Is it wrong that a lot of my practical science knowledge was taught to me by playing Myst?
I’m actually kind of serious on this one.
I don’t know where Myst sits in the great hierarchy of video games as I rarely ever see any kind of tribute to the game. I mean, I’ve found tribute music videos and the like but no one speaking about the impact Myst had.
As I see it nothing really measures up to the impact of the original game save for possibly the first sequel Riven. It’s possible that much of the design choices used by Myst haven’t been employed well by other franchises. I mean, in the core five games that make up the series they’ve all been well reviewed with the MMO a bit less so. However, I should point out that there seems to be a relatively small but dedicated cabal of people keeping the Myst MMO alive. The fact that it’s fundamentally different from every other MMO and is completely free (read: no cash shop) is nice.
But back to Myst itself. Debuting in 1993 Myst was a rare entity, it was a mature, adult game that was labelled so because of the challenge. Not because of violent content. It is a game for which the experience is dictated entirely by what you know about the game and what you know to do once you get to Myst Island.
So let’s get the story part out of the way. The game opens with you the player listening to a narration as a man describes his fears and concerns about where a book might end up after being dropped into a mysterious fissure. Once this man’s narration is done (yes if you know the game you know who he is but let’s pretend someone out there might not have and is learning this for the first time).
The book lands in a strange place at your feet. Yes your, like a lot of silent protagonist games Myst does not give you an in-game avatar but rather frames itself so that you assume that it is you who takes this journey and unlike a lot of modern FPS games the gameplay and style is so minimalistic and really requires no real physical effort on part of your in-game avatar that you couldn’t do yourself if you were really there. I do feel it is one of the few games that really exemplifies true player immersion by implementing realistic puzzle environments with such solitude. Your journey in Myst is as much your characters and the boundaries do feel like they fall away.
If you pick up the book and open it you are treated to an image of a dock on a remote island. Touching it causes a strange effect and you come to on that very island. The island of Myst. At that point you are on your own.
Well… this is… different…
And oh the game manual will not help you. It does nothing beyond explaining a few game commands and informing you that you are experiencing a game unlike any other and the only help you have is clues from the game and real life itself.
In truth Myst is a first person point and click adventure title. On the outset that doesn’t sound too remarkable but Myst came into being at a time when the traditional adventure game (typically made by Sierra) was something where the best solution was to click on everything, steal everything and click it on everything until it worked.
If you read the opening bit from the creators in the game’s manual they make it quite clear that Myst exists to be the exact opposite of that. You are encouraged to look, to absorb and read everything. The entire nature of the game is supplemented by the notebook offered in boxed copies of the game. In there was a simple blank notebook called the Journal of Myst. In it was a simple letter on the first page encouraging you to mark down every clue you find. In effect to craft and create a journal of your experiences on the island of Myst. I can’t describe what I would give to see some of these journals, full of notes and stories today.
When Myst came out I was far too young to appreciate it despite the numerous amount of PC gamers who played it where only a scant few years older than I. But it was only a matter of time before I got my own copy.
And a copy of the strategy guide but I was a bit of an idiot.
There was something to the true logic of a lot of the puzzles. That everything within had a real world analogue.
However, because I used a guide to get through the game I feel I cheated myself out of an experience I could have now at this point in life. Now I’m older and understand so much more about natural science, pressure, buoyancy. But then I first learned much of those lessons in Myst. But in remembering them and how I learned about them I’m hesitant to speak about the game. Maybe it is just the nostalgia talking or the fact that spoiling a puzzle in a game wasn’t as much of a deal before Myst (and really not since).
So if you haven’t ever played the game I guess the only thing I can say is that I encourage you to do so. I encourage you to play a game so different from its ilk of the time. The graphics will be a stopping point for some but there is a great game to be hand.
That said I’m not going to wussy out giving the game a shakedown because I want to avoid spoilers. So this is it. Your last warning.
Kay I tried. Let’s hit it.
Despite what you might think Myst does it’s damnedest to give you a real prologue before thrusting you into the meat of the puzzles in the game. While on Myst island players all typically have the same experience of wandering aimlessly. However what many soon notice is that each of the landmarks on Myst island have switches adjacent. Puzzled you likely flipped them experimentally and moved on.
Now in exploring you should uncover a single note left on the island by a man named Atrus for his wife Catherine. He instructs her to go to a projector room next to the dock and enter in the number of switches on the island.
And here you have the tutorial stage. Any player would explore Myst island and possibly spend hours doing so. The note however gives you a reason to A) Explore the island and learn where all the landmarks are and B) Learn the controls. Once you find the number of switches and the room Atrus reveals that he suspects his sons have turned to evil…
As you do.
And he has taken steps to stop them. From there you’ll eventually meet the brothers in their imprisonment in books and be forced to travel to different locations via books using hints provided while giving pages back to the brothers to find answers.
I don’t dare say more since much of the experience of Myst lies in the experiencing of it. If you have the time for such a thing I do encourage you to try and experience it yourself and the sequel Riven.
So too does this work exist.