Mysteries On My Hands

Because I’ve been away in Rome for the last couple of weeks, and thus away from my beloved Xbox 360, I’ve been playing around with some games for the iPod Touch instead. One such game, which has been hosing me down with great torrents of nostalgia, is Cyan’s Myst.

As I mentioned a few weeks back with respect to Epic Citadel, the concept of having “a world in your pocket” is deeply alluring to me. If any game ever had that kind of promise, it would surely be Myst. For those who haven’t played (other than the obvious: play it), Myst involves traveling to different fictional worlds and solving some pretty neat puzzles, all while learning the story of the family who are the worlds’ previous tenants.

While Myst on the iPod is eminently portable, I turned out not to be. Generally seemed to play Myst while lying in bed and just for a little while on the plane back to Copenhagen. As such, I didn’t get the chance to experience much in the way of “dual worlds”, which is something I find particularly interesting in the pocket-world genre. What happens when you’re simultaneously immersed in two places at once? I’ve had some experience with this from a research perspective, but so far not in day to day play. Still, Myst is lovely and, despite one glaring interface bug which stumped me for a while, fairly easy and pleasing to play on the tiny screen.

Overall, I feel a bit conflicted on how world-y Myst ultimately feels, though. There’s a chance it’s to do with the small-screen effect, but I do get the sense that while the “worlding” of Myst is usually pretty excellent, any connection between yourself and that world must come from you – the game won’t help you out. You don’t cast a shadow or have a reflection or footsteps. You don’t breath, you don’t have visible hands, and so on. These limitations are likely to be technical ones, or even Cyan deliberately avoiding implying anything about the player, but I find them off-putting.

Perhaps it’s because Myst does such a nice job of making a (empty) world. Many of the worlding concepts that we see in much more recent games like Fallout 3 are present in Myst, particular the notion of a past. In Fallout 3 we explore abandoned Vaults, in Myst we explore abandoned worlds. Books to read, leftover items to study, and strange architecture to exist on and around. __Both games are wonderful at this.

Most of all, I find myself wondering if my disengagement with Myst‘s worlds is as simple as its slide-show presentation style, and thus whether realMyst, which is Myst presented in “proper” navigable 3D would make it an entirely different experience. It’s easy to treat the original as a series of interlinked screens with puzzles on them, rather than a world with a genuinely existing space. I find myself wondering whether, when I played Myst when it originally came out, I was able to perceive the world as a world then, or whether it still felt essentially static. But I can’t seem to dredge up that memory.

So ends the official rusty-post after not writing anything except this book of mine for the last two weeks.

10 January 2011
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