App of the Week: Gorgeous game brings students into Thoreau’s world

Thoughtfully designed game illuminates Thoreau's writing, philosophy.

Ed. noteApp of the Week picks are now being curated by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to read the full app review.

What’s It Like? 

Walden, a game is a simulation of Thoreau’s grand experiment to live in solitude for a couple of years on Walden Pond. Students assume the role of Thoreau (in first person) and experience the seasons at Walden over about six hours of play, collecting bits and pieces (represented as arrowheads) of Thoreau’s writing as they go. It works for both those familiar with games and those not. For students more into games, there’s a working simulation in place that can be explored and understood akin to the popular “survival” genre of games. For students who might not play many games, these systems are relatively forgiving, and it’s possible to just focus on the writings and philosophies of Thoreau — often offered with voice-over narration.

Price: Free, Paid

Grades: 8-12

Rating: 5/5

Pros: Elegantly embeds deep philosophical questions in the act of play.

Cons: It’s possible for players to get stuck on certain in-game tasks or miss important letters and events.

Bottom line: It’s rare to be so moved and permanently transformed by a work of art; that this game manages to (re)create these experiences is a triumph.

Meris Stansbury

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