Happy 18th, Myst! Blog categoryEssay category

Box art from Myst

Congratulations, Myst, go buy some lottery tickets!

Given that it has become something of a punchline for boring and uneventful games, it’s difficult to grapple with the impact Myst had on the industry. Myst wasn’t the first CD-ROM game, nor the first point-and-click adventure game (even from that year – Return to Zork and The Journeyman Project beat it to the punch). By far, though, it was the prettiest, the most immersive, and the most technically stable given all the music and video flying around.

The realism and lifelike presentation of Myst gave it a stupefying edge over everything else on the market. Best of all, you could have it in your own home. Rolling Stone declared Myst to be “a breakthrough” and “as close to virtual reality as we’ve come.” The Village Voice went as far as calling it “one of those works that irrevocably changes the parameters of an artform, multimedia’s equivalent of Don Quixote or Sgt. Pepper’s.”

Myst is the game that got people thinking in terms of “worlds” instead of “stages.” Many people blame it for the death of the adventure genre, kicking off a deluge of abstract and uninteresting puzzle games that removed the essential human character from a format that depended so heavily on interaction. But Myst also taught the game industry not to be afraid of unconventional storytelling and open-endedness. It was okay to make an experience, even if people considered it more of a slide show than a game.

Oh, and Myst is the reason computers can play CDs and DVDs. The game moved millions of units and, along with it, countless CD-ROM drives. Developers got the hint, and the CD-ROM became a viable option. It’s rare that a single game can define and justify an entire medium.

It may not be the greatest adventure game, but it is probably the most important. Myst gently but unquestionable curved the direction of future video games, which is largely the reason why fodder for this blog exists.

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