“It’s all about the script!” is a commonly repeated refrain when we talk about TV and films, but the truth is that the saying applies to video games as well. Here’s how that came to be:
Myst at 25: How it changed gaming, created addicts, and made enemies
by Benj Edwards
Just a few days ago, as Hurricane Florence approached my home in North Carolina, I popped a disc into my 1990s Atari Jaguar CD gaming console. A familiar animated logo popped onto the screen, and I found myself transported back to a world I knew well decades ago.
It was Myst, the groundbreaking point-and-click adventure game that Brøderbund published in its first incarnation–for the Mac–25 years ago today, on September 24, 1993. I personally happened to have first played Myst on the most obscure platform possible, the Jaguar, but that made it no less of a transformational experience at the time.
In Myst, you explore an ornately detailed island that leads to other vaguely Victorian sci-fi worlds (called ages) created by a character named Atrus. You’re presented with lushly detailed screens—punctuated by animations—depicting the scene around you, and can point and click your way through puzzles that feel woven perfectly into the tapestry of the game. Despite its largely static nature, its groundbreaking pre-rendered visuals (which many people called photorealistic at the time) made Myst feel like the first convincing virtual reality experience, at least in the sense of feeling physically present in a fictional world.
I invited my daughters, aged 6 and 8, to join me in exploring the lush alien world while the rains encircled our house. They took copious illustrated notes and offered suggestions as we played. Despite growing up with much flashier animated graphics, they were still sucked in by the classic world of Myst. As we collaborated over puzzles played out on vintage machinery, my older daughter said, “People back then must have been incredibly creative to make something like this.”
Indeed they were.
The creators of Myst, brothers Rand and Robyn Miller, along with a small team at their Washington state-based firm Cyan, were no strangers to innovation. The company had previously developed the first-ever game released on CD-ROM for a personal computer (in this case, a Macintosh), The Manhole, in 1989. They followed that children’s title with other whimsical point-and-click words crafted in HyperCard, Apple’s Mac-based hypertext environment that presaged the World Wide Web. Creativity came naturally to the Millers, and Myst was the natural next step in the refinement of their art.
Even 25 years later, the emergence of Myst still represents a watershed moment in the development of computer video games. It’s an achievement on par, I think, with the launch of Pong, Super Mario Bros., and Tetris. Mystexpanded the art form, expanded the market, and challenged assumptions. It also made a lot of people happy….