and Fist of the North Star, as The Verge reports. These are games that most Western audiences would have never experienced for themselves in the late '80s and early '90s as the manga/anime culture had not yet spilled over into the States much, and companies would rarely waste the time and money on localizing them for an unfamiliar fanbase.

In the rare instances that these games did come stateside, they were usually altered to appeal to a different culture—the most famous example is Dragon Ball on the Famicom arriving in America as Dragon Power in 1988 with box art looking more like something from The Karate Kid than a manga series.

Now that American audiences have embraced manga, there might actually be a market for this tiny package of retro gaming in the States. Unfortunately, there's no word on a U.S. release, meaning you’ll likely have to head to eBay or your local boutique video game store in order to have a shot at landing one. If you want a consolation prize, the original NES Classic will be heading back to stores on June 29—though if history is any guide, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get your hands on that, either.

[h/t: The Verge]

Ice Water Games, YouTube
5 Smartphone Games That Let You Tend Plants and Chill Out
Ice Water Games, YouTube
Ice Water Games, YouTube

Being in nature is naturally relaxing, but city-dwellers don’t always have an opportunity to get outside. Gardening can be therapeutic for mental health, but you may not have access to a garden—or even the space to tend a houseplant. You can still have a few moments of horticultural meditation every day. It will just have to be digital.

Over the last few years, video game developers have released a number of mobile games that revolve around the simple act of tending to plants. These games are, for the most part, slow-moving, meditative experiences that focus on beautiful graphics, calming soundtracks, and low-key challenges. They’re a great way to de-stress and pursue your gardening dreams, no watering can required.

Here are five relaxing, plant-centric phone games you can download now.


Viridi is like Neopets for plants. The game is dedicated to nurturing a pot of succulents that grow almost in real time. You can plant a variety of succulent species in your virtual pot. Spritz your plants with water when they’re thirsty and wait for them to grow. Each week, a new seedling will be available for you to plant. The game moves slowly by design. You can let it run in the background, and your plants will do their thing, just like a real plant would. These ones are even harder to kill than real succulents, though.

Find it: iOS, Android

2. TOCA NATURE; $2.99

Toca Boca makes games for kids, but honestly, Toca Nature is pretty fun no matter what your age. You can create your own natural landscapes, adding trees, water features, and mountains. Different natural features attract different animals, and the type of landscape you make shapes whether you’ll get bears, beavers, or birds living there. You can collect berries, feed the animals, or just enjoy planting trees.

Find it: iOS, Android


In Breath of Light, your job is to bring a garden to life by manipulating a stream of light. Move rocks and mirrors around your zen garden to harness and direct the life-giving light emanating from a single flower. When the light hits another flower, it causes that plant to grow. The very simple puzzles are designed to help you chill out, and the award-winning soundtrack by the audio designer Winterpark features binaural tones that are naturally relaxing. “As a unique, gamified version of guided meditation, Breath of Light helps you enter a state of calm serenity without you even noticing,” according to Killscreen. Sorry, Android users—the app seems to have disappeared from Google Play, but it’s still available for iPhone.

Find it: iOS

4. PRUNE; $3.99

Prune is a puzzle game with a horticultural twist. The object is to plant a tree, then as it grows up, guide it with careful pruning, helping the branches reach the light while staying away from the cold shadows or hot sun, both of which will kill the tree. As the levels rise, you’ll need to contort your trees into ever more complex shapes.

Find it: iOS, Android

5. EUFLORIA; $4.99

If you like your gardening to be a little more high-stakes, Eufloria is out of this world. Seriously, it’s about colonizing asteroids. Your mission is to grow trees on far-off asteroids, sending your seedlings out to turn gray space rocks into thriving landscapes. Your seeds hop from asteroid to asteroid at your behest, creating a chain of fertile life. Sometimes, alien enemies will attack your flourishing asteroid colonies, but don’t worry; you can beat them back with the power of more seeds. The game can be fast-paced and competitive, but there’s a “relaxed” play option that’s more meditative.

Find it: iOS, Android


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