Exploring Myst: A First-Time Player’s Experience


This post was written by Andrea who can be found here on Twitter or via email. She’s a Dyslexia teacher and an aspiring writer/storyteller who likes to look for everyday joys that God provides, whether that’s in the realm of media, or outside of it. 

“I realized, the moment I fell into the fissure, that the Book would not be destroyed as I had planned. It continued falling into that starry expanse, of which I had only a fleeting glimpse. I have tried to speculate where it might have landed—I must admit, however, such conjecture is futile. Still, the question of whose hands might one day hold my Myst Book are unsettling to me. I know my apprehensions might never be allayed, and so I close, realizing that perhaps the ending has not yet been written.”The Opening Monologue for ‘Myst’

Ever since I had heard about Myst I had been curious about it, enough to want to get my hands on a copy and play it for myself. I did not know very much about what it was – only that it was old and apparently very well-regarded, even two decades later. In fact, on Wikipedia, it’s been placed on a page that lists ‘Video Games Considered the Best.’ Ask any long-time gamer, and if they’ve been playing for more than twenty years, they’re sure to bring up Myst as an important addition to the overall industry.

MystCoverSo what, exactly, is Myst? What is it about? Why is it so well-regarded? I was wondering all this to myself, when I was browsing through my local used games store, and spotted a PlayStation 1 copy of the game. It looked fantastical, just by looking at the cover and reading the back description, but it really didn’t give me more information about what my goal would be in that story. Nevertheless, I expressed interest to those close to me that I was intending to acquire a copy of Myst. They heeded my wish because come to Christmas Day, I unwrapped that very same PlayStation 1 copy as a present.

Sadly, I’ve found that the PlayStation 1 port of this game to be quite inferior of the original version released on the PC – the game plays slowly overall, taking half a minute to transition and move around from section to section, as it is in its nature a point-and-click game. The visuals are not as clear as they should be, being almost static and lifeless. The audio and sound effects are sometimes cut, leaving an eerie silence instead. With the environment already as stationary as it is, and with the game naturally having no one around to physically interact with, the port overall gives the player a feeling of stagnant isolation, with the world of Myst seemingly lifeless and uninhabited. While I was able to complete the game just fine, I do feel like it could have been a better initial experience if I had played it on the computer like it was originally designed for, instead of grabbing the first copy I could get on any possible platform. Luckily, for players looking to try Myst out for themselves, it is possible to purchase and play an updated remastered version through Steam, GOG, or the iOS App Store, according to the developers’ website. I have since purchased that remastered port on Steam, but have not played it on that platform yet.

myst-bridge

So, that’s how I came across Myst – but just what is it, and why all the fuss over it?

“Suddenly on the dock of a mysterious island, you set out to explore its beauty and mystery. The world is uncovered as you explore, revealing a family tale of intrigue and injustice, defying boundaries of space and time. Every device, drawer, book, scrap of paper, or sound may provide the vital clues that allow hidden secrets and rich background to unfold. Each discovery you make and each puzzle you solve will lead you one step closer to reversing a wrong that has gone unchecked for ages.” – The description for Myst, on developer Cyan’s website

You play an unseen character that comes across a book called Myst, and by placing your hand on the last page during the initial loading screen, you are transported to the island of Myst, which is seemingly deserted. You are free and encouraged to explore the island, uncovering puzzles to solve and landmarks to explore, including an observatory, a library, a clock tower, a cabin, and others to discover.

You soon find clues as to the goal of the game when you come across several written notes and journals – two of which you discover are quite unique. In the library, on opposite sides of each other, lie two books: One red and one blue. Trapped inside each book is a brother (In the red book contains Sirrus, whilst the blue book contains Achenar). The connections with both brothers are spotty, which makes communication difficult, so they prompt you to search the island for books containing links to Ages (or different worlds) that you must solve puzzles in to acquire the correlating colored page to put in the brothers’ journals, and then finding the Myst book to return back to the island and deliver the pages to complete them, and help free them from their prisons. They implore you, however, not to let the other brother out and that that they are untrustworthy. It is up to you to choose whom to free, whom to remain imprisoned and discover the truth behind the mysteries of the hidden island of Myst. While there is really no one to talk to besides the trapped brothers, there is lore hidden amongst the Ages and library that reveals what life was like for the brothers and the various Ages you get to explore, and hidden clues that reveal the hidden natures of the brothers and their missing family – for better or worse.

Myst-library_and_ship

The game itself has three different possible endings so I would encourage you to save once you know you are getting to that final point – your final choices may have enormous consequences as to what may happen to your character in the end.

Myst as a game does not take a very long time to complete; I remember taking about a week to finish the game, but you really could even finish it within a day, if you know and remember the secrets the game leaves for you. The puzzles themselves are not infuriatingly difficult, although they do require some trial and error and memorization – it helps to write down the clues left for you when you discover them so that when you discover their true use, it won’t require you going back and forth to solve the puzzles. There is no time limit or pressure to finish the game, so you are free to complete and explore the world of Myst and its various Ages at your own leisure.

Myst itself gives you a feeling of being isolated and alone – there is no one to guide you or hold your hand as you explore, even though there are clues and notes left behind to help give you an idea of where to go to solve which puzzle. The music itself is eerie and ominous at times, or otherworldly and enchanting, but it all still helps to escalate that you’ve been caught up in something big and mysterious, that’s just almost beyond your capabilities. When I first started exploring Myst, I admit to feeling anxious – like when I turned around there would be someone there to jump-scare me. That moment never came, however, and aside from some dark revelations you may uncover in your journey, the world of Myst is surprisingly serene; there is no violence to behold, and you are not forced to fight your way out of things. It’s simply an experience to wonder, behold, and ponder as you think each puzzle through.

As a Christian, the main thing about this game that jumped at me about this entire experience is that, even in the midst of evil in the world (and as the player character, you will discover that evil has touched the world of Myst in devastating ways), there is still beauty to behold that has not been touched or destroyed. It’s a silent declaration that no matter how devastating the effects of sin are, Goodwill ultimately survives, and declare triumph over those that tried to have it extinguished.

In our own lives, we live day to day trying to figure out how to survive – like one big puzzle that we’re trying to solve to get through. Evil tries to manipulate us into having its way so that it can declare its victory. But Christ is already the victor – the battle is already won. We need only trust in Him, instead of the honeyed lies the Enemy tries to feed us with.

These themes itself are not overt in Myst, but upon completion, you kind of have to sit back and think about how you were led to this conclusion after having interacted with the characters and seeing where their words led you, from the beginning of the game, when you really had no clear goal of where to go or what to do. In the end, though, God guides us with His wisdom, so that his Grace can prevail.

It’s understandable why this game was so captivating for its time – 3D games of this caliber were just not mainstream in 1993 when Myst was initially released. Games were primarily meant for kids, and if they were more for adults, they were intense, fighting simulations. Not so with Myst. It took players brain instead of brawn to figure out what to do next, and how to initiate the next step in this journey. As outdated as they are now, the 3D backgrounds and interactions were revolutionary and beautiful to gaze over, the ambiance of the music and sound effects relaxing. It was a different type of experience – one that many players appreciated and enjoyed. It was highly regarded to the point that Myst became the highest-selling game on the computer until The Sims came to take its place. It’s still talked about in gaming communities, with various spin-off materials expanding its lore to bring in new players, until a type of community formed around its fans. Myst may have come out over twenty years ago, but its staying power doesn’t seem like it had ever entirely gone away.

As a first-time player who didn’t play it in its best capacity, I could still see why and how Myst is so beloved, and that in many ways, it really has stood the test of time. Hopefully, my insight will help you try this experience out for yourself. Go ahead and explore the mystical world of Myst, and open the pages of a book that is much bigger and better than you ever anticipated it to be.

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