I have been sucked into the latest game made by the Myst people, Obduction. I’m about a third of the way through, but the premise seems to be that there are four or five worlds existing in the same space in different dimensions, and all are connected to the same tree. Or they are supposed to be connected: the fundamental puzzle, as with all Myst games, is to get stuff hooked up. Trying to get the power on is an odd way of having fun, but there are those of us who love this sort of problem, and can spend days on it (19.8 hours so far for me).
The Myst series is excellent in terms of graphics, story, imagination, and puzzle creation, and Obduction is no disappointment. The alien worlds are stunningly beautiful, and the alien tech seems to make its own internal sense; it is the right combination of other-worldly and yet figure-out-able. I’ve never been involved with creating a game, but I’d like to think the creators spend a big chunk of time thinking their way through the internal logic of a totally alien world, including that world’s biosphere, culture, traditions, and iconography. What a marvelous and exciting way of exercising one’s mind!
The same attraction must hold for those writing rich fantasy novels. It’s fun to have a story to tell, but that is the smallest good. The biggest draw is worldmaking. The Myst people made this connection explicit with the main idea animating their early games: it is possible to create a steampunkish, alchemical book that can transport you into another realm, just by opening its pages. In an AMA on reddit, Myst’s co-creator, Rand Miller, said of Tolkien: “In simpler terms – he created an entire universe, and then punched smaller windows into pieces of it that the public could look through.”
In fact, at times I think that these sorts of games taking place in other worlds are the natural successor to the novel. Novels are wonderful, of course, but inherently linear. An author can tell the story out of order, making it seem less linear, but the reader is still stuck with the order of exposition that’s given. In virtual worlds, one can explore along different tracks, and over time begin to develop for oneself the overall picture of what has gone on or is going on. It presents a world for the players/readers to explore in their own ways. When I’m playing the Myst games, and have spent sufficient time wandering around in them, my mind is carried into them, and I go around in my own life with a pleasant buzz of divided attention. I’m partly here, and partly there. The same happens with great novels too, of course – we can’t get our minds out of them.
Okay. Back to getting things hooked up……