Henry David Thoreau on Videogame Design

Jun 20, 2010

I recently got caught up again in Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, and to share some of the joy I found in it, I created Transcend for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad [Later edit: this app is no longer available for iOS, but is free and playable in-browser via Flash]. This is in much the same spirit as when my love of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland led to Alice in Bomberland, although Thoreau had a rather different view of the world than Carroll.

Here is a full play through [or better: try it (Flash/web)] –

Here now are some quotes from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden – in particular, excerpts that were selected and included in Transcend – adapted to make them directly applicable to videogame design:

Developers are not so much the keepers of fans as fans are the keepers of developers.

The videogames which people praise and regard as successful are but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?

We are in great haste to construct a higher fidelity technology; but, it may be, we have nothing important to communicate that requires higher fidelity. As if the main object were to talk elaborately, and not to talk sensibly.

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called improvements of videogame technology, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of videogame design.

No videogame ever stood the lower in my estimation for having low fidelity graphics, yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety commonly to have fashionable visuals, or at least high definition and 3D graphics, than to have sound meaning.

I desire that there may be as many different videogames in the world as possible; but I would have each developer be very careful to find out and pursue his or her own way, and not a competitor’s or a friend’s or a professor’s instead.

Videogame’s capacities have never been measured. So little has been tried.

Our development time is frittered away by detail.

The mass of videogames are developed in quiet desperation.

It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

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