You find yourself on an empty dock. Walking up the stairs, you encounter a gorgeous mausoleum, and beyond that, a temple. You continue exploring, finding more strange structures and few answers. Soon you have traversed the whole island, dismayed to discover that it is completely abandoned. And you still have no clue why you are there.
Welcome to the island of Myst, the setting for the 1993 computer game of the same name. When it came out on CD-ROM, the game intrigued and confounded players. Unlike most computer games, there were no enemies to kill or people to talk to. The setting was beautiful, but eerie in its emptiness. It was a world that called you to it, even if you did not understand your purpose there.
The island was more than just beautiful buildings, though. It had puzzles to be solved, books to be opened, and stories to be revealed. The island also held portals to other worlds, called “ages”, each with its own theme. By traveling to each age, all with the same atmosphere of unsettling isolation, players could begin to solve the mystery of Myst.
Here is the one of the ages, the “Selenitic Age”:
Twenty years after Myst first came out, and several sequels later, the original game still stands out as a unique treasure of computer gaming. Just a glance at the image of the island is enough to instill a sense of yearning within me, a yearning felt strongly by my 8-year-old self. I think it is this same sense of yearning that drives fantasy writers to create their own worlds to escape into, and lead others to follow them into exotic lands and hidden puzzles. Myst, the game of many ages, is timeless in its spirit of adventure and discovery, and more games could use some of that spirit to remind us of that boundless wonder we used to feel as children.
Myst is now available for iOS and is also for sale on steam, so you can still experience that sense of wonder for yourself: http://cyan.com/games/myst/