Ghosts in the Myst

A while back (a few months in the real world, eons in internet time) a certain famous movie critic made the claim that “video games can never be art.” This resulted in the internet doing what the internet does (other than looking at porn), and getting all riled up about it and posting angry retorts on his blog.
I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir here, but I’m not just here to say that I disagree. I’m here to tell you that I got into video games because they were art.When I was younger my family did not have a computer. We had a stone age metal box that ran something called DOS, but that doesn’t count. However my next-door neighbor and best friend at the time did have a computer. And on his computer he had the Greatest Game Ever Made. Myst.
I would go over to his house as often as I could and pester him to let me play this game on his computer. I think he started to get annoyed with the whole thing after a while, but…I couldn’t help it. That game was freaking beautiful. I mean every single frame had something interesting to see, something that pulled you even further into the story of the game.
I begged my dad to get us a new computer so that I could experience the joy of playing this game for myself, but he said no. We just didn’t have the money. But he saw how much I wanted this so he compromised.
He bought me a lawnmower.
He told me if I wanted a computer I would have to earn it for myself. Now at the time I hated cutting grass, but I knew this was my only chance to have a computer of my own, so I sucked it up and knocked doors around the neighborhood asking people if I could mow their lawns. It was terrifying for me to have to face the rejection of strangers, but I kept myself focussed on what was at stake and kept going.
Eventually I built up a pretty good clientèle, and all that spring and summer and pushed the lawnmower my dad had bought for me through sweltering heat and sickening humidity. By the time the fall came around I had about six hundred dollars to my name. I dragged my parents to the computer store and spent nearly all of it on the computer I had been so longing for. There wasn’t even enough left to buy the game which had started this obsession in the first place, but my mom took pity on my and shelled out the fifteen bucks that I lacked.
And then, almost unbelievably, I had the thing in my hands, and I was walking out of the store, and it was mine. I got it home and put the disc in with my heart pounding in my throat, and then…I was in another world. I’ve never experienced anything like that since then. I became obsessed with that game. It wasn’t so much about the puzzles to be solved so much as it was about the world that I was exploring. I believed in that world. I knew that somewhere, somehow, that place had to exist. In my young mind I was sure God could not be so cruel as to let a thing of such beauty be nothing more than fiction.
Of course I’ve mellowed on that position somewhat, but I’m still in awe of that game and how it made me feel. Myst was art in the purest form of the word, and no matter how far forward technology progresses, the things in that game will always be beautiful.
Maybe you’re asking yourself “So why now? Nobody cares about Myst anymore.” Which is sadly very likely to be true. But something I saw yesterday reminded me of the awe I felt when I first saw Myst. It was Forge World in Halo: Reach. I don’t even own an Xbox, so the only bits and snippets I saw of it were in the Bungie video introducing the map and telling about its creation. But the snippets I saw were stunning. It almost made me want to go out and knock doors, so that I could mow some lawns, so that I could buy an Xbox and a copy of Reach, just so that I could walk around in that world for a while. Almost.
But that is art my friends. That is the ultimate definition of art. It’s a world apart that speaks to the human soul, that exists purely for the sheer beauty of the thing. Sure, they may have stuck in the ability to slaughter your friends with a rocket launcher in that world, but that isn’t the point. The point is beauty.
For me, it always has been.

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