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Retrospective: Myst

The dark ages.

I absolutely blame Myst. I blame it for everything. Everything bad about gaming, every hateful puzzle, every stupid cut-scene, every dreadful piece of writing. I don't care if any of it is Myst's fault, I still blame Myst. I blame it for the recession, I blame it for X Factor, I blame it for the war in Iraq.

Released in 1993, it became the non-gamers' game. "Oh, I don't really like videogames, but I did like Myst." It sold more copies than Kinkos - well over six million. Everyone with a PC in the nineties had a copy, you'll be told. And you know why? Because it was given away with absolutely everything. If you bought a PC, you got given Myst. New printer? Myst. Upgrading your RAM, here, have a copy of Myst. Vast piles of Myst were causing terrible landslides, killing hundreds of children, all around the world.

You had to have Myst. It was the law. Anyone found owning a PC without a copy would be imprisoned, beaten, and left to die. Its hegemony reigned until the turn of the century, six million victims, and never an apology.

Oh it looks so boring I want to die.

Good grief, I hate stinking Myst. And I hate anyone who likes it. I hate you, and your ghastly taste. If this was good enough - if this was what you wanted from gaming - then I hope the litany of miserable clone games that destroyed the joy of adventuring has made you very happy. Every time I receive a game to review that requires me to read its entire plot from a digital pile of horribly written "books", I turn and look at you with such piteous contempt that your mothers want to disown you.

Seriously, this is the game that made it okay for developers to think, "Nah, screw telling a story, let's just make the player pick it all up from our handwriting-font-printed virtual novels. It'll be much easier to excuse a collection of meaningless, unconnected puzzles if there's a book about flying cats or something. And a diary. No, wait, 18 diaries. 18 diaries filled with pages and pages of our purplest prose, in which one paragraph of information somewhat relates to a puzzle 15 locations away. That's narrative."

Here's a choice moment from one of Myst's 'books': "Climbing the ladder led to their village which is about 10 metres above the water and can only be reached by rope ladders that stretch from the lower paths to the village level approximately half way up the grand trees."

It never even looked that good! Not compared to Lost Eden. That was also rubbish.

There should be a Booker Prize for games. Can I read an entire tome like this? (Well, yes I can, as the creators of the game published three novels based on the games. But I have yet to have the pleasure.) And every lazy, rubbish adventure game since has employed the same lazy, rubbish device, and it's entirely Myst to blame.

Seedy ROM

1993 was a dark year for gaming. Sure, it may have given us Day of the Tentacle, Sim City 2000 and Doom, but it was also the year that saw the CD-ROM become the dominant means for distributing PC games. Clearly something was needed. Games coming on 15 1.44MB floppy discs had become silly, and we required more room.

But it should have been added gradually. Jumping from a maximum of around 20MB to 600 was simply not safe. Developers looked at how much room they now had, and concluded that they had to fill it somehow. With the bulkiest things they could find. Pre-rendered graphics and full-motion video. And guess what encouraged this more than anything else? That's right: Myst. Along with its cousin 7th Guest, Myst bamboozled everyone's eyes by creating a world of luscious pre-rendered worlds.