Player Immersion and Agency in Walden: A Game

Walden is, first and foremost, a game, and a well-made game at that. It affords a high level of player agency combined with game mechanics that include scavenging for food and building shelter. However, due to that magnitude of player agency, it is difficult to call this title historically accurate since it is impossible to give the player control over their actions while also binding them to a severely strict, historically accurate series of action. Agency is the main characteristic that separates games from other forms of media and removing it defeats the purpose of “gameifying” a narrative.

Instead, we may call Walden historically typical title since it simulates what a typical day might entail for Thoreau during his Walden experiment. As a result, the game succeeds greatly in its goal of immersing the player in the environment of Walden Pond and letting them see and feel the world as Thoreau did during his self-living experiment. This experience is also driven by excerpts from Thoreau’s own writings which let the player take a glimpse inside of his mind in order to fully solidify the player’s place in his shoes.

The developers of Walden state that “the game follows a loose narrative of Thoreau’s first year in the woods” which may worry some gamers who desire a 100% authentic Thoreau experience. For me, however, this is not a concern. The liberties the developers took to create the incredibly rich atmosphere of Walden provide much more enjoyment and education for players than unadulterated historical rigor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *