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How Myst Changed Gaming

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Back From The Dead… Five Sequels Long

Once it was conceivable for a couple of brothers (Robyn and Rand Miller, to be exact) to make a game in someone’s garage; and sell it; and succeed tenfold. The original Myst (1993) turns twenty-three in September of 2016, and for a quarter of its lifespan it enjoyed constant bestseller status. Its sequel, Riven, didn’t quite achieve the original’s level of success except only for a brief period in the month or so following its release. Right up there with Doom, Command & Conquer, and other countless titles that came and went, Myst offered massive crowd appeal.

myst_1Atrus and Catherine lived for twenty some-odd years on this little island with their psychopathic progeny. Where do they sleep? Is there no indoor plumbing? Atrus in his creepy library doing research on borborygmy… Catherine climbing electrical poles… An entire Age that was relegated to a ship in a stone. We were supposed to buy this? Well, we did. A lot.

Myst is a classic—certainly a classic to the mainstream public, but one that many core gamers have shunned. This is probably true because Myst in its heyday received so much attention from the mainstream media that hardcore gamers adopted a snobby attitude: “Oh that. Not a real gamer’s game… After all, Newsweek covered it.” And we didn’t see a heck of a lot about Riven in the gaming press during the months prior to its released. Did they just forget about that one? Yet Myst, in its time, was a brilliant game; a groundbreaking game that paved the road for others to follow, aping its groundbreaking visuals but often at the expense of more complex gameplay. Just another reason why it received quite a backlash from adventure gaming connoisseurs at the time who felt it was too mainstream.

Since it’s obvious that the gaming industry has exploded over the last decade with more exciting and easier accessible genres (is anyone counting CoD releases anymore? ), superseding those dinosaur genres that defines the 1990s – specifically the almost countless number of Myst clones from ’94 onwards – the parallel can be drawn that we’re going into a new age of watering down complexity and difficulty to broaden one’s prospective buyers as much as possible. This isn’t necessarily bad or universal – mainstream games are definitely still fun, and for retro throwbacks you still get the occasional Legend of Grimrock or remastered Grim Fandango tapping into the nostalgia faucet of longstanding PC gamers; and once every few years there’s a serious simulation or Unity of Command, the traditional hex-based wargame from 2011. But they can never hope to measure up against mainstream genres.

But enough pointless rambling. In the following few weeks the entirety of the Myst series will be covered, from the nascent DOS-based version to its more complex 3D finale from 2005.


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