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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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Tynker
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Barbie Is Now Giving Coding Lessons
Tynker
Tynker

Mattel wants to help 10 million kids learn to code by 2020, and the toy giant is enlisting one of its most career-focused assets: Barbie. According to Engadget, Mattel is working with the coding education company Tynker to make seven Barbie-themed computer programming lessons.

Barbie has been a pilot, an architect, the president, and a computer engineer, so there may be no better character to teach kids the joys of coding. The lessons, arriving in summer 2018, will be designed for youngsters in kindergarten and up, and will teach Barbie-lovers more than just how to make apps. They’ll use Barbie’s many careers—which also included veterinarian, robotics engineer, and astronaut—as a way to guide kids through programming concepts.

An illustration depicts Barbie and her friends surrounded by cats and dogs and reads 'Barbie: Pet Vet.'

A screenshot of a Barbie coding lesson features a vet's office full of pets.

There are plenty of new initiatives that aim to teach kids how to code, from a Fisher-Price caterpillar toy to online games featuring Rey from Star Wars. This is the third partnership between Mattel and Tynker, who have already produced programming lessons using Hot Wheels and Monster High.

Kindergarten may seem a little soon to set kids on a career path as a computer programmer, but coding has been called “the most important job skill of the future,” and you don’t need to work for Google or Facebook to make learning it worthwhile. Coding can give you a leg up in applying for jobs in healthcare, finance, and other careers outside of Silicon Valley. More importantly for kids, coding games are fun. Who wouldn’t want to play Robotics Engineer Barbie?

[h/t Engadget]

All images by Tynker

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"American Mall," Bloomberg
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Unwinnable Video Game Challenges You to Keep a Shopping Mall in Business
"American Mall," Bloomberg
"American Mall," Bloomberg

Shopping malls, once the cultural hub of every suburb in America, have become a punchline in the e-commerce era. There are plenty of malls around today, but they tend to be money pits, considering the hundreds of "dead malls" haunting the landscape. Just how hard is it to keep a mall afloat in the current economy? American Mall, a new video game from Bloomberg, attempts to give an answer.

After choosing which tycoon character you want as your stand-in, you're thrown into a mall—rendered in 1980s-style graphics—already struggling to stay in business. The building is filled with rats and garbage you have to clean up if you want to keep shoppers happy. Every few seconds you're contacted by another store owner begging you to lower their rent, and you must either take the loss or risk them packing up for good. When stores are vacated, it's your job to fill them, but it turns out there aren't too many businesses interested in setting up shop in a dying mall.

You can try gimmicks like food trucks and indoor playgrounds to keep customers interested, but in the end your mall will bleed too much money to support itself. You can try playing the bleak game for yourself here—maybe it will put some of the retail casualties of the last decade into perspective.

[h/t Co.Design]

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