It’s crazy to think nowadays that Myst was at one time the biggest video game in the world, since it’s the antithesis of what we typically expect from the current climate. I suppose its important to remember that at one time the PC was a haven for genres that the consoles either had no interest in or capability to really execute. Without painting myself as the “PC master race” type, it’s still hard to deny that PC games just felt more… mature back then, an advanced placement option for those of us not particularly enthused to play yet another mascot platformer.
For many, Myst is a difficult game to go back to, a plodding relic of a time long past, seen in retrospect with the same level of shame that we would equate to JNCO jeans and Stüssy logos, but as someone that discovered it much later, I still feel at home there. It’s an assemblage of ideas seemingly plucked from my personal wheelhouse; abstract brainteasers and hidden narratives within something foreign and incongruous. It’s player agency in its purest form, being the only active force in a static world. There’s a odd sense of power there that’s hard to find even in the most frantic of button mashers. Myst makes you feel important, not because you’re the center of the universe or the chosen one, but because you’ve earned it, making yourself a part of that universe by the amount of attention you’ve paid to it.
It’s definitely a “type A” game for me, the rare case of a fictional world that feels like it exists outside of your interaction with it, evidenced by the three novels sitting on my shelf, different from the tie-in fodder than you’ll sometimes find with other games. There’s a vision at work, and you’re rewarded for your engagement with consistency; an internal logic that uncovers new languages or different ways to see these lavish worlds. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine games of other genres existing in the same universe, an untapped opportunity to revive a series that’s sadly gone silent.
I suppose you could argue that there isn’t much of a place for a game like Myst anymore, but whenever I see praise of The Witness, a game that is by its own admission a new interpretation of the same ideas, I can’t help but wonder what other stories could be told, even in a landscape that has seen a million imitators come and go. I do see hope in something like Obduction, the spiritual successor that’s been in the works seemingly forever. Maybe it can finally answer the questions I have about whether or not a universe dictated by buttons and levers as the soundtrack to your solitude can still have consistent appeal in this post-Call of Duty world.