When I went off to college in 1994, computer technology was lurching ahead at crazy speeds. We went from toting around bulky laptops with no modem whatsoever to experiencing internet in our dorm rooms and the huge storage of zip drives. One of the biggest revolution points of the mid-1990s definitely had to be the CD-ROM, which helped put an end to those boxes with 15 floppy discs. The huge storage capacity on a single CD (well, for the time) was a boon for game makers, who in turn went nuts making games with tons of detailed graphics and soundtracks.
Most likely no game benefited more greatly from the CD-ROM invasion than Myst, which sold like a billion copies and was the most successful PC game before The Sims arrived in 2000. What’s weird about it is that Myst is, at its core, a rather stripped-down adventure game. It’s barely an adventure game, it’s more like a puzzle game with theming. Players wandered all over a deserted island to solve puzzles in the hopes of uncovering a backstory about two bickering brothers. There’s… very little narrative here. It’s just a lot of exploration.
The reason why Myst hit it big was that it was juicy eye candy to everyone who wanted to show off their CD-ROM and believe in the power of M U L T I M E D I A. Today, it looks as fake as most ’90s CGI looks, but in 1993, this was a pretty world in comparison to most video game settings. People loved getting immersed into this world and didn’t mind spending hours and hours trying to figure out the puzzles. I guess when it’s a nice place to be, you’ll put up with anything.
So here’s the thing: This may be the first Nostalgia Lane article I’ve written where I really didn’t care about the game in question. The Myst bug never bit me; I couldn’t see the attraction, and I still can’t today. I’d rather play adventure games with far more storytelling and world building than what this had.
But I’m including it because there was a good six months or so when everyone at my college was hooked on Myst — if they could get their hands on a CD-ROM drive. It made its way into our dorm room and transformed a lot of my friends into evangelicals proclaiming the great word of Atrus. I tried it out a few times, it was OK, but I rather would have spent time playing Command and Conquer or X-Com. I guess if you play adventure games despite puzzles instead of for them, then Myst wasn’t for you.