In 1993, the revolutionary PC game Myst appeared on the market. Unlike other adventure games, Myst strove to completely immerse players in a series of fictional worlds, providing intricate back story, interactive puzzles, and intriguing mysteries. Those who had the patience to play were rewarded with a unique gaming experience.
Myst sold over 6 million copies after its release and remained the top-selling PC game until The Sims came out in 2002. All in all, the Myst franchise spawned six games: Myst, Riven, Exile, Revelation, End of Ages, and the side game Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. The original game was re-released several times for many different platforms, and a multiplayer version of Uru, called Uru Live, appears briefly on the Internet from time to time.
What makes Myst so popular that people still play it today? And why is a game that first emerged well over ten years ago still worth playing?
The secret lies in the immersive nature of the Myst worlds. Rather than having players create a character to manage during the game (with the exception of Uru), Myst offers the unique opportunity to play as oneself. This places players directly into the game, making them part of the story from the moment the first Age loads.
Being absorbed into the game this way gives each adventure a true sense of mystery and urgency. The series begins with the player arriving on Myst island with no prior knowledge of what’s going on or what they must do. As the game progresses, the player must gather clues and solve puzzles across the island in order to access further Ages-other worlds contained in books.
The puzzles in the series have been viewed as either a source of intricate entertainment or endless frustration. The player needs to pay careful attention to the environment in each game, testing levers, reading journals, and taking note of clues. This may seem tedious to those who are unprepared for the challenge, but with a little diligence the secrets of the game can be uncovered. In every game of the series, each Age has its own layout and its own puzzles to solve.
How these Ages came to be and how the player travels between them are all revealed over the course of Myst and subsequent games. With each game in the franchise, a little more of the story comes to light. Those wishing to know more about the characters’ pasts and the in-game race of D’ni can read the Myst novels: The Book of Atrus, The Book of T’iana, and The Book of D’ni. Though not necessary in order to play the games, the novels expand greatly on the history that is offered during play and enhance the gaming experience.
Another draw of the Myst series are the graphics. Looking back, the original game may not seem like much, but in 1993 it was considered revolutionary, even artistic. Creators Rand and Robyn Miller drew on worlds they had created as children, giving the game enough depth to appeal to a wide audience, including adults and casual gamers. As the series progressed, so did the look of the Ages, becoming more refined, easier to navigate, and beautiful to look at. This beauty alone gives the series replay value, as those who are familiar with the puzzles and the story can slow down the second time around to take a closer look at the scenery.
Myst and its sequels are still solid, entertaining games. Rather than pandering to today’s fast-paced market, Myst forces players to slow down, focus, and become truly involved in gameplay. Those who are willing to invest the time will find themselves immersed in a world of beauty, mystery, and intrigue with characters who grow to feel like old friends. Even more than fifteen years after its initial release, Myst continues to hold its own as a unique series of adventure games.