Last year, on the 24th of September in 2013, it was the 20th anniversary of the first game that took me to another world. Or worlds, technically.
Twenty years ago on that day, Myst came out in stores. I didn’t get it right away and by “me” I mean my mother, who was getting into computer games at the time. I had a Nintendo and I would play Super Nintendo at my friend’s house. When my mom got Myst and started to play it, she’d call me in the room because she thought I would like it. I was eight years old and instantly pulled in by how pretty it was, not to mention the music and the sound effects. Everything just came together in a way that absolutely hypnotized me. I had started playing on my own and had to fall back on a strategy guide for some of the puzzles, but I didn’t care. I mostly just wanted to get to every single corner of this universe and explore. I would stop and listen to the birds on Myst Island or the sound of trickling water in the Channelwood Age.
My favorite was the Mechanical Age, followed closely by the Stoneship Age. The Stoneship Age never jumped to #1 because I was terrified of the compass and the lights going out when you were underwater if you hit the wrong button. I knew there was nothing in the water but I was always afraid there would be something there. I was a bit of a wuss, and I was a bit of a wuss with a phobia of being underwater. :\
I couldn’t get enough of the characters either, and you rarely saw any. Sirrus and Achenar became staples of the geeky section of my brain and I thought it a little weird that I kind of had a crush on them as I continuously went back to the game in the years following its release. Their rooms were filled with all sorts of nasty (but nasty in such an amazingly creative way) and they obviously didn’t want to be your friend. But my first crushes were Raphael from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Bart Simpson, so I didn’t think too much of it. There was something so intriguing about them, and about Atrus and his kidnapped wife. How did this family get this way? How did the brothers become so corrupt and so horrible that their father basically put them in prison? I wanted to know these things. I wanted more.
Besides the family, there was this whole idea and skill introduced in the game – certain people could write books that opened gateways to different places. Completely different worlds that you could reach by placing your hand on the moving panel in the book. How many worlds were out there that had books written to take you to them? Only the ones on Myst Island? Were there more? Hundreds? Thousands?
Everything about this game completely captivated me. I had played video games before, but nothing like this. Nothing that I wanted to be a part of, nothing that I wanted to visit. This was different.
They released three novels that went through different parts of this family tree – I read them all when they came out. There was a comic book about Sirrus & Achenar’s childhood (and eventual corruption) that was released and then canceled after the first issue – I still have my copy safely on a shelf. There were subsequent games – Riven, Exile, Revelation, URU, End of Ages – all of them good (Riven was especially wonderful). I always come back to Myst though. Sometimes I’ll load up a new game, make my way to one of the Ages and just look around a bit. It’s kind of like visiting your childhood home, in a way. There aren’t many games that feel like that to me. (And you know how I feel about video games. <3)
I remember getting the From Myst to Riven book for Christmas in ’97 when it came out and I remember reading it all in one sitting. I remember sprawling out in an empty cubicle at my Dad’s office when I went into work with him on the weekends and working my way through The Book of Ti’ana. I was obsessed with Bush’s album Razorblade Suitcase and still to this day I can’t listen to the song “Cold Contagious” without thinking of Ti’ana & Aitrus. I always associate that album with that book since I was taking in both at the same time. There are all of these little things that remind me of how this game has trickled its way into my brain. Songs, sounds — even the weather. When it’s a cool Spring or Fall day and there’s a slight breeze it makes me think of the dock on Myst Island.
In the years following Myst’s release, I remember sitting and waiting for the dial-up to connect so I could sign on AOL and talk to all the friends I made in the Myst chatroom. We would talk about how awesome it was that these two brothers, Rand & Robyn Miller, got together and created an always expanding universe. We would talk about how awesome it was that they played Atrus (Rand), Sirrus (Robyn – who also did the music) & Achenar (Rand) themselves and quote the brothers and share puzzle ideas. I would sit in that chatroom for hours until it was bedtime (or well past it – whoops).
Out of all the video/computer/etc. games I’ve played, whenever people ask me for my favorites there’s usually a rotating list depending on what I’ve been in the mood for lately. But Myst is always on the list. And the older the game and I get, I still can’t see it leaving my top five. It drew me in, inspired me and it always calls me back.
I know it’s a little late, but Happy 20th Anniversary, Myst. <3
Special Place in my Heart is a post-when-the-idea-strikes feature here at Neon Shores where (when said need/idea pops up) I’ll write about something video game-related or otherwise that holds a geeky place in my weird little heart.