I had hesitated to do this, not because I don’t love Cyan and the Myst series, but because I was unsure how to express what I feel. I don’t have some heartwarming story to tell or a tale of hope like I have heard from others. However, Myst has meant so much to me I felt I had to post something.
I love books. Really I do. I can’t describe how much I love books. On average I read 2 to 4 books a month. Usually fantasy and Sci-fi, but occasionally other types of fiction as well. What I love about them is the characters, the story they play out, and the world that surrounds them. I’ve always felt that if you can build a world, and place interesting and realistic characters in it, you can tell me a story about anything and I will be hooked.
About 15 years ago, a friend of mine invited me over to his house to show me a new game he had gotten. It was a little game called Riven, he told me. When he first loaded it, I was immediately struck with the level of detail. Everything looked so real that I felt like I should be able to reach out and touch it. Then he started having me explore this place. He helped me discover the odd fixation on the number 5. We didn’t really get that far, I don’t even think we got off the first island before we had to stop. But I was intrigued, and promptly went and got the game for myself.
I spent a long time playing that game. I got frustrated at times, but eventually I finished the game, and saw what I still consider to be one of the best endings to a game that I have ever seen. It made me feel so many emotions I don’t even know where to begin describing them. For me, that is something, because it takes a lot for me to feel that way. At the time I really didn’t know why I felt that way. Later, as I learned more about how stories are constructed, I discovered why I loved Riven so much.
First, the whole idea of being able to write a description of a world, and then be able to go and explore that world really resonated with me. Did I mention how much I love books?
Next, Cyan’s idea that you build the world, and then zoom in to one small part of it and tell the story that lives there is probably the greatest storytelling idea that I’ve ever heard. It allows for so much complexity and meaning to be behind everything.
Personally I think that nobody does this better than Cyan, but the key to a good story isn’t just having a “complete” world to tell it in. You need to have compelling realistic characters to populate that world. When I say realistic, I mean that they have to have real motivations for what they are doing. I am often more interested in the “why” rather than the “what”. A hero is never simply “good” just as a villain is never simply “evil”. Every real villain in the history of the world has had solid motivations for doing what they did. Sometimes it’s just that they are insane, but more often, there are complex motivations behind their actions. For example, Hitler, probably the biggest villain in recent history, felt that he was saving his country. He felt he was justified in doing everything he did if it lead to the greater glory of Germany. That belief spawned a generation of killers and murderers who all felt that they were doing the right thing. There were other things going on that contributed to the Holocaust, but it started there.
Cyan has done the same things with their characters. They have strong complex motivations for doing what they do. Gehn in particular is an interesting subject to me. But take ANY character from the Myst universe and you can see this complexity and depth and makes me believe that they could be real. Even the minor characters have a level of detail that it usually reserved for more significant ones. Most stories have one, two, maybe three characters that have that kind of depth. Some stories don’t have any at all. But for a story to have so many compelling characters is mind-boggling, and I love it.
And as you move away from Riven, and look at the series as a whole, you see the same attention to detail, the same sense of wonder that I felt the very first time I played Riven. There are very few things that can make me smile, laugh, cry, cringe, and even jump from fright (seriously, the first time I heard a Bahro screech I just about crapped my pants).
Because of these, and so many more reasons, the Myst series has become by favorite game series of all time, and Cyan has become my favorite game company of all time. I haven’t found anything to come even close to the level of passion and detail that went into these games.
Myst has shaped my expectations when I dive into a new story. Whether it’s TV, movies, games, or books, I look for a complex world, with great characters in it. I look for all the things that make the Myst series great. If fact, it has made me unable to play many games that are out today.
So when I heard that they were making a new game, I knew that I had to support it with whatever I had. Because I know that they will provide me with 3 things: compelling worlds to explore, realistic characters, and a gaming experience that will have me talking to everyone about.
So thank you Cyan, for ruining crappy stories for me, and for providing me with hope for the gaming world. Here’s to another 20 years of great stories!