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? 

Responses:

Here and here.

10 thoughts on “Myst is not a good video game.

  1. Maureen Guignon

    Hey Tad,

    Great detective work about Niall Ferguson and his new job. I needed a laugh after my usual ‘lost in myst’ moments that end up taking more time than I have left. I keep forgetting about the walk throughs as I am too frustrated to remember I can fix things. And, I will argue that walk throughs are legal….or at least for me.

  2. Maureen Guignon

    Hey Tad,

    Great detective work about Niall Ferguson and his new job. I needed a laugh after my usual ‘lost in myst’ moments that end up taking more time than I have left. I keep forgetting about the walk throughs as I am too frustrated to remember I can fix things. And, I will argue that walk throughs are legal….or at least for me.

  3. Tad, you win Best Post Title this week, narrowly scraping by Steve.

    I agree about everything you said about MYST. It’s not fun, too hard, and you feel like most of the time nothing is happening. I think you are dead on when you wrote, “Verbal information is seldom given “just in time,” but rather well in advance and often in a different location.” This was what I found most frustrating. When I needed to, umm, consult a walkthrough (which I thoroughly put in the category of study guide!) and they explained how the puzzle was easily solved by remembering some inane bit of information from however many levels back, I never once though “I should have figured it out.” Instead, I would grow angry, curse the game, and think “How on earth could I have ever figured that out?” I knew MYST was not a good game, but I am glad you broke it down as such by Gee’s criteria and came to the same conclusion as my gut.

  4. Tad, you win Best Post Title this week, narrowly scraping by Steve.

    I agree about everything you said about MYST. It’s not fun, too hard, and you feel like most of the time nothing is happening. I think you are dead on when you wrote, “Verbal information is seldom given “just in time,” but rather well in advance and often in a different location.” This was what I found most frustrating. When I needed to, umm, consult a walkthrough (which I thoroughly put in the category of study guide!) and they explained how the puzzle was easily solved by remembering some inane bit of information from however many levels back, I never once though “I should have figured it out.” Instead, I would grow angry, curse the game, and think “How on earth could I have ever figured that out?” I knew MYST was not a good game, but I am glad you broke it down as such by Gee’s criteria and came to the same conclusion as my gut.

  5. Max

    I don’t mind non-violence games and point and click (you don’t need it to have action) but myst sucked.
    I agree with most of what you said and i well add some of my comments about the game
    the game story does not draw you in it more draw you out (the few moments you get it lol) 2. I would not say the puzzles are that hard but you do run around wondering what i am doing 3. you beat the game and you don’t understand why or how cause you did not know what the fuck your doing 4. You sometimes find yourself playing backwards 5. they add puzzles that are hard and when you find out how to do them it does not do anything to help you 6. you end the game in the same place you started 7. when you beat the game your thinking what the fuck i could have beat this game 10 hours ago and why the hell did i even play this piece of crap 8. you replaying finding out the game is so easy it makes you feel dumb because you thought it was hard the 1st time 9. Your can guess how the game ends and you find out your right 10. You get things you well never use and if you use them you loss the game and they don’t tell you that 11. the gameplay and story is so dumb it makes you want to kill yourself. 12. You think the game might be good because of looking at the graphics and trailers it kinda makes you want to play. Then when you play it makes you want to take a hammer and smash the game because you think nobody would buy it if you solled it
    That is myst all of them

    • Max

      There only 3 things that are good about it
      1. good graphics 2. A cool soundtrack 3. the end of the game (because you don’t have to play it anymore and yes i get pissed with myself when i leave stuff undone)

      • Max

        But the 1st myst’s game soundtrack sucked

  6. Max

    I don’t mind non-violence games and point and click (you don’t need it to have action) but myst sucked.
    I agree with most of what you said and i well add some of my comments about the game
    the game story does not draw you in it more draw you out (the few moments you get it lol) 2. I would not say the puzzles are that hard but you do run around wondering what i am doing 3. you beat the game and you don’t understand why or how cause you did not know what the fuck your doing 4. You sometimes find yourself playing backwards 5. they add puzzles that are hard and when you find out how to do them it does not do anything to help you 6. you end the game in the same place you started 7. when you beat the game your thinking what the fuck i could have beat this game 10 hours ago and why the hell did i even play this piece of crap 8. you replaying finding out the game is so easy it makes you feel dumb because you thought it was hard the 1st time 9. Your can guess how the game ends and you find out your right 10. You get things you well never use and if you use them you loss the game and they don’t tell you that 11. the gameplay and story is so dumb it makes you want to kill yourself. 12. You think the game might be good because of looking at the graphics and trailers it kinda makes you want to play. Then when you play it makes you want to take a hammer and smash the game because you think nobody would buy it if you solled it
    That is myst all of them

    • Max

      There only 3 things that are good about it
      1. good graphics 2. A cool soundtrack 3. the end of the game (because you don’t have to play it anymore and yes i get pissed with myself when i leave stuff undone)

      • Max

        But the 1st myst’s game soundtrack sucked

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