Computer Game #11: “Myst” (1993)
One of Steve Jobs biggest mistakes was downplaying games on the Macintosh. He and Apple wanted the Mac to be a “serious” machine, and because games were for kids, they poo-pooed add-ons like joysticks, or aggressive support for game programmers. Mac’s superior graphics were supposed to be for important things like art & business, not silly games.
Of course games, as it turned out, would become one of THE biggest businesses, and the driving force for PC hardware and software development. That was driven home when Myst — originally a Mac-only release — became the biggest selling computer game of its time. CD-ROMs had been available for computers for years, but high prices and slow speeds made them unappealing to consumers; “Myst” actually helped drive sales of CD readers and became the ‘killer app’ the industry had been looking for.
On top of that, it truly was a new genre of game — the interactive puzzle mystery. It’s ambiance and logistical challenges could pull you in for hours, as you are given a strange book that can transport you to any time or age — but only if you first solve the mystery of the abandoned island you find yourself on. There are no missions, no levels, no blowing anything up: exploring the island and figuring out how everything works (and what happened to the people there) was the whole game.
Myst is so popular it outlived the CD-ROM (and the compact disc!) and is now available for smart phones and tablets. There are even animated 3-D updates of the original, but part of the charm is the (now) simple yet beautifully rendered graphics. And no matter which version or platform you choose, be sure to wear headphones while playing — the moody sounds and music that surround you are key to getting lost in this imaginary realm.
“Myst” really is all that, and 20 years after its release, it is still an almost mystical experience worth pursuing.