National Endowment for Arts Gives $40k for Walden: The Game

The National Endowment for the Arts has granted the University of Southern California $40,000 to produce a video game based on Thoreau’s Walden.

The University of Southern California is producing a video game — ‘Walden: The Game’ — with a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“The game will take place in a real-time 3D environment which will replicate the geography of Walden Pond and the woods in which Thoreau made his home using both game technologies and video. Beyond the replication of a virtual environment, however, the gameplay itself will embody the experiment that Thoreau set for himself, reinforcing the basic messages of his work. Walden, a game posits a new genre of play, in which reflection and insight play an important role in the player experience. ”

The game will allow players to walk in Thoreau’s footsteps through a real-time 3D environment which will replicate Walden Pond and the nearby woods that Thoreau made home from 1845-1847. The gameplay will mirror his experiment as the virtual player attends to the task of living a self-reliant existence.

Walden, A Game simulates both personal and environmental life, modeling the basic personal needs outlined by Thoreau, as well as some of the more experiential concepts he described. Furthermore, the game takes advantage of the detailed notes that Thoreau took about the pond, and its surrounding landscape, flora and fauna.

The grant represents the NEA’s new focus on gaming and web-based projects and comes alongside their recent cutting of grants to various Public Broadcasting Service shows. Among the losers in the competition for grants are: ‘Live from the Lincoln Center’ which received $100,000 last year, but nothing this year; The Metropolitan Opera which received $50,000 this year compared to $150,000 last year; and ‘The PBS NewsHour’ which has had its $100,000 grant from last year halved.

Organizations benefiting from the NEA’s shift in focus include: USC for their Walden Project; Appalshop, Inc ($75,000) to support the ‘Thousand Kites’ radio series and web platform for The Prison Poetry Workshop; and Triple Canopy ($10,000) for the development and promotion of an online magazine.

In a telephone interview, Alyce Myatt, the endowment’s media arts director, said that while public television and radio remain “the leads, we also know we have a generation — not of kids but adults — who are consuming content online and on mobile.”

Henry David Thoreau (July 1817 – May 1862) was an historian, poet and transcendentalist philosopher best known for the book ‘Walden’, inspired by his study of transcendentalism, which details his experiences over two years spent at a cabin he built by Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. At its heart, it is an introspective examination of his experiment in simple living and self-sufficency.

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