Does Myst have a legacy?
A recent article on Gamasutra raised an interesting question: does the classic first-person adventure game Myst really have a legacy? If someone were to ask me this, I’d say yes. However, I don’t think it left the kind of legacy most games do. Most games leave legacies which impact the video game industry. Sierra On-Line’s Quest brand of games, especially the King’s Quest series, led games into exciting new frontiers, from cinematic music scores using the once state-of-the-art Roland MT-32 Multi-Timbre Sound Module to full voice acting via the once-massive massive 600MB capacity of CD-ROMs, while games like Defender of the Crown were the forerunners of cinematic gaming with lush backgrounds and meticulously-detailed characters. Even spectacular failures left legacies – Jurassic Park: Trespasser is a notable example as its impressive-yet-horrifically-issue-ridden physics engine laid the groundwork for physics-driven first-person games like Half-Life 2.
However, Myst didn’t spawn a new breed of games which cleanly walked the line between art and an actual game – instead, it purportedly ended up singlehandedly killing the adventure game genre, paving the way for first-person shooters like Doom, Quake, and Half-Life. In fact, the only game which follows the Myst formula and people are to know about is the PS3 game Journey.
Think about it: both Myst and Journey minimize interactions to form an emphasis on artistic storytelling and world-building while providing puzzles of varying difficulties and complexities for the player to solve. Yet Journey is an epic tale of the journey you and others take across the world, while Myst is more of a chronicle of your adventures in a foreign land and a collection of interwoven, intimate tales on a small cast of characters you rarely get to interact with.
The legacy I think Myst left is the impact it had on its fans. Not only did it tell intimate stories, it build fantastic, lush worlds which hold (or once held) fantastic forms of life, both humanoid and alien. It also gave players puzzles to solve which were often very relatable, such as needing to read a compass or matching sounds to pictures of the animals which made them, and also tied well into the worlds and stories – how often does the solution to puzzles lie in learning a foreign number system through playing and observing a simple children’s game based around a terrible, ritualistic sacrifice? (If you played Myst’s first sequel, Riven, that’s exactly what you get to do.)
Honestly, I don’t think a Myst-like game would be appealing to publishers today. In a world where games tend to be, among other things, epic, flashy, and energetic, Myst hold a unique blend of intimacy, slow pacing, thoughtfulness, and exploration which goes against much of what’s being published today. Thankfully, Cyan Worlds is hoping to crowdfund enough money of Kickstarter to create a spiritual successor to Myst called Obduction. While, as of this writing, they’re 8 days away from their deadline and $266,008 away from the ambitious $1.1 million dollar goal. While I don’t think Cyan Worlds will make it, I do literally hope and pray they’ll make it. I think the legacy of Myst deserves to live on – it’s a rare breed of game which takes players on a unique, memorable journey they won’t soon forget.