Long-time readers know I am a fan of the Myst stories. I call them stories rather than games because, at their heart, that’s what they are. Each “episode” builds on the last, yet, like any good series of books, each section also stands on its own. If you’ve read (played) the previous episodes, you understand a little more deeeply, but they are not essential to the current piece you’re dealing with.
A fellow teacher turned me onto the first Myst game back in the early 1990’s. I was hooked not only by the gorgeous graphics, but by the story as well. Subsequent episodes told more of the story of Atrus’ family and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know.
The series hooked me on the idea of telling a story in random order. Of letting readers meander through the events the way they wanted to. Non-linear. Gathering information in bits and pieces, exploring the world and discovering the characters’ background, thoughts and ideas – their stories.
I just finished re-playing End of Ages, the fifth in the series of Myst “games”. I’d started a re-play a while back, but that computer died and I had no way of finishing. Then my son turned me onto Steam, where I could buy an entire bundle from Cyan (the original Myst creators) for thirty dollars. I will replay them all, but started with the end only because I wanted to finish from the notes I took two years ago.
And yes, you have to take notes. Either within the game (a journal is provided) or separately. I like to play with a notebook beside me where I can record drawings, or, in this case, simply thoughts about the story as I go. A place where I can talk back to the creators of the game as well as the characters on the screen. In a book I’d call this active reading. In this particular video “game” I’d call it active participation.
Writing a story like this is still on my list of things to do. I have a story in mind that would work very well when told in a random order and in a setting where the reader/player is set down and has to figure out what is happening as he/she wanders about. After all, isn’t that really how life goes? We get a piece of the story here, a piece there – and have to put it all together ourselves? It’s an attractive challenge.
For now, I’m headed back to the cabin to finish my current work-in-progress and will leave my idea for this type of storytelling on the back burner.