Myst, Twenty Years Later

Grantland looks back at the iconic game Myst, on its twenty year anniversary:

The premise was deceptively simple: You are The Stranger, a person of inconsequential gender, race, or origin, minding your own business when a book falls into the black starlit void you call home. When you open it, you are transported to a mysterious island, and as you explore it you begin to uncover its history; the story of its caretaker, Atrus; his art of creating worlds, called “ages,” including Myst Island itself; and his two sons, Sirrus and Achenar, who beg you to release them from the confines of their prison ages, where they have been entrapped for some unknown crime. This sets you off on a journey to four more ages, unraveling innumerable (some might say infuriating) puzzles and gradually piecing together, almost entirely from environmental clues, what happened to this family, and whom among them you can trust. You do this entirely by yourself. You encounter nobody else and you are neither helped nor harmed — though that doesn’t keep a creeping sense of dread from permeating these otherwise benign worlds. You have no weapons or tools at your disposal aside from the physical journal that came packaged with the CD-ROM. When you “win,” there are no fireworks or rewards. You are merely told the island is yours to wander for as long as you like. For nearly a decade, this was the best-selling computer game of all time.1

Twenty years ago, people talked about Myst the same way they talked about The Sopranosduring its first season: as one of those rare works that irrevocably changed its medium. It certainly felt like nothing in gaming would or could be the same after it. If you remember the game, you remember that feeling of landing on Myst Island for the first time, staggeringly bereft of information in a way that felt like some kind of reverse epiphany, left with no option but to start exploring. This was a revolutionary feeling to have while staring at your PC screen. And the word-of-mouth carried — people who had never gamed before in their lives bought new computers so they could play Myst. “It is the first artifact of CD-ROM technology that suggests that a new art form might very well be plausible, a kind of puzzle box inside a novel inside a painting, only with music,” came the impassioned, if grasping prophecy from Wired’s Jon Carroll. “Or something.”

I remember playing this game on my first PC. And I agree with this, even if I wasn’t a hard-core gamer:

[M]any hard-core gamers found it obtuse and frustrating, its point-and-click interface slideshow-esque and stifling. Maybe Myst wasn’t for hard-core gamers. Maybe it wasn’t even really a game.

The author’s leap that Myst lead to Grand Theft Auto V is a bit far-fetched, but I do like the overall theme of Myst leading to games that embraced the open-world environments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s