Myst is not a good video game.

First off, I had to post this when I found it: apparently, Nial Ferguson was so impressed by the Calm and the Storm that he went and got a job with them. It’s not really a conflict of interests or anything, but I found it very interesting.


That said, I’m still not loving Myst. I’m not exactly an avid gamer, but I do enjoy some games in moderation. I’m not one of those anti-video game people. But I do not find Myst particularly enjoyable.

I’m still trying to beat it, though, as Prof. P promises that there’s payoff at the end… I doubt it, though.

While reading the Gee article, it occurred to me that Gee has this almost platonic ideal of the “good video game,” which he then contrasts with a bad classroom. But his thinking about what good video games are made me realize that Myst falls short.

Yeah, I said it: Myst is not a good video game.

I’m not going to belabor the point, but a couple of principles of “good video games” that Myst V (the version I’m playing) violates:

  • Verbal information is seldom given “just in time,” but rather well in advance and often in a different location.
  • While there is a fish tank/sandbox in the form of the first couple rooms, it’s essentially useless, except for understanding the very basics of navigation.
  • This may just be me, but I know it’s not me alone: the game isn’t “pleasantly frustrating.” It’s just FRUSTRATING. The puzzles are very difficult, which may just be my unfamiliarity with the series, but they’re also often quite hard to FIND. This leads to situations like wondering around for a long time trying to find something to DO (this game is so action-less I find it PAINFUL. I can accept a nonviolent video game, but a game where you can’t even JUMP, get your feet wet in the ocean, or TALK TO ANYONE becomes pretty stagnant pretty quick), or, conversely, completing a puzzle without being aware that a puzzle had been there in the first place. (This latter situation occurred to me more than once.)
  • The game doesn’t go through “cycles of expertise,” it just stays at a fairly stable level of difficulty, with the occasional easier problems sprinkled throughout. When I had to resort to a walk-through at one point, I realized that I was doing the game essentially backwards. And the thing of it was, some of the earlier stuff was far more challenging than some of the later.

Oh– and just another desultory thought, here… Where do walk-throughs stand in terms of academic honesty and honor codes? Is it more like plagiarism, or more like a study guide? 


Here and here.